Bible Readings for May 17th
The reason our English Bibles call this the book of “Numbers” is that two national censuses are taken—one in the first chapter and another here: “Among these the land shall be divided for inheritance according to the number of names. To a large tribe you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a small inheritance; every tribe shall be given its inheritance in proportion to its list” (Num. 26:53–54). Even though the people of Israel had not yet begun to enter into the Promised Land, Yahweh begins to prepare them for taking their inheritance.
Now, the people are not quite ready to enter into the Promised Land. Still, there are two important observations we should make at this point, before Israel begins the conquest for their inheritance.
First, the Israelites have not flourished during their wilderness wanderings, but in fact have shrunk. The original census numbered the people of Israel at 603,550 (Num. 2:32), but this census discovers only 601,730 people within Israel’s ranks. Yahweh has been gracious to Israel, but they have brought harsh consequences on themselves through their sin so that all those who rebelled against entering into the Promised Land have died in the wilderness (Num. 26:64–65).
Second, do not miss the fact that this census is given to number the people who were able to go to war (Num. 26:2). God will give Israel miraculous victory as they enter into the Promised Land, but the people will be required to fight, following Yahweh into battle by faith.
It is interesting, then, to see that the New Testament also speaks of a census and an inheritance. We read about a book of life, in which the names of God’s people are written for judgment on the last day (Rev. 20:12–15). Also, we are promised that we will inherit salvation if we believe on Christ, who is the heir of all things (Rom. 8:17; Heb. 1:2, 14).
But we are also warned that the inheritance we have obtained through Christ (Eph. 1:11) will come by battle—not by warfare against flesh and blood, but against the cosmic powers of evil in this present darkness (Eph. 6:10–20). God has promised us victory in Jesus Christ, but we should not be surprised that being numbered among the people of God—that is, having our names written in the book of life—is less like receiving a pass to avoid suffering and struggle and more like being drafted into the army of the Lamb.
Brothers and sisters, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God and stand firm against Satan and his schemes (Eph. 6:10–11). Why? Because we stand to inherit Christ himself and all of creation with him through the gospel.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.