… He calls his own sheep by name …
The Torah tells us that when a census is taken, each man is to bring the price of his atonement to avoid the plague (Exodus 30:12-13). A census in the Bible was a very serious and dangerous thing. It means to be counted and recognized as a full subject of the Kingdom of God. At that time, regardless of our social standing, our worth is the same as anyone else. At that time, our name and lineage are fully recognized in front of all. At that time, we can stand in full posture and be counted.
The price of a man’s ransom is the same for all: half a shekel. The half a shekel price is not to be understood as a payment for salvation or as ‘indulgences’ for sins; the Hebrew word used here is ‘kaphar’, a word meaning: covering’ or ‘atonement’. It is an awesome thing to come into the presence of God. We need a covering. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Messiah is often called the ‘Shield” (Psalms 5:12). The money collected is to be used for the maintenance of God’s sanctuary. By giving it, we all take personal responsibility for our enrolment into Israel and for the care of the Temple. Our giving makes us part of the work of God.
Censuses were often taken for the purpose of military enrolment when only male twenty on up were counted. The reasons a census incurred a plague are not given to us clearly in the Torah text, so they have been left to scholars’ personal deduction and speculations. One thing is sure though, is that we want to be part of such census’. From Genesis to Ezra, Israel was numbered on nine occasions. The Tenth time will be in the future when ‘… flocks shall again pass under the hands of the One (Messiah) who counts them, says the LORD (Jeremiah 33:13).
In that day, the Messiah will be the one counting His sheep from both Israel and the nations: He is our ‘half-shekel’, whose confession is at the same time priceless and dangerous. In my case, a long time ago it caused me the scorn and separation of my family; hasn’t He said that He came as a stumbling and an offence (1 Peter 2:6-8)? No matter what anyone does though, to those counted part of His final census He says, I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:28).