Exodus 30:11-16. 11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. 13 Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the Lord. 14 Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the Lord‘s offering. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord‘s offering to make atonement for your lives. 16 You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your lives.”
Do you remember when you were a kid and you would line up all your dolls or action figures or other toys? Or maybe after trick or treating on Halloween you line up all the Kit Kats and all the Snickers and all the Blow Pops. And in that moment you look out over your lines of toys or candy and think to yourself “it’s all mine.”
That’s what’s happening here in Exodus 30. God is taking a census. He’s lining up the Hebrews and counting them. In essence he is teaching them “you belong to me. You’re all mine.” And to really make sure that they understand God makes every adult Hebrew man pay an atonement price for their own life. Half a shekel of silver. The price of their redemption. Pay the silver and you get to live out your lives. Don’t pay it and…plague.
But what is the purpose of all this? Why is God numbering the adult men in the nation? And why is God making them pay to stay alive? Is this some sort of cosmic extortion?
Actually God is preparing his people for war. In ancient times taking a census or numbering the people was done before an army went off to war. This word numbering that you see repeated throughout means “to lift the head,” “exalt,” or to “elevate.” God is not extorting his people, he’s exalting them. He’s lifting them up for the great purpose of reclaiming the promised land (see the book of Numbers).
These last few sections of Exodus continue to remind us of what our lives in Christ are meant to be. The bronze altar – our lives are a daily offering to God. The altar of incense – our lives are lived as a fragrance that pleases God. And now the census. But what does this census teach us about our lives in Christ?
We belong to God – just like the Hebrews at the mountain we too belong to God. We are not our own. This is what being in Christ means. We have been bought with a price.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Jesus’ life was purchased for 30 pieces of silver. He then entered the battlefield of life and death, and he won! He rose victorious. Now he has redeemed us. Not with silver or gold but with his precious blood.
1 Peter 1:18-19. 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
Jesus’ ransom takes us all full circle. By creation God owns us. By our sin and rebellion, we owe God our lives – the wage of sin is death. But by paying a ransom to God one could purchase back his life. In Exodus 13 that purchase price was a lamb. Here in Exodus 30 its silver. But lambs and silver don’t actually pay our debt to God. Life for life is the transaction required. Jesus paid the full debt. He gave his life for ours. He didn’t bring a lamb or a shekel of silver to the cross. He brought himself.
Matthew 20:28. the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
In Christ the Trinity owns you – and that’s good news! We could never truly pay our own ransom so God paid it for us. Not to enslave us but to exalt us into service in his kingdom of love and grace.
We are exalted by God – The numbering of the people is the “lifting of the head,” the exaltation and elevation of the people to sacred service. We are ransomed unto a purpose. For the Hebrews they paid an atonement price in order to serve in God’s army. They didn’t pay so that they could escape service. They paid to serve. To fight. To go to war for the Kingdom of God. To be part of God’s plan to remove the forces of evil in the promised land.
In Christ we have been ransomed by God. We are not our own. We belong to him. Not to be debased but to be exalted. Our heads have been lifted up. Gloriously elevated into Christ’s service. Not to fight a physical battle on a patch of land. But to fight a spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of those around us today. We are God’s weapons of righteousness in his holy war.
Romans 6:13. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
This is our new life in Christ. A life of great love and purpose. Purchased out of sin, death, and darkness. Ransomed by our Savior and exalted into his life of service. His love and his war. Marching daily into battle with our Brother, our Captain, our King.
“I would have followed you my brother, my captain, my king.”
“To live is Christ” has placed us into Christ as God’s purchased possession. Our lives are his. And his life is ours. His exalted life of service to God. Now we are numbered with Christ and ready for battle.
Are you ready? Do you believe that you have been purchased and exalted?
“Thou O Lord are a shield for me, my glory and the lifter of my head.”