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. (Numbers 1:2-3)
Earlier in the Biblical text, a different census had counted the nation of Israel as a whole without recognizing the different tribes. At that point in the process, they were a nation of former slaves leaving everything they had ever known but on the path to a new way of life. So according to Jewish tradition, the reason this census was taken was to distinguish the different tribes from one another but without undermining national unity. The logic is that, until the Tabernacle was established as the focal point of life, tribal affiliation could potentially lead to factions, strife and division. But once the Tabernacle was established, tribal affiliation could be healthy if each one recognized role.
In other words, the tribes were to serve the overall goal of establishing the worship of the Almighty as central to the nation. Therefore, the tribes were distinct only in terms of the role they would play toward national unity. They were all different, each with unique strengths and weaknesses and, if they chose to focus on those unique qualities rather than what God asked of them, the nation was divided rather than united. Yet, were they to come together for the same goal and purpose — God’s purpose — they would be a great and mighty nation. As the Psalmist wrote, “How good and lovely it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”
Please take careful note of the fact that the psalmist said, “unity” as opposed to “uniformity.” The point being, God didn’t call us to be carbon copies of one another. To the contrary, we are not the same and never will be, and yet, we are expected to fuse together as one people under one King. We must be willing to lay aside all special interests in deference to one common goal — a united Kingdom of God. So rather than focusing on what is special to us and about us, as followers of Messiah, let us all focus on one thing. As Messiah said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:3).
Blessings and Shalom,