Exodus 30:12 says “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them.”
Every person is to pay a tax when there is a census, for atonement for their lives. Everyone pays the same. No one’s life is worth more or less.
We know that later there will be a plague when David calls for a census. Did they not honor this direction to buy back their lives?
What is atonement?
Atonement is the covering of sin, when the offended person removes the offense.
Verse 16: “You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, to make atonement for your lives.”
They are to bring it to the tent of meeting so that the Lord remembers His people. What does that mean? How can God forget His people? Why does He need something to bring them to mind?
While that verse could be translated that the money was brought as a record of the children of Israel, there are other places in Scripture with the wording of God remembering His people. So what is happening when He remembers?
God can never forget His people. God is not human; we need to not apply our understanding of humans to Him.
If the Lord turns His face away because He cannot look upon our sin, then we’re out of sight. But we are never out of mind or heart.
The atonement is the purging, the cleansing, the wiping away, the return to the faultless, spotless perfection of one whom God has purified, sanctified, and called His own.
When the atonement is made, God can look again at us. He is holy. God is all of who He is all the time. He’s not sometimes holy and then sometimes compassionate. He’s always both.
Sin strains everything. It breaks our fellowship with a holy God. In compassion, God wants us back. In mercy, He makes a way for forgiveness and the washing clean.
We come to Him, looking at our toes, confessing our sin, and He forgives and lifts our heads, and smiles. The old is gone. He sees the perfect in you.