After the plague in the wilderness, as Israel finally stands once again on the edge of the Promised Land, the Lord commands His people to take a census.
They have already taken one census, when they first came out of Egypt, but it's important that every man who was involved in the sin when the spies were first sent out and did not believe in the Lord's promise has died, and so it seems natural to here take a census to ensure that all of the men have indeed died and that a new generation has firm hold on the nation. That way, they can truly enter the land the Lord has promised to give them.
But there was another good reason to take a census here, one that probably escapes most readers who have already forgotten by now what it means to take a census in Israel.
See, every time Israel took a census, each person who was counted had to be bought back. There was a set price for every person, based on sex and age, and all the money was given to the Lord. This is why, by the way, it was a sin when David took an unauthorized census - he was basically charging the people a tax for existing in his kingdom, and God had not requested the census, or the offering that came with it.
In other words, every time there was a census, the people had to redeem themselves in the Lord's eyes by buying themselves back with an offering.
Which means that as Israel stands again on the edge of the Promised Land, ready finally to enter into what the Lord has given them, now is a perfect time not just to count the generations, but to redeem themselves, to make an offering for their lives to the Lord, to declare their worth in His eyes and to buy themselves back.
Just think about that for awhile. It's beautiful.