Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying: “Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel…” (Numbers 1:1-2)
The oldest name for the fourth book in the Torah, the one you and I know as Numbers, is “the Fifth of the Musterings.” This name speaks to the fact that one of the dominant themes in this book is the numbering (mustering) of the legions (armies) of Israel (we’ll address that later). Later it became known by the fourth Hebrew word in the opening sentence which is b’midbar or, “in the wilderness” (The name “Numbers” comes from the Septuagint which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures).
Along with counting eligible men in the different tribes, this book deals with the laws and the history of the tabernacle during the wilderness years as well as key events that happened during those years. In this vein of thought, I’d like to bring to your attention that the word מדבר midbar — “wilderness” — as it is spelled in Hebrew, can also be pronounced m’daber which means, “to speak.” And so, here is the point.
If you think about it, it is often when we are the “wilderness,” so to speak, that we are more inclined to call upon God and, at the same time, most inclined to listen. I would go so far as to say that it is when we are enduring a wilderness experience that He speaks most often — or maybe its because we are listening more intently.
Whatever the case, it is important to see that He does speak to us in the wilderness and, so, if we find that we are in that situation, do not despair — He’s still there. Though our environment might seem desolate, and our situation desperate, He is still there, speaking into our lives and to our circumstances. You see, it is in the wilderness that we learn to listen, trust and grow.
Blessings and Shalom,