I recently completed reading the book of Numbers, which contains such edge-of-your-seat, can’t-wait-to see-what-happens-next sections such as 1:5-46 (the first census), 7:1-89 (offerings at the dedication of the temple), and 33:1-49 (the stages in Israel’s journey).
If you consider these passages a potent sleeping potion, this post may be helpful.
First, we all have spheres in our lives where we’re obsessed with names and numbers. We bloggers can have an unhealthy preoccupation with our site analytics. Maybe you’re a sports fan and can’t imagine life without post-game stats. Or perhaps the stock market is your thing: following the performance of certain stocks is a daily ritual. Car lovers know a lot about engine horsepower. Techies can wax poetic about RAM and processor speeds. Fans of fiction (whether it be on TV, at the movies or in a book) can tell you all about the life of their favourite character(s). And to indict myself, we ladies have a tendency to want to know all the stats about a newborn baby (Name? Gender? Weight? Length? Natural or CS? How long was labour? When can I see him/her?)
So the problem isn’t that these passages are lists of irrelevant names and numbers. The problem is that we’re clueless as to why they are important. In order to appreciate them, we need to understand why they were placed in the sacred scriptures.
Second, though you may find these lists tedious, be assured God doesn’t. Who is responsible for the three sections I mentioned above? (Answers in Numbers 1:1-3, 7:11 and 33:2) Yahweh is responsible for us having to read all that stuff. You and I may not care how many male goats Abidan and Ahira presented at the tabernacle 3,500 years ago, but God does. He delights in the service and obedience of His people: none of it is trivial to Him.
(First point above by Iain Duguid [what a vowelicious name!] in a sermon titled “Stand up and be counted” on Numbers 1:5-64. Second point by Dale Ralph Davis in a seminar on Numbers 7-9 titled “Everything you need for a trip ”.)