In the second year after the Israelites’ departure from the land of Egypt, on the first day of the second month, the Lord said to Moses at the tent of meeting in the wilderness of Sinai: 2 [a]Take a census – Number 1:1-2a
We start a new book today in the Old Testament; it is the fourth book of Moses, called the Book of Numbers. A name that derives from the counting of the people. We will encounter two separate censuses. The first we began reading today, which was a way by which the Israelites organized themselves in order to effectively move such a large number of people. At the beginning of the book, the Israelites are just a couple of years into their wilderness experience. The second census will be taken in chapter 20, forty years down the road, which will number the second generation since the exodus from Egypt.
Seeing the perspective of time in the desert – and two generations that will spend time there – it helps us to see how God leads us.
Imagine if the Israelites knew in advance before leaving Egypt that they would spend the next forty-plus years meandering int he desert. Would they have left Egypt at all? Would it have been too much for them to handle all at once?
Sometimes God does this with us. Have you ever ventured out on a path you felt compelled to go, only to find as time goes by, the journey shifting? You adjust to the new goal and go a little further until you finally reach your goal? Looking back you marvel at how it was possible that you reached that point at all! It seems our God in His gentleness leads us step by step, not putting too much out there in front of us to scare us into a state of paralysis. Perhaps not unlike the Israelites, he takes us gently by the hand and guides us only as far as He knows our timorous hearts are able to go at this point in time. He lets us stop along the way when we are in need of a rest, lest we rebel and ‘go back to Egypt’. Between the delays and stalls, we have found along the way so many lessons that have helped us grow stronger in faith and relationship with God.
This is the Israelites journey, and it’s ours too. As we go through the Book of Numbers, let us reflect on our own journey. Are there parts where you seem to be ‘wandering in the desert’? Are you just starting out, or do you feel as though you are approaching the promised land?
Do you see the hand of God through it all? He is there, every step of the way.
May God bless you!