WE CAN link this passage with Acts 2. 44, “all that believed were together, and had all things common”. Five points may be made.
1. The Responsibility. In these verses, the occasion for the giving of the half shekel was when the people were numbered, in other words, when each one of them was taken account of. When an individual is before God, there is a remembrance of his condition, and this demands a ransom. God does not save by companies, rather He saves individually. Salvation is a transaction between God and the individual. When an individual is taken account of in the presence of God, his sinful condition is exposed and a ransom demanded if judgment is to be avoided. Perhaps someone reading this is not saved. We want to say that you stand before God guilty, lost and vile, on your way to hell, and that you will be damned eternally unless you have dealings with the Lord Jesus Christ now as an individual. Remember, every person is responsible to appear before God; if a person fails to do this in “time” then he will most certainly do it in “eternity”, but then it will be too late to be saved from the consequences of his sin. There is provision to deal with a person’s sin now, for we read in 1 Timothy 2. 6 that the Lord Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all, so that all can be saved. However, only those who come and embrace Christ as Saviour and Lord are saved.
2. The Ransom. To the end that the individual might appear before God without fear, a ransom had to be paid. Note:
(i) The Declared Amount – a half shekel which was ten gerahs. Ten speaks of responsibility, so the ransom must meet all the claims of God. Only one who was holy and sinless could meet the claims of the throne of God. Man in his fallen condition could never pay the declared amount. “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him”, Psa. 49.7.
(ii) The Divine Estimation – “after the shekel of the sanctuary”. In regard to forgiveness, salvation, redemption, the cost must be according to God’s estimation. God alone could calculate the enormity of sin and the cost of dealing with it. God alone has the right to lay down the terms of forgiveness. The ransom must therefore be according to divine estimation in order to meet the claims of His throne.
(iii) The Demands Stated – “the rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less”. The way of salvation is the same for everyone. The finished work of Christ has met all the claims of the throne of God against sin, making it possible for all to be saved. Only the Lord Jesus Christ could meet the claims of God; He only was in keeping with the divine estimate, and therefore only the precious blood of Christ can cleanse the sinner from his sin, so as to make him fit for the presence of God. We cannot add to the finished work of Christ, and we dare not take away from it. Recall again 1 Timothy 2.6 where we read that the Lord Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all. The word “ransom” conveys the idea of an expiatory sacrifice to the judgment of God on account of sin. When we think of the half shekel of silver, our minds turn to 1 Peter 1. 18–19 where we read that we are “not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold”. Why does Peter mention gold as well as silver? On one occasion we read that gold was paid. In Numbers 31. 49–54, after the battle with the Midianites, the men were numbered, and not one was missing. On that occasion gold was paid. Praise God, we know that every child of God is eternally secure – not because of gold, but through the infinite value of the precious blood of Christ.
3. The Reason. “That there be no plague among them.” Sin exposes us to the righteous judgment of God, showing the necessity of being saved. We need a ransom, or we will suffer the consequences of our sin. Failure to bring the atonement money when numbered brought judgment. In 2 Samuel 24 David, out of the pride of his heart, numbered the people. On that occasion there was no mention of atonement money, and the result was a plague among the people. Under the conviction of sin. David was brought to realize his folly. The plague was stayed at the threshing floor which David purchased with shekels of silver. It is interesting to notice that the place where the plague was stayed was the place where Isaac was offered, Gen. 22; and where the temple was built, 2 Chron. 3.1. Surely this reminds us of Calvary, the place where the Lord Jesus was laid on the altar (giving Himself as a sacrifice), where the plague of sin was dealt with, where Satan’s head was crushed, through which the church was brought into being as the true temple, the eternal habitation of God. The church did not commence at Calvary, but Calvary was the basis upon which the church was brought into being. Thus we see the reason for the ransom. It is solemn to stand before God in a sinful condition, solemn indeed to reject Christ the only provision, solemn to have to appear at the Great White Throne in one’s sin.
4. The Result. Each one numbered is linked with the tabernacle, Exod. 30. 16. In the book of Numbers, each one numbered is linked with war. Thus for all who were numbered, there was a place in the camp as gathered around the tabernacle, and a place in the battlefield. A place in the camp would illustrate for us that all who belong to Christ in a locality should be gathered together on New Testament ground. It is not scriptural for believers and unbelievers to be gathered together in so–called church membership. The Bible teaches us that all who believed were together. Acts 2.44. The local assembly should be comprised of believers only, each one possessing eternal life – a concentration of life eternal. There is no sanction in the New Testament for an unbaptized believer, and no sanction for a believer to be outside the fellowship of the local assembly. A place in the battlefield would illustrate for us that every child of God should be active in the Christian conflict. Every believer should take his share of suffering, 2 Tim. 1.8; 2.3.
5. The Remembrance. The atonement money was to be for a memorial. When we think of a memorial, we cannot help but think of the Lord’s Supper, 1 Cor. 11 20–34. We know that first and foremost at the Lord’s Supper we come to remember Him, but how can we remember Him without remembering what He has done? There is surely a remembrance of the ransom price. The very emblems (bread and wine – the loaf and the cup) are a remembrance of the ransom price paid at Calvary.
Thus, from this section, we see that the kind of people in the midst of whom God will dwell will be a purchased people, a people in the good of redemption, a people in the good of the finished work of Christ, a people cleansed by His precious blood.