Numbers 1:1-54 – Time To Leave The Filling Station – Revisited

Posted: July 1, 2016 in Book of Numbers

Numbers 1:1-54

Registration of Israel’s Troops

About 6 years ago now, my pastor, when Elena and I were living in Livermore, CA and about to move back to South Carolina, allowed me to preach the sermon on our final Sunday before we moved the following week. It was a sermon in which my text was from the book of Bible that Luke, my pastor, was preaching through at the time, 2 Timothy. That Sunday, we were to cover 2 Timothy 3. The amazing thing about that passage was that there were amazing parallels between the journey that Elena and I were on at that point in time in our lives, the point at which our church at that time, Livermore Alive Community Church (LACC), found itself, and where Paul and Timothy found themselves in that passage. The title of my sermon was “Time to Leave the Filling Station”.

 

For Elena and me, it was our last Sunday at LACC before moving back to South Carolina. For us, we had been nurtured as spiritual babies there. We were growing into spiritual young adults (not chronological age, but spiritually) and I saw that God was not sending me back to South Carolina for a new phase of my job but God was sending us back to South Carolina for a new phase of our spiritual journey with the Lord as well. It was an amazingly intense time of learning, nurturing and growing in the grace of Jesus Christ while we were in Livermore. Spiritually speaking, it was like that famous line from the movie, “Risky Business”, where Guido “the killer pimp” said, “Time of your life, huh, kid?” It was the time of our lives. We grew so much there. Elena gave her heart to the Lord there and I quit being the self-absorbed spiritual baby that I had been since my salvation almost a decade before. Luke was a gifted pastor who made Scripture come alive for us in our day to day lives. He was 10 years younger than me but light years ahead of me in His walk with the Lord. And, of course, his sarcastic sense of humor was right up my tree. His wife, Felisha, was this amazing ball of talent, passion, and goofiness that endeared her to us. The laughter that we shared was amazing. The guidance that these two gave us was the one on one discipleship that we desperately needed at that point in our lives. But here on that last Sunday before we moved, it was time to leave the filling station. It was time to take stock of where we had been, where we are, and where we were going.

 

For LACC, the church was at that point in its existence that it was no longer a little baby church plant and it was about the time for its mother church in Fremont (about an hour west of us) to begin the three year plan to reduce its support of the church down to zero. It was also that summer that Luke began working with a few of us guys in the church to become what would be the elder team of the church. He was trying to put a leadership structure in place to ensure the growth and survival of the church during the years to come. It was a time of assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the church. It was a time of deciding just what was going to be our identity as a this particular local arm of Jesus’ church. Who are we? What is going to be our focus? How were we going to meet and complete the mission that God had given this church in this community and region? Heady questions for sure. But it was the right time for those questions. It was time to leave the filling station.

 

For Paul and Timothy, I saw the parallel with Elena and me and with LACC. Paul was at the end of his amazing evangelistic and church planting journey. He knew that the end was near. He knew that he was going to die. So, in 2 Timothy, and, in particular 2 Timothy 3, Paul is imparting wisdom to his disciple, Timothy. Paul had been raising Timothy up for years. He had been training him. He had been working with him. He had probably scolded him when he needed scolding. He had probably hugged him when he needed hugging. He had probably challenged him when he needed challenging. Through it all, though, Paul say the passion and the heart for the Lord in Timothy. As result, Paul invested in Timothy’s life. He raised him up to be the next generation of leadership of this new thing called the church. Here, in 2 Timothy 3, though, it was Paul’s way of telling Timothy that he was no longer going to be there to tutor, disciple and lead Timothy. It was time for Timothy to take over the reins of leadership. Paul’s time was at an end and it was the beginning of Timothy’s leadership and Timothy’s own ministry. It was time for Timothy to leave the filling station.

 

As you can see, the Lord laid an amazing word on my heart that week before that sermon. Although I am not an experienced pulpit preacher but I have written and preached about 20 sermons over the years and this is the one sermon that I still remember to this day. It was a blessed word from God and He filled me with passion that day as I preached it because God just gave me such an amazing sermon to preach.

 

It was that idea of that sermon that I think of today as we start off in the Book of Numbers, as we go old school biblical on ya, here in the fourth book of the Bible. It was that thought of being prepared, taking stock, and then being sent out that was the theme of that sermon back in Livermore six years ago and it is that theme that is on my heart as I read this first chapter in Numbers. Let’s read it together right now:

 

1 The Lord spoke to Moses in the tent of meeting in the Desert of Sinai on the first day of the second month of the second year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. He said: 2 “Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. 3 You and Aaron are to count according to their divisions all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army. 4 One man from each tribe, each of them the head of his family, is to help you. 5 These are the names of the men who are to assist you:

 

from Reuben, Elizur son of Shedeur;

 

6 from Simeon, Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai;

 

7 from Judah, Nahshon son of Amminadab;

 

8 from Issachar, Nethanel son of Zuar;

 

9 from Zebulun, Eliab son of Helon;

 

10 from the sons of Joseph:

 

from Ephraim, Elishama son of Ammihud;

 

from Manasseh, Gamaliel son of Pedahzur;

 

11 from Benjamin, Abidan son of Gideoni;

 

12 from Dan, Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai;

 

13 from Asher, Pagiel son of Okran;

 

14 from Gad, Eliasaph son of Deuel;

 

15 from Naphtali, Ahira son of Enan.”

