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"Numbering the people"

From the December 1968 issue of The Christian Science Journal


In an age of computers, human beings find themselves being numbered for bank accounts, census purposes, and job identity. Membership drives of fraternal organizations, clubs, and churches are another kind of numbering, which is sometimes carried on with little regard for quality as the search for numbers grows. One's wallet may bulge with credit cards and charge-a-plates, all carrying his own identification numbers. In general people appreciate the convenience and speed certain kinds of numbering bring into the management of daily living.

Numbering is not a new concept, although methods have changed to keep pace with this age of electronics. The Bible has several accounts of the numbering of the ancient tribes. A significant incident related in II Samuel and I Chronicles indicates that an inordinate attention to numbers can be harmful. According to the colorful story in I Chronicles, it was Satan who provoked David to number Israel. "And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel." Chron. 21:7; Perhaps the lesson David needed was to grasp a less limited concept of the children of Israel.

The understanding of the unlimited nature of God's creation unfolds in the Bible through prophetic vision. The prophet Hosea foresaw: "The number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God."Hos. 1:10;

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