Today's devotion from Numbers 26.Lists of names can be daunting unless we see the big picture. First, we begin with plague. After the sinful episode of the previous reading, a plague had broken out among the people. It was stopped only by a zealous act by Phinehas. This plague was a direct repercussion of sin in Israel. However, the second idea is that of inheritance. As soon as the plague is abated, God instructs the people to take a census, but this isn't just any census. They are taking a census that directly relates to who will inherit the land.
Between these two ideas is a list of names of those who are left. Those who will inherit the land (for the most part). So we can begin to see that God moves directly from sin and plague to a reminder of the promise and a reaffirmation through the census. By taking this census, the people are keeping their eyes on the coming promise of God. What is truly remarkable about all of this is that it is only the grace of God that allows a people to encounter plague and promise in the same chapter.
The reason this struck me as important is due to a recent conversation. Someone asked me if God was punishing them. They weren't as close to Him as they had been, and now things seemed to be piling against them. If God ever had excuse to punish a people, it was Israel. While He was working visible miracles in their midst, they turned against Him. They were stubborn, fickle, and rebellious at every turn. Even when their sin did incur the wrath of God (plague) He was quick to help them refocus on the promise.
God does not delight in punishing us. His focus has been on our redemption and restoration. That is His goal and purpose. Even when He allows us to feel the weight of our rebellious decisions, it is done with an eye on the promise. He has to correct paths to keep our progress going in the right direction. In the case of Numbers 26, plague and promise go together.
Maybe in your own life you are feeling overwhelmed and undermined? Perhaps the reason for this is because God is trying to correct your path. Maybe He is using difficulty to keep the promise in focus?