The First Census Of Israel And The Twelve Disciples

The fourth book of the Pentateuch gets its name for the two “numberings” of the children of Israel. The first census took place while the Israelites were still in the wilderness of Sinai 1 year and 31 days after the escape from Egypt. And the second census happened after the plague (Numbers 26:1-3) 40 years after sojourning in the wilderness. Finally, the new generation of the children of Israel was already in the plains of Moab by the Jordan near Jericho and ready to enter the promised land 1.

Thus, the Lord God prepared His people for the war and confrontations. Moses numbered the souls of each tribe of the twelve to know the needs and possibilities of the nation.

In like manner, Jesus Christ chose the twelve disciples. So, the Lord appointed His followers to perform specific duties: to learn, to teach, and to serve. Hence, as followers of Christ, they were to carry on the ministry that Jesus started.

If you are interested to learn more about the formation of Israelites encampment, watch this video – The Cross: Israel Camp Formation.

Weekly Insight

In this weekly insight, we will learn about The First Census of Israel and why the Lord Jesus has appointed the twelve to be His disciples. Thus, I would love you to read Numbers 1-3 & Mark 3:1-19. Please, take your time to study these verses by yourself, with your family or study group.

Also, you might be interested in what was last week. Please, check our previous weekly insight – The Only Cure From The Greatest Pandemic Ever.

In essence, the purpose of this weekly insight is to discover God’s character and how His Spirit operates in the lives of Christ’s followers. And to see the beautiful prophetic message of the Messiah through the holy nation of God.

The First Census of Israel

The two previous books, Exodus and Leviticus, contain a comprehensive number of God’s laws and statutes regarding different aspects of life. Thus, the Lord God prepared His people physically and spiritually to meet the ruthlessness of the wilderness and wickedness of the heathen.

But the book of Numbers contains the final preparation of Israel before the march through the wilderness and into the promised land. And it starts with the numbering of the men who can fight – the first census of Israel. Also, these long lists of names and numbers have at least four divine purposes that will help us discover God’s character 1.

  1. First, it shows God’s care for every individual.
  2. Second, it reveals God’s interest in family integrity and respect.
  3. Third, it emphasizes God’s order and structure.
  4. Fourth, it demonstrates God’s faithfulness.

So, let us look at each purpose one at a time.

1. The first census shows God’s care for every individual:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. This verse from Jeremiah 1:5 is the perfect illustration of God’s care for every individual that He has created. To show this, I recommend you look closely at these three keywords from the verse above: (1) formed, (2) consecrated, and (3) appointed.

The children of Israel were scattered around in the land of Egypt. And they yet had no understanding of what it is like to be a holy nation of the Lord God. Moreover, the Israelites were suppressed and enslaved, and, seems like, purposeless.

Thus, with the first census, God’s care for every individual is evident. By numbering every soul from the twelve tribes, God formed them into a nation. Further, He consecrated them by separating from the former and wicked style of life. And, finally, the Lord God appointed the children of Israel to be His witnesses to the Gentiles (Exodus 6:7).

Q: Please, reflect on these three points. How does God’s work reveal in your life? (see also Psalm 71:6, Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 49:15, Galatians 1:15)

2. The first census reveals God’s interest in family integrity and respect:

After the first census, the children of Israel were about to go on the longest journey in their life. By the way, it took them 40 years to wander around in the desolate lands. There are many difficulties, temptations and disappointments on this trip. So, being alone and out in the cold is a death sentence.

Therefore, during the first census, God commanded Moses and Aaron to make sure that everyone assembled according to their fathers (Numbers 1:2, 16). The role of the fathers was to keep their children orderly, disciplined and, moreover, united (Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4, 1 Timothy 3:4).

And the children, from their side, were to keep the teaching of their fathers, honour them, be submissive and obey in everything they do (Exodus 20:12, Proverbs 4:1, Colossians 3:20).

That is not just a good moral compass for every family. The Israelites were going to war. Thus, integrity and respect are essential. To defeat the enemy, you cannot be an enemy to each other. The values like love, patience, compassion, kindness, honesty, loyalty, selflessness, and self-sacrifice must rule in the family.

Q: In situations when you and your family go through tribulations, how do you deal with differences within the family? What position does God take? (Proverbs 11:29)

3. The first census emphasizes God’s order and structure:

Of course, any military formation requires to have a specific order and structure. Usually, such embodiment is implemented in both physical (structure) and hierarchical (order) manners. In like fashion, God organized the encampment of the children of Israel.

