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Shemot/Exodus 30:12 "When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them ..." (NASB)
What an interesting way to take a census! AlthoughTargum Onkelos translates the word as 'taking' or 'you take' (Aramaic ), as also in Vayikra 19:17 and B'Midbar 1:49, the root means to raise or carry. It has many specialised or derived meanings, but a plain or literal meaning of this text could say that Adonai told Moshe that the way to number the sons of Israel is to lift their heads. Although the L-rd's instructions go on to describe the mechanism of the half-shekel, collected in Yeshua's day as the Temple Tax (Matthew 17:24-27) and still remembered in the synagogue cycle every year on Shabbat Shekalim, the passage seems to carry the idea that this is not to be an anonymous or faceless count, but that each individual matters. In the following verses, Adonai stresses that the rich do not pay more, nor the poor less - each human being, each soul, has the same value before G-d - and Moshe is not simply to collect the money as a ransom for the people; he is to look each person in the face so that they can know that they each have value, have each paid their own half-shekel and have been each atoned for.
There are several lists of names in the Bible: some are genealogies, some are lists of people who came or went on a journey or migration, others are lists of people who did certain functions. Without trying to read too much into them, it is important we see that the Scriptures are teaching us that every individual is important. Whether a high priest or a king, down to the door-keepers and ash-collectors in the Temple, even people of whom we know nothing except that they were somebody's son and somebody's father - they all played their part in fulfilling G-d's purposes and being His people, our people.
Little wonder, then, that Rav Sha'ul writes, "For now we see obscurely in a mirror, but then it will be face to face. Now I know partly; then I will know fully, just as G-d has fully known me" (1 Cor 13:12, CJB). Whilst our view of G-d is partly obscured or hidden - for "no man can see My face and live" (Shemot 33:20), He sees and knows each one of us personally and individually. When Yeshua was talking with the disciples, Philip asked Him, "'Show us the Father and it will be enough for us.' Yeshua replies to him, 'Have I been with you so long without you knowing Me, Philip?'" (John 14:8-9, CJB). It is in Yeshua, in knowing Him face-to-face that we find our true worth and know true atonement with G-d, when He raises our heads and we see in His eyes that we are important to Him.
Further Study: Luke 12:4-7; Job 22:21-28
Application: With the passage of time, it is easy to lose sight of just how much we matter to G-d and how He desires eye-to-eye soul contact with us. Today, lift up your face to G-d and ask Him to renew that freshness in your relationship with Him.
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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