The book of Numbers is not simply about how many Israelites there were. It is about the process of transformation by the hand of God. God gives the reason for the numbering of the nation in verse 3. No longer are these a people of bondage, but they are a people of God. No longer will the world dictate their every move. No longer are they the victim, but under the direction of God they will be the victor.
In Exodus God delivered the children of Israel from bondage. In Leviticus God established Himself as the very center of the consciousness of this new nation. In Numbers He gives the order for a numbering of the people, because now it is time to prepare for the taking back of what was lost.
God works in patterns for a purpose. Everything in the Old Testament has meaning in the present. The bondage that Israel faced in Egypt was too great for them to overcome. The bondage that we face is too great for us to handle. It is God that delivers on both counts. In each of the plagues God defeats a god that is worshipped by the Egyptians, and in Jesus Christ he defeats the ultimate adversary--death.
The initial deliverance is not the end, but only the beginning. The next step in the process is a re-centering of our values. The Israelites once lived to please their masters in Egypt, now they are ordering their lives to please their new master in God. This is no different than the process we face in our own spiritual lives. As we step into a new life with God our first priority is to grind God into the very center of everything we are and everything we do.
Numbers is the next step in this transformation process. Once we have been delivered, and once we have God at the center of our life we are ready to prepare for war. Too many of us stop at being delivered and going to church and learning the religious customs of our faith, when we were delivered to take back what the enemy has stolen.
The children of Israel were nothing in Egypt. They were nobodies and we were no different until God stepped in. You and I were not created simply to be saved, but to be saved and victorious. There is a war for us to fight, and if we are to claim what God has for us we must prepare for that war.