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    Jun 06, 2010

    Census Time

    Passage: Numbers 1:1-54

    Preacher: John Repsold

    Series: Charting the Course

    Category: Old Testament

    Keywords: census, battle, spiritual leadership, preparing for war, good fighting evil


    In Numbers 1, God is preparing his people for battle. To do so, he takes a census of all the able-bodied men 20 years and older. He organizes them accordin to tribes, clans and families. We examine what the spiritual parallels are for the church today as God is raising us up to be an army of people who are called to fight spiritual battles. Contrasts are made between a church "country club" mentality and a Christian war-time mentality.


    Stand Up & Be Counted

    June 6, 2010

    Numbers 1


    Question:  What is the purpose for a national census every 10 years in America?

    • To determine where the Congressional House seats are to be apportioned among the states. 
    • The allocation of federal funding for education programs in states and communities.
    • National social and health statistics used by a variety of agencies for policy purposes.
    • The allocation of federal dollars for law enforcement, federal highway projects, aid to farmers and many other federally financed activities and programs.
    • A wide variety of economic statistics that become the basis of the nation's economic policies.

          Our founders believed that it was in the best interest of the country to number its citizens every ten years, according to Article I Section 2 of the Constitution (the number of seats in the House, as set by the Congress, are to be distributed proportionally among the states).

    A census of the United States population has been conducted every ten years since 1790. No other nation has such a long history of collecting detailed information about its population and other important demographic characteristics.


    --Redneck Census Form

    A few questions from

    “The official 2010 Redneck Census Form”


    Last name: _______________________
    First name: (Check appropriate box)


    Spouse's Name:_____________

    2nd Spouse's Name:_______________

    3rd Spouse's Name:_______________

    Relationship with spouse:(Check appropriate box)
    (_)2nd Cousin




    Number of children living in the home:_____

    Number of the children living in the shed:_____

    Number that are yours:_____


    Education: (Circle highest grade completed)  1 2 3 4


    (Check appropriate box)

    Total number of vehicles you own:___
    Number of vehicles that still run:___
    Number of vehicles in front yard:___
    Number of vehicles in the back yard:___
    Number of vehicles on cement blocks:___

    Model and year of your pickup:196_


    How often do you bathe?
    (_)Not Applicable


    Newspapers/magazines you subscribe to:
    (_)The National Enquirer
    (_)The Globe
    (_)TV Guide
    (_)Soap Opera Digest
    (_)Rifle and Shotgun


    Number of times you've seen a UFO:_____
    Number of times in the last 5 years you've seen Elvis:___
    Number of times you've seen Elvis in a UFO:____


    Ours is not the oldest census in the world.  The Chosen People of God coming out of Egypt and entering into the Promised Land are one of the best known ancient national-censuses in history.  That’s what the book of Numbers starts out talking to us about.  And that’s where we’re going to be today in our study.  While census counting and data may not be terribly exciting stuff on the face of things, this census in Israel has some very important truths for us to integrate into our lives as God’s holy nation, the church, today. 



    Numbers 1:1-4-- 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 number by their divisions all the men in Israel twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army. 4 One man from each tribe, each the head of his family, is to help you. 


    Israel has been in the desert between Egypt and the Promised Land now for 13 months…@ 28 days/mo = 364+ days of tenting.  God is getting them ready for some tremendous blessing.  He’s preparing them for a land “of milk and honey,” a place where they, for the first time, will become land owners and their own managers. 


    But along the way, God needs to “grow them up”.  He needs to take them through a process that will prepare them for the battles they will have to fight in order for God to actually give them the land He promised to their forefathers some 500 years before.  13 months of waiting in the desert to prepare to take over a land God had promised 500 years ago must have seemed like a terribly long time to wait.  But God knew things about the wait and about the future that His people had no idea about.

    • God knew when the inhabitants of Canaan would reach that place of moral and spiritual evil from which they would never recover or return.
    • He knew how large his chosen nation would need to be to face the challenges of taking the land.
    • He knew what experiences His people needed to go through to grow strong enough in their faith to trust His leadership and put their faith in His power, not theirs.

    That all took TIME…years…decades…centuries.

