… 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 is a very serious and dangerous thing. It means to be counted and recognized as a full subject of the Kingdom of God. In that moment, regardless of our social standing, our worth is the same as anyone else. It is the time when our name and lineage are fully recognized in front of all Israel. This is the time when a man stands in the full posture of his person to be counted.
The price of a man’s ransom is universal: half a shekel. The half a shekel price is not to be understood as a payment for salvation in the liking of the old catholic indulgences to redeem us from our sins. The Hebrew word used here is ‘kaphar’, a word meaning: covering’ or ‘atonement’ (Exodus 30:12). It is an awesome thing to come into the presence of God to be counted; we need a covering. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Messiah is often called the ‘Shield” (Psalms 5:12). Messiah truly is our shield whose agency connects us safely to the Almighty. The money collected is to be used for the maintenance of God’s sanctuary. Through it, we each and all take personal responsibility for our enrolment into Israel and for the care of the Temple. Our giving makes us a 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: we want to be part of such a 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 Adonai (Jeremiah 33:13).
In that day, the Messiah will be counting His sheep from both Israel and the nations: He is our ‘half-shekel’, whose confession is priceless as the shield of our souls while dangerous in the world of men. 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 to them; those counted in this final census, in the census of all census' at the end of 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).