 

16 These were the men appointed from the community, the leaders of their ancestral tribes. They were the heads of the clans of Israel.

 

17 Moses and Aaron took these men whose names had been specified, 18 and they called the whole community together on the first day of the second month. The people registered their ancestry by their clans and families, and the men twenty years old or more were listed by name, one by one, 19 as the Lord commanded Moses. And so he counted them in the Desert of Sinai:

 

20 From the descendants of Reuben the firstborn son of Israel:

 

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, one by one, according to the records of their clans and families. 21 The number from the tribe of Reuben was 46,500.

 

22 From the descendants of Simeon:

 

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were counted and listed by name, one by one, according to the records of their clans and families. 23 The number from the tribe of Simeon was 59,300.

 

24 From the descendants of Gad:

 

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 25 The number from the tribe of Gad was 45,650.

 

26 From the descendants of Judah:

 

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 27 The number from the tribe of Judah was 74,600.

 

28 From the descendants of Issachar:

 

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 29 The number from the tribe of Issachar was 54,400.

 

30 From the descendants of Zebulun:

 

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 31 The number from the tribe of Zebulun was 57,400.

 

32 From the sons of Joseph:

 

From the descendants of Ephraim:

 

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 33 The number from the tribe of Ephraim was 40,500.

 

34 From the descendants of Manasseh:

 

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 35 The number from the tribe of Manasseh was 32,200.

 

36 From the descendants of Benjamin:

 

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 37 The number from the tribe of Benjamin was 35,400.

 

38 From the descendants of Dan:

 

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 39 The number from the tribe of Dan was 62,700.

 

40 From the descendants of Asher:

 

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 41 The number from the tribe of Asher was 41,500.

 

42 From the descendants of Naphtali:

 

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 43 The number from the tribe of Naphtali was 53,400.

 

44 These were the men counted by Moses and Aaron and the twelve leaders of Israel, each one representing his family. 45 All the Israelites twenty years old or more who were able to serve in Israel’s army were counted according to their families. 46 The total number was 603,550.

 

47 The ancestral tribe of the Levites, however, was not counted along with the others. 48 The Lord had said to Moses: 49 “You must not count the tribe of Levi or include them in the census of the other Israelites. 50 Instead, appoint the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle of the covenant law—over all its furnishings and everything belonging to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they are to take care of it and encamp around it. 51 Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who approaches it is to be put to death. 52 The Israelites are to set up their tents by divisions, each of them in their own camp under their standard. 53 The Levites, however, are to set up their tents around the tabernacle of the covenant law so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelite community. The Levites are to be responsible for the care of the tabernacle of the covenant law.”

 

54 The Israelites did all this just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

As the book of Numbers opens, the Israelites had been camped at the base of Mt. Sinai for at least a year. They had received all the laws and regulations for living a God-honoring life and living in an orderly society from God as recorded in the Book of Leviticus. They had been transformed into a new nation and equipped for their task while at Sinai. At this time, they were ready to move out and receive their land. In preparation, God tells Moses and Aaron to number all the men where to serve in the army. Taking a census was long and tedious but it was an important task. The fighting men had to be counted to determine the exact strength of the Isrealite army before entering their Promised Land. In addition, the tribes had to be organized to determine the amount of land each would need (as well as to provide historical genealogical records). Without this census, the task of conquering the Promised Land and then divvying up the lands among the tribes would have been more difficult, if not impossible. Israel was at a crossroads in its history. They had been nurtured at the foot of God. They had been developed and grown. They were not a cohesive people when they came to Sinai. They became a nation there. They become a people there. They grew up as a nation there. But, now, it was time to leave the filling station. So, they had to figure out their resources, possessions, relationships, and goals. They had to figure out who they were going to be. Because it was time to leave the filling station that was the foot of Mt. Sinai and move into the next phase that God had set out for them.

 

There are times in our lives that we must leave the filling station. God has prepared us for what He has prepared for us and we must move into that next phase. The Mt. Sinai experience is necessary for the next step. God will never send us out unprepared. He will always put you under the leadership you need to be under to prepare you for the next phase. Just as our time at LACC was training camp for our life here with LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC. We would not have been prepared for what we have been going through for the last six years at LifeSong had it not been for our Sinai experience in Livermore. Each step is preparation for the next. Let us take stock where we are right now and learn the things that God is teaching us so that we will be ready. Let us take our census of where we are strong and where we are weak and seek God’s assistance through the leadership he places us under to learn the things that we need to learn – for the next step. For the next time that it is time to leave the filling station. We are here right now with these people at this place to learn the things that we need to learn so that we can be ready to enter into the next phase. And the Lord will let us know when it is time to leave the filling station and it will be when he has prepared us for that next step, when He has prepared us for what He has prepared for us next.

 

Amen and Amen.

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