    APP:  Do you ever feel like God is way too slow in working out his sovereign plan either for your life personally or his kingdom or human history?  One of the things the Old Testament is meant to encourage us about is that God is working out both his individual best-plan for each of us individually while at the same time unfolding “His-story” on a much larger stage of human history.  Like old Job, we may not see what part our suffering or perseverance plays in the larger scheme of things, but each person, each family, each church and nation has a role in this divine drama unfolding in the universe.  God is very much at work during the dark and lonely and slow “night-shifts” of life.  Our call is to walk close enough to Him to be able wait in faith and move in confidence that we’ve heard His voice when He says, “Now, go!”


    Vs. 1:1 says, “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.”  Over 150 times it’s recorded in this book that God spoke to Moses.  You wouldn’t think numbering people and preparing for battle would be the place you could hear God’s voice so often, would you? 

    APP:  We must never underestimate where God can and will speak to us.  For people who take the time to get alone with God (even as Moses did), God is more than willing to take the dry desert times of life and fill them up with His instruction, his teaching, his training. 

          You see, the place, the surroundings, the barrenness of life doesn’t determine whether God will speak to us.  They usually simply influence how ready we are to seek God out and listen when he does speak.  God can speak plenty, even in the midst of a boring census!


    Vss. 1:2-3--"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 number by their divisions all the men in Israel twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army.”

    What was the purpose for this census?  (Find out how many men of military age there were in Israel to form a fighting army.)  That phrase “able to serve in the army” or “able to go out to war” is  one that comes out 14 times in this chapter alone.  When something is repeated in a single chapter of the Bible, especially that much, it’s a clue about what is going on.  God is telling his people that there is a war coming and they better get prepared. 


    ILL:  Anyone know what the code nameOperation Overlord” refers to in the history of warfare?  The more popular name is “D-Day”—June 6th, 1943, the day the combined Allied forces landed on Omaha Beach, launching the beginning of the end of Hitler’s European domination.  That event was the largest assembly of military personnel and material in the history of warfare.  Between Allied forces of soldiers, sailors, aviators and supporting services, there were some 2.8 million men involved from the shores of Britain. 


    Unfortunately, war is a necessary part of life in a world where evil demands domination over good…unless you want evil to always dominate.  God declared war on evil in the Garden of Eden in Gen. 3:15 and he hasn’t stopped waging war both in the heavenly realms and on earth ever since. 

          God is not a pacifist when it comes to confronting evil.  In fact, some 229 times in the O.T., God reveals himself as Jehovah-sabaoth or “Lord of hosts.”  God is not timid about throwing his heavenly hosts into this celestial battle with the Enemy of our Souls, Satan. 

          Nor is he averse to sending his human children into spiritual and physical battle.  Something bigger is at stake than plots of ground and peaceful lifestyles. All over the world today, there are children of God who are being literally fighting to overcome evil and sometimes being killed in the battle for God’s Kingdom. 


    In fact, in Moses and Miriam’s song of praise to God after God destroyed the Egyptian army in Exodus 15:3, this is said about Him: “The Lord is a warrior….”  So, if God is a warrior…and there is a battle raging between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, do you think that will have any impact upon how we expend our lives and how we live? 

    ILL:  My parents still talk about WWII days when everything from gas to butter was rationed, when families like ours were shipped all over the country, lived in cramped, cardboard-thin housing, walked to work, practiced “black-out” air raids, and sent husbands, sons, uncles and brothers off to war, never to see them alive again.  War is, hopefully, the closest to hell any of us will ever come.  Unfortunately, without it, hell would reign on earth and be the destiny of far more people in eternity.


    Is this just an “Old Testament antiquated image of an outdated God”?  Are we simply too “enlightened” nowadays to live with the notion of a God who still wages war and still tells his children to be prepared for war?  If you read your Bibles, you know that the N.T. is also filled with military images and calls. 

    • JesusMt. 11:12--From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.  Mt. 16:18Jesus is speaking to Peter when he says, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”  That word “overcome” means “to be victorious in a struggle.”  It’s a word the Apostle John especially likes to use in Revelation about our call to “overcome” evil and darkness.  John 16:33—Jesus assures his disciples that he has “overcome the world.”  You don’t “overcome” without a struggle or fight.
    • Paul picks up military imagery frequently.  Eph. 6:10-18 he speaks of the “armor” of God, both defensive and offensive.  2 Cor. 10:3-5“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Timothy 2:3-4“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer.” 
    • The entire book of Revelation has more war and battle in it than a Terminator movie! 