So, in chapter 2 of the book of Numbers, right after the first census was over, God yet spoke to Moses and Aaron. And the Lord God commanded them to form the twelve tribes of Israel into camps of three and each with its own captain, head of the family. Further, God instructed Moses and Aaron to allocate each camp according to the East (Numbers 2:3-9), West (Numbers 2:10-16), North (Numbers 2:18-24) and South (Numbers 2:25-31) sides of the tabernacle.

Worthwhile to mention that regarding the tribe of Levi, God commanded Moses not to number them during the first census. And remember, that the main purpose of the first census is to estimate the military power of the children of Israel. Instead, God separated Levites and appointed them to minister unto Himself under the priesthood of Aaron and his sons (Numbers 1:47-50, 2:17, 3:6-13).

Moreover, the sons of Levi – (Gershon, Kohath and Merari) and their families God appointed each to serve a specific duty in the Tabernacle of the congregation (Numbers 3:21-26, 3:27-32, 3:33-37 respectively).

In like manner, God formed a family, a church and a government. A family, for instance, is one unit built on the foundation of the teachings of Jesus Christ. But, individually, each member has a specific assigned role to play (father, mother, children). And with a focus on God and the single-minded pursuit to serve only Him, such formation is strong and unshakable.

Q: What building materials do you use to build your family? What is the pursuit of your family? (Deuteronomy 11:18-21, Colossians 3:18-21)

4. The first census demonstrates God’s faithfulness:

If you remember, the number of children of Israel that came into Egypt during the Great Famine was seventy people (Genesis 46:26-27). It is hard to call seventy people a great nation. But when in Genesis 12:2 and 13:16, God promised Abram to make his seed as the dust of the earth, (that is to say, innumerable), God kept His promise. God is faithful.

The first census, or rather to say the result of the first census, proves God’s faithfulness. From 70 people to 603,550, and it is just men 20 years old and up, women and kids younger than 20 years old were not counted. And additionally to that, 22,300 Levites.

All the Israelites in the wilderness must easily have exceeded two million. Thus, it shows an average doubling of the Israelite population every 20 or 30 years. This represents an unusually high growth rate, just like Exodus 1:7 has reported.

The first census, altogether, demonstrates God’s glory and His greatness. His faithfulness was revealed not just in the great, and even miraculous, number of His people, but in the blessings that God showered them with.

Q: Do you take your census? How often do you count your blessings? Do you give glory to the One, who is the source of all your blessings? And how? (Deuteronomy 28:1, John 1:16, 2 Corinthians 9:8, James 1:17)

Jesus Appointed the Twelve Disciples

Here is the first census of Jesus Christ. In Mark 3:13-19, the Lord Jesus did exactly the same that He did in Numbers 1-3. It says in Mark 3:13, Jesus went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. Furthermore, in verse 14, it says that He ordained (appointed) them to be with Him, that He might send them to preach, to heal and fight deamons (Mark 3:14).

Thus, the Lord Jesus created the “army” of twelve to be His people and witnesses in the “wilderness” of sin and wickedness. And He promises His followers “the land” of eternal life in the presence of God’s glory (John 10:28-30, Ephesians 6:12, 1 Peter 5:8-10).

We too, Christ’s people. As His followers, we ought to perform our duties that Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:18-20. The Great Commission is the first and foremost task of every believer.

Q: What do you think Jesus appointed you to do? How do you fulfil the Great Commission? (Isaiah 6:8, Matthew 9:37-38, Mark 16:15, John 20:21)

Insights

  1. The first census of Israel showed that God knows every individual by name. Moreover, He cares for everyone and wants them to be holy and close to God.
  2. Also, God wants us to unite our families with Christ-centered minds.
  3. Thus, He created a structure and order for every unit of society: family, church and government.
  4. And if we followed His commandment, which good and profitable for us, God is faithful and rich in mercy (Psalm 145:8).
  5. Finally, as Christ’s followers, we have to learn the word of God, to teach others and to serve our Lord Jesus.

If you have not yet accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, why not now!? Please, do not wait until it is too late! Embrace God’s Grace, Mercy and Love now – Accept Jesus Now!

Prayer

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:9-13

Study Materials Used:

  1. The Henry Morris Study Bible – KJV
  2. The Matthew Henry Study Bible – KJV
  3. The MacArthur Study Bible – ESV
  4. ESV Study Bible
  5. Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible KJV
  6. The Complete Bible Commentary – George Williams
  7. The Moody Bible Commentary – a one-volume commentary
  8. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  9. NASB Zondervan Study Bible
  10. Chronological Life Application Study Bible – NLT

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