Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers' houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company. (Bemidbar / Numbers 1:2-3; ESV)
When God directed Moses to take a census of the nation of Israel, it was not simply a statistical analysis of the people. Not everyone was numbered. Only the males age 20 and up of every tribe but Levi. Levi was to be counted separately due to their special priestly function. The purpose of counting the other tribes was to determine those "who are able to go to war."
Israel's call to war may sound distasteful to some, but that's because most of us don't know that just as Israel of old, we have been born to fight. There's a war going on and whether we like it or not, whether we are aware of it or not, we are on one side or the other.
Since the beginning of creation evil has sought to overthrow the purposes of God. The forces of darkness have conscripted people to do their bidding, often quite successfully. Those on God's side have been in the minority, but the victories substantial and far reaching. Through the Messiah and his triumph over evil's greatest weapon, death, God has guaranteed final and total victory. As we wait for Yeshua's return to judge the world, we have been commissioned to extend his victory to every corner of the globe.
Every human being has a place in this cosmic battle. To quote Bob Dylan, "You’re gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody." There is no neutral ground in this battle. No sidelines. No time outs. No vacations. No maternity or paternity leave. No disability list. Only active duty. You are either serving one side or the other. [Reality check #1: I am aware that there are people who for one valid reason or another cannot actively engage the battle, but I am making a point here. But don't let this statement too quickly count you out.]
As for each individual's precise duties, that's another matter. Different people have different functions. Still, everyone, regardless of age and ability is a part of this war. The better we understand this, the more effective we will be.
There is a tendency among spiritually minded people to think that true godliness is found in disengaging the battle. In this way of thinking, finding peace in the midst of a troubled world is a high value. Finding peace is a good thing, however we were not born to strive for serenity, but rather to confront the gates of Hell! [Reality check #2: I am also aware that there are times when we are not engaging life as we think we should and can easily be discouraged. It is at these times we need to remember that our identity as children of God must be central to everything else. But those of us who tend towards being passive need to heed this wake-up call.]
The nature of the battle we are in is primarily cultural and ideological. As Paul wrote in the New Covenant Scriptures, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12; ESV). This doesn't mean that the struggle in our age never takes on physical dimensions, but that the forces of evil are first and foremost unseen and express themselves in nonmaterial ways. As Paul says elsewhere:
For although we do live in the world, we do not wage war in a worldly way; because the weapons we use to wage war are not worldly. On the contrary, they have God’s power for demolishing strongholds. We demolish arguments and every arrogance that raises itself up against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey the Messiah. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; CJB)
This is why it is so very important to engage our culture. Every time we express a value through what we say or do (or not say and do) we take sides. We either represent God's values or the Evil One's. That is why we need to carefully critique all forms and expressions of media, including movies, songs, books, and so on. Every thought, every word, every political comment, every marketing plan, every fashion statement carries with it the pursuit of either good or evil.
Let's not miss our opportunity to be counted for God.