    Battle is a part of being the people of God.  Christianity is not a playground; it’s a battlefield.  Church is not a country-club; it’s a bunker, a troop training ground, a military hospital, a field MASH unit.  It’s a rude awakening if you get up Sunday morning, expecting to go to the country club and play a round of golf only to find that you’ve walked into a field-hospital with blood on the floor and wounded soldiers moaning in their beds.  So much of our disillusionment with the church has to do with wrong expectations. 

          There is an enemy to fight in this battle, territory to gain and a war to be won.  And, like it or not, if you are in God’s family, you are already registered for the draft!  You will get called up.  And you will have to go to war…unless you want to stay in the desert or go back to Egypt! 

    ILL:  My brother Chris serving 2 tours of duty in Viet Nam.  He ended up running Officer’s Clubs in the largest airbase, Cam Ran Bay, for 2 years.  The closest to combat he came was having a mortar land in one of his enlisted men’s barracks, killing one of the men.  Other than that, it was pretty much like running a restaurant and bar in downtown Spokane.  It’s easy to forget you’re in a war when you’re busy eating steak and downing martinis. 

    ILL:  Reading Voice of the Martyrs report on Nigeria.  March 7, 2010 Christians in Dogo Nahawa, a small village in the zone between the Islamic north and the Christian south, awoke to gunshots.  By mornings end, over 500 Christians in that village and 2 nearby villages had been slaughtered by a roving Muslim gang armed with machetes, guns and knives.  One mother who survived had her babies she was carrying on her back hacked to death as she ran away.  This little 4 year old girl lost her arm.  One medical doctor who has been practicing for 33 years in emergency rooms and doing autopsies said, “It was beyond anything I have ever seen….carnage.”  Churches and homes were burned…and it’s still going on.

          This doctor recounted the response of the believers.  “It was amazing when we were all allowed to worship with the believers.  Even with all the death and destruction around them, they were praising the Lord for his goodness and mercy.  The service was held in the village square, complete with charred, burned-out buildings in the background.”

          “The pastor who addressed them stressed that this was indeed the persecution foretold by Jesus as a sign of the end times and that our duty was to carry our cross and forgive the attackers.  This will be significant, as many of the atterks were actually long-standing Muslim members of [the]…village and during the attack pointed out the Christians to the raiding Fulani-Muslim mob.”  [VOM Special Update, June 2010]


    Vs. 3--“All the men in Israel twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army…” were to be counted and ready to serve as combatants.  Who gets counted in this new “holy nation” called the church as ready for active duty? 

          Not just men but also women.  Not just boys, but also girls.  Not just able-bodied people but disabled, diseased, wounded, imperfect and incomplete people.  Yes, there is to be a “growing up” period for all of us spiritually.  But at some point, God is going to put you into battle, ready of not! 


    And one more thing: this compulsory spiritual service throws the most unlikely people together…just like war in real life.

    ILL:  Dad at the start of WWII was practicing law in downtown Chicago.  He enlisted as soon as the war started and was thrown together in basic training into a tent with a meat-cutter from the Bronx, a dress-maker from New York, a high school drop-out, and dad, a lawyer from Chicago.  Ready or not, there they were.  And the scrawny dress-maker had to learn to fight just like the rough and tumble meat-cutter from the Bronx. 


    ILL:  In a few weeks, our family will be heading to Europe.  Part of our plans involve going to Normandy.  We’ve been watching different movies over the past weeks that are set in Europe.  Of course, Saving Private Ryan is all about Normandy.  The most difficult scene in that movie for me to watch is when the scrawny private who can’t seem to bring himself to even fire a gun goes catatonic on the stairway as his buddy is being overpowered and knifed in hand-to-hand combat in the room at the top of the stairs by some huge German brute of a Nazi. 


    O, there is SO much we could talk about spiritual warfare with this simple truth that we are in a battle. 

