What's in a Number?

What’s in a Number?

Today’s my birthday, y’all. And it got me to thinking about numbers . . . of course, the Bible reading plan today starts the book of Numbers, too. The most important number and the greatest gift we can ever have is to be numbered with those who are in the book of life. Have you been born again? What’s in a number? A lot more than numbers.

Bible Reading of the Day: Numbers 1-4

We are starting a new book of the Bible this morning, friends! Making our way through the Pentateuch – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and now Numbers!

Overview of Today’s Reading

Whenever we read a new book, I like to dig in a little bit and get the background and an overview. Numbers was one of the first five books of the Bible, also called the Torah or the Pentateuch, that were written by Moses. The book as a whole is about the faithfulness of God to an unfaithful people as God’s people had just left Egypt two years prior and made their way through the desert.

Chapter one starts with a census of God’s people, males age 20 years old and older—what else would we expect from a book called Numbers, right? Chapter two is telling each tribe where they are going to camp out. In Chapter three we see a Levitical census, male ages 1-month-old or more and duties assigned to the priests. And In chapter four we see censuses taken of the clans of the Levites – the Kohathites, Gershonites and the Merarites.

What’s in a Number—More Than a Census

The Hebrew name for this book is, “in the desert”. And the book can be broken down into three parts, depicting the journey of the Israelites:

  1. The Israelites at the start of their journey (chapters 1-10).
  2. And then the  Israelites travel through the desert (chapters 11-20).
  3. Finally, the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land (chapters 21-36).

So, why a census? According to GotQuestions.org:

The stated purpose of the Israeli census, according to Numbers 1:3, concerned war preparations. This would explain why women were not included in the census and males under twenty were not counted. The census did not leave out women and young people due to anything related to their social status but rather due to their military ineligibility.

What’s in a Number—Moments That Matter

The first 25 chapters of the book chronicle the experiences of the first generation of Israel in the wilderness, while the rest of the book describes the experiences of the second generation. The theme of obedience and rebellion followed by repentance and blessing runs through the entire book, as well as the entire Old Testament.

The theme of the holiness of God is continued from the book of Leviticus into the book of Numbers, which reveals God’s instruction and preparation of His people to enter the Promised Land of Canaan.

Just as the Israelites wandered in the wilderness 40 years because of their rebellion, so too does God sometimes allow us to wander away from Him and suffer loneliness and lack of blessings when we rebel against Him. But God is faithful and just, and just as He restored the Israelites to their rightful place in His heart, He will always restore Christians to the place of blessing and intimate fellowship with Him if we repent and return to Him.”

1 John 1:9, “9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Scripture of the Day: Numbers 3:11-13

11 And the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Look, I have chosen the Levites from among the Israelites to serve as substitutes for all the firstborn sons of the people of Israel. The Levites belong to me, 13 for all the firstborn males are mine. On the day I struck down all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, I set apart for myself all the firstborn in Israel, both of people and of animals. They are mine; I am the Lord.”

  • Luther commentary: “God’s right to the firstborn sons of Israel is anchored in the story of the exodus. Since God spared Israel’s firstborn, God says that they “shall be mine.” In some ancient religious practices, this might have meant human sacrifice, but God rejects that option and allows instead that the firstborn be “redeemed” or bought back (see Exodus 13:11-16; Numbers 18:15-16). Here in Numbers 3, God accepts the Levites, a tribe not included in the census for service for war or in the distribution of land, as “substitutes” for Israel’s firstborn (see also 3:40-51). This will be part of the basis for the Levitical priesthood.”
  • Friends, Christ is the firstborn over all creation (Colossians 3:15).
  • He chooses us.
  • Just as God chose the Levites to serve Him, friends, we are set apart to serve God, too.


  • We are more than a number.
  • The most important number is being included in the Book of Life.

7-Fold One-Year Bible Reading Plan

Day #210: 1 Thessalonians 1-3

Scripture of the Day: 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6

Listen: https://www.biblegateway.com/audio/mclean/niv/1Thess.1

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