The total number of persons belonging to Jacob—his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob’s sons—who came to Egypt: 66. And Joseph’s sons who were born to him in Egypt: two persons. All those of Jacob’s household who had come to Egypt: 70 persons.
A WWII veteran once remarked: “In war, life is cheap!” He had survived for weeks on the beaches of Anzio without a scratch. Suddenly, pain erupted in his stomach. It was not an enemy shell. It was a ruptured appendix.
The medics hauled him off for treatment. As he watched the mangled wounded come in, he began to realize that he was being overlooked. “I didn’t count!” he said. “I was sick, not wounded. But I knew that unless someone noticed my condition, I was going to die.”
One does not need to be neglected on a battlefield to feel he doesn’t count for much. Bad enough if strangers act like this toward us in our time of need. Worse, if friends and family begin treating us this way. Absolutely the worst, if it seems not even God notices!
A severe famine was heading for Canaan in Jacob’s day. Money would do no good if there was no food to buy. But God provided for Jacob in advance by having one of his sons sold into slavery in Egypt. Years later, Joseph, as an Egyptian government official, would provide his father and brothers and their families with plenty of food—and pastureland, besides.
News reports of the day would not have taken note of this one refugee family. But God noticed. He was counting these people—because they counted to him. Their number was 70!
Four hundred thirty years later, he counted them again. The time had arrived for his people to return to Canaan. By now, they could field an army of 603,550. Adding women, children, and others not able to wage war, the number was easily 2.5 million.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had not forgotten his people or the promises he had made to them. He was watching over them.
If the Lord knows the number of the stars and calls them by name, if he has counted the hairs on our head, then we should not be surprised to learn that he kept count of the people from whom the Savior was going to come.
Or that he is keeping careful watch over us—counting our sorrows, counting our fears, counting our blessings—counting everything but our sins. For those he has removed from us as far as the east is from the west. His Son took them all away.
It matters little if we are far from home and our homeland or if we can go home to our family every night. It makes no difference if we are sick or well, in safety or danger, awake or asleep. The Lord God keeps track of us. He watches over us. He neither slumbers nor sleeps, as we learn in Psalm 121.
Thousands of troops stormed the beaches of Anzio in 1943. The Lord knew each one of them. The young sergeant from a small town in Wisconsin needed not fear. The eyes of his Lord were upon him. His life was not cheap. It had been bought with the blood of Christ. In God’s sight, he counted dearly.
And so do we.
The soldier’s loved ones offered up their prayers for his safety day after day. They did not know where he was. They did not realize he was at death’s door. They just knew that his help was in the name of the Lord. So, to the Lord they prayed.
The God of grace and glory heard those prayers—every one of them. They probably lost count of how often they prayed.
He did not. He never does.
He keeps count of such things because, to him, such people and prayers count.
Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, we know that you neither slumber nor sleep. At times we may feel that we have been forgotten and our needs overlooked. Banish our doubts. Remove fears. Wipe away our lack of faith. We lift up our eyes to you, O Lord, for your eyes are always upon us. And since you have already counted out the days and minutes of our earthly life, keep us safe until we have finished our mission in life, and then lead us home. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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