    [???Have people develop/share about some of their own knowledge and truths about spiritual warfare.]

    • We must “hang together” or we will most likely hang separately.
    • We must learn to use the different weaponry of the armor of God, and use it well.
    • We must learn to care for our wounded, not shoot them.
    • We must see people as captives of the Enemy, not The Enemy.
    • We must learn to lean into the battle, not run from it.
    • We must understand that the battle belongs to the Lord, not us.

    His presence is the absolutely necessary component, not our strength. 


    WHY did God demand that every able-bodied 20-and-older male be counted for battle?  Why not just those who could pass the entrance exam, score high on the physical endurance test and handle a bow or spear well be counted?  Because everyone was to know that it wasn’t the strength of the army that mattered but the power of their God.  From scrawny to brawny, every Israelite and every family was to remember that they needed to God’s presence to win God’s battles in God’s way.  Desperation is a wonderful teacher!


    Paul told Timothy not only to “fight the good fight of faith” as a soldier of Christ.  He also told him HOW to get ready for the battle in I Tim. 4:7-8“…train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”


    What we are doing here this morning is spiritual training for the battle.  But if this is the only place and time you’re getting that training, we’re going to have a weak army.  That’s why it really is vitally important that we take personal responsibility for our own spiritual training regimen.  And that is why training together with each other for this spiritual battle in small groups, Life Communities, recovery groups, study groups, prayer groups and accountability groups is SO critical. 


    Pen & Paper:  What does your spiritual warfare training program include?  Write it down?  How often do you train?  (Daily, weekly, monthly, annually?)  We can’t get strong if we won’t give godliness the time, effort and energy that we give other aspects of our life like physical exercise, regular meals, sleep, etc.  God wants to equip us for battle, but we’ve got to keep working out on the spiritual basics. 


    ILL:  Luncheon with pastors on Thursday—we all face the same struggles to be continually renewed and refreshed spiritually.  We all had something to give to each other.  We were all blessed deeply by an hour-long discussion about prayer and how we can help each other and our churches grow, be fresh and experience new life in God-encountering prayer.

    • Pen & Paper:  Pray (now and during communion) about what God might be asking you to do to become more spiritually fit/mature to fight more effectively and valiantly in the battle for a holy life and the lives of lost people around us.

    Numbers 1:4ff“One man from each tribe, each the head of his family, is to help you. 5 These are the names of the men who are to assist you….” And he goes on to name dozens of leaders from every one of the 12 tribes of Israel. 

          Why bother to take up precious inspired page-space with hard-to-pronounce names of seemingly insignificant people?  Because they weren’t insignificant…and God wants us to know that, as far as the Kingdom is concerned, we need leaders of thousands, of hundreds of tens and of families who will take responsibility for the spiritual development and training of others.  We’re called to “make disciples,” not make an audience.  We’re called to “train” the next generation of spiritual warriors, not tally the number of hours we spend sitting around playing spiritual shuffleboard. 


    APP:  We’re in a war today in the church in America, in case you didn’t notice.  God is asking for people who will step up and take on a spiritual “appointment” to help train the troops and lead the charge.  Nu. 1:16 says, “These were the men appointed from the community, the leaders of their ancestral tribes.  They were the heads of the clans of Israel.”  They were the very ones God wanted to send into the Promised Land to take the land and display God’s glory to the nations. 


    The church today needs ready and willing leaders. 

    • Leaders in every home.
    • People passionate about leading our youth.
    • Believers passionate about leading our children.
    • Leaders who will teach the Bible.
    • Leaders who will mentor one-on-one.
    • Leaders who will shepherd small groups…platoons…of believers going daily into the battle.

    If not YOU, whom?  If not NOW, when?  If not HERE, where? 


    God has called this church to this place at this time.  There is NO other evangelical, Bible-teaching, Spirit-seeking church like this for blocks around.  Thousands of people are captives of the Enemy of our souls within a ½ mile of us here. 

          Despite all our mistakes, all our failings, all our weaknesses and all our shortcomings, God has some battles for Mosaic to fight and win.  He has some territory for us to conquer in this city.  He has some training for us to engage in so that He can free more people from sin and liberate more people to holiness. 


