Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male individually, from twenty years old and above—all who are able to go to war in Israel. You and Aaron shall number them by their armies. Numbers 1:2-3
The book of Numbers is God’s military handbook. So all those verses that we tend to skip over in the beginning are not just lists of names from ancient history. God was giving His people a picture of how to order our lives to live in victory over our enemies and come into the full inheritance of His promises.
First, God speaks to natural war. He had Moses take a census of all the males of military fighting age, listing the names of their commanders and numbers under their charge. Ephesians likens the Church to God’s spiritual army. Song of Solomon speaks of the Bride as being “awesome as an army with banners.” None of us is an army of one. He intends for His spiritual army to be made of men and women connected to a local church body of believers under the headship of those in spiritual leadership.
Then God gives the order of battle. When the armies march out, Judah is always at the head. The Presence, represented by the Ark of the Tabernacle and those who guard it are always at the center. In every battle, praise is the key to victory. It is the front line of attack and it is the way we keep God enthroned in our midst. Praise sets the atmosphere that hosts the Presence, enthroning Him in our midst. Where His Presence is, our enemies are scattered.
Finally, God speaks to spiritual war. Israel’s greatest enemies were not the armies they encountered from without. It was the rebellion in their own hearts. The heart of Numbers’ account of the wilderness journey records the havoc that rebellion, doubt, and unbelief waged on the camp interspersed with the laws and regulations that God gave them to guard God’s people from within.
At rest and in battle, Israel’s security relied on one factor, God’s Presence. God’s kings (Judah) went out with praise, His priests (Levites) guarded Israel’s communion with God. Both were essential to victory, and they are still God’s strategy for the battle you are in today.