Today’s Scripture Focus: Numbers 6:22-27
“We count people because people count.” As a young pastor, struggling with what seemed to me at the time an over-emphasis on keeping attendance statistics, hearing this statement from a church leader put some things in perspective. While ministry has to be about more than the “three Bs” (bodies, budgets, and buildings), it is important to track the work of God’s Kingdom. We shouldn’t take attendance or keep record of giving simply to boast about how great we are; nor should we obsess over numbers during down times. However, it is important that we hold ourselves accountable to fulfilling our mission.
Numbers is the fourth book of the Bible, and is part of the Pentateuch, or the section of scripture we call “The Law”. Numbers (arithmoi in Greek) derives its name from the counting of two generations of Israelites. A census was conducted in Numbers 1 to count all the men eligible for military service who had come out of slavery in Egypt. In Numbers 26, after all those men have died, their sons are counted before entering the Promised Land. The Hebrew name of the book, bemidbar, means “in the wilderness”. A period of only 13 months is covered from Exodus 12 to Leviticus 27. Compare that to Numbers, which covers a period of 38 years!
Exodus is a narrative book. In other words, it tells a story. Leviticus is a priestly book. It gives instruction about living as a holy people. Numbers is a combination of the two. It has priestly sections that build on the laws given in Leviticus, and narrative sections that complement or continue the story of Exodus. Numbers can be easily divided into three sections: preparation to depart from Sinai (1:1-10:10), wandering in the wilderness (10:11-21:35), and Israel in the plains of Moab, preparing to enter the Promise Land (22:1-36:13). The book shows continually that when the people trust God they prosper, and when they rebel they suffer.
Today’s scripture focus, known as the Priestly Blessing, is a benediction. A benediction is simply a blessing—words spoken to impart favor on their hearers. The Priestly Blessing is three-fold, which gives it special emphasis. The Lord is to bless and keep, make His face to shine and be gracious, and turn His face and give peace. In summary, God was to give life, grace, and peace to Israel. Israel had no king, and had to depend on God for everything. In giving this blessing, Israel was shown that it was God’s desire to give them abundant life, compassion and mercy, and to be at peace with them. Numbers teaches that Israel counted to God. What a blessing to know that we count to God today!
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
Read verses 24 through 26 again. What are all the different ways that God wants to bless Israel?
Can you tell how someone feels about you by the look on their face? What do you think it means for the face of God to shine on us or turn towards us?
The Priestly Blessing was meant to be spoken from one human being to another. In what ways do we “bless” others with our words? In what ways do we “curse” them? Decide to bless someone this week. Pray for them, then speak kind words to them. Who will you bless?