    Confession:  I’ve gotten my eye off the ball God called us to focus on here in the heart of the city over this past year.  We’ve taken a few hits and suffered a few losses.  I’ve had other pastors tell me, “You just can’t build a church downtown.”  Really?  I don’t see that in my Bible.  I haven’t heard that from God! If God sent his kids to Nineveh and Babylon to teach them and reach them, then surely downtown Spokane isn’t too hard for Him.

          But just when I think we’re losing the battle, God does something that says, “Oh no.  This war isn’t over yet.  It’s just beginning…and I’m here…and that is what will make all the difference in the world.” 

          I need your help to be more like Moses who spent time in the “tent of meeting” hearing from God and taking that message back to the people.

    Mosaic needs more saints who will say,

    • “I can mentor a teenager or another married couple who are struggling.” 
    • “I can host another Life Community that will strengthen God’s people.
    • Or “I can give several hours a week to help facilitate fellowship dinners…or serve the larger church downtown once a month…or disciple business/professional people in our community…or learn to run sound, video and lights for weekend shows and Sunday services here.”
    • “I can lead a recovery group…or provide financial resources for outreaches into downtown.” 


    When God told the people of Israel to “take the land,” there were more rivers to cross and cities to conquer and giants to kill than you can imagine.  But God knew that it was those “impossibilities” that would be the very thing that would show off His power, his glory, his plan for humanity.  


    APP:  God has told us, “Take this city for Christ.”  “Take this downtown for Jesus.”  Take the entertainment community, the residential community, the business community, the educational community, the medical community, the outcast community…take it all for the Kingdom.” 

    It looks impossible.  It IS…on our own.

    It looks insurmountable.  It IS…without God going before and with us.

    But there is no reason in the kingdom of God why God’s people, the church, can’t make the greatest difference and do the greatest good for the greatest number of people in this city.  We already are!

    • Feeding programs 24-7 are led by God’s people.
    • Rescue programs 7 days a week are led by God’s people—UGM, City Gate, Cup, Shalom Zone, 1st Cov. Sun. afternoon, Dream Center Discipleship House, etc.
    • Future possibilities:
      • We’re looking at launching a “Nightclub Church” downtown in the next year.
      • We’re praying and strategizing with other believers about business & professional people’s mentoring, discipling and outreach…character development in commerce and education.
      • We’re getting training to start Alpha here this fall, a meal-shared experience that exposes both the saved and seekers to the foundational Christian truths that can radically change any person’s life.
      • We’re praying and talking with other churches here about combining efforts to go beyond basic care of basic needs of the downtrodden to move people on into real recovery ministries that break the addictions and deliver from the bondages that hold so many here captive.
      • And I just can’t stop dreaming about what God could do with the youth and families of central Spokane and the lower S. Hill if we were able to turn an empty building like Empire Ford into a thriving community center with daycare, basketball courts and programs, a skateboard park, a coffee house and performance venue for musical groups and church services, and classrooms for tutoring or parenting or relationship classes where Christ would be seen and heard at every turn, in every event, with every staff person. 


    1. Do you need a readjustment of vision and heart about what the Christian life is about—not a country club excursion but a war-time enlistment?  Need to ask God for clearer vision of what is at stake?  What this spiritual battle is about?
    2. What do you need to do to get better equipped for the battle…to lead your family, be God’s man/woman in your apartment building, lead your business, lead God’s church?  What is God nudging you to do to move up in your prep for this Kingdom war we’re in?  What spiritual strength training do you need to engage in?  Who do you need to talk to?  When will you do it?
    3. Need to “enlist” in “active duty” in the church?  Be counted?  Get your name on the spiritual census?
    4. Got a battle that seems impossible to win?  An addiction?  A sin that just won’t let go?  A habit that hurts you or others around you? 



    • It’s a time for connection with God for all of us.
    • It’s a time to ask yourself, “Have I actually taken Jesus as my Savior and Lord yet?”  If not, why not?  If not here and now, where and when?
    • A time to ask for prayer/help from someone else—prayer station in back.
    • A time for a public response to Jesus—taking communion means assuming his death and resurrected life into your life.  Asking God to “put to death” those things in your life that need to go and “bring to life” those things that God wants to use to bless and rescue others.