Remember when Abraham couldn't have any kids?
And God promised him that he would have more kids than there were stars in the sky?
A few generations later, the descendants are in Egypt, and there are so many that the Egyptians freak out and turn them into slaves.
God rescues them in dramatic fashion when they turn to him for help, and so here we are, wandering through the desert, trying to live for God on some days and whining and begging to go back to Egypt on other days.
And no matter where they go, God blesses them, and they have kids and those kids have kids and so on. And it's not just them. Their livestock keep increasing too. It's no wonder other nations don't want them wandering through, using up precious resources.
The thing is, when those other nations mess with God's people, they're messing with God. It doesn't turn out well for them. Remember Balak?
Moab tries another approach. It goes like this: Let's get their men to sleep with our women. And so the men follow around the Moabite women, sleeping with them, participating in Moabite fertility worship, and turning their back on the one true God, and finally God's had enough.
The penalty is death, and God sends a plague. All in all, 24,000 people died. It's tragic. It didn't have to happen, and it's not the first time people have died because they disobeyed God's laws, because they rebelled, because they worshiped other Gods. You'd think they would learn.
Afterward, the people take a census, sort of to see who's left, and to remind them that there's an inheritance waiting for those who follow God. It's for the children, really.
Following God is serious business. He is a holy God, and those who follow him must worship only God and serve only him.
It's hard. We forget to think of him first. We get distracted. We get anxious.
I'm grateful that "God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love." (See Psalm 103 and others.)
But that doesn't mean it doesn't matter.