This, I believe, is one of those long overdue papers, not just in the sense that I have been talking about writing it for a good while now (and this may come as a shock to some of my readers, while others it may not), but also because I have come to believe that it is one of the major discrepancies in the Church, over the ages!
This began long before, as some would argue, the Church ever began, in the Garden of Eden, with our first parents, Adam and Eve. Yes, we can hear the argument now; “ But Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent (Satan?); that's why they fell; not because of some 'Focus on the Physical'! Let me explain myself; no one will disagree, I think, that God was actually, literally, 'in' the Garden; “And they heard the sound of the Lord God, walking in the Garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the 'presence' of the Lord God, among the trees of the Garden” (Gen. 3:8), so I think we can safely say, that although we all know that God is a Spirit, from other parts of Scripture, God was as surely 'present' there as Adam and Eve were! But, could Adam 'see' God? I don't think so! Some of you may have an inkling now, of where I'm leading with this: Do you think that Eve was 'enticed' by the serpent, just because he contradicted what they had been told; “in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die?" I think Eve was 'enticed' by the 'serpent' because he was something that she could 'sink her teeth into!'
Now, I purposely said it that way for several reasons, one of which I'll reveal; I believe that the fruit, that so ensnared the mother of us all, was part of this 'Focus on the Physical', of which I am speaking! The fruit (apple, pear, etc.), was something, along with the serpent, that she could 'see', and as we humans can all attest to, it's easy to believe in something that we can see; it's human nature! (John 20:29)
For our next example of a “Focus on the Physical' leading us astray; we turn forward several thousand years, to the Exodus. We all know of the story of the golden calf; you probably see where I'm going with this, but the golden calf 'came about' because of the peoples focus on things that they could 'see'. Moses, even though he would have explained to them that it was God, not he, who had led them out of captivity, and done so many miraculous things that they could 'see', was gone, for all that they knew, he could have died up on top of that mountain, where all those thunderings and lightings were taking place. So they asked Aaron, who should have known better (yes, he was focused on the physical as well, he was probably afraid that those people were going to kill him if he didn't do what they asked!), “Come, make us gods that shall go before us, for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him”, and 'forced' Aaron to make a 'god' for them, that they could 'see', although I don't really think that they had to 'twist his arm'!
For our next example of how a focus on the physical led to a big heap of trouble, we'll fast-forward another couple hundred years or so, to the time just before the (human) kings began to reign in Israel. Samuel was doing a pretty good job of being God's representative (remember Moses?) here on earth, but the children of Israel decided that they wanted a king that they could 'see', just like all the nations around them .
I will say this for them, they asked for another ruler because Samuel was getting old, and the judges that he appointed, didn't rule like he did, but I think that they were just used to the way Samuel ruled them, because God, who knows the heart, told Samuel, “they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them”.
Our next example, and I'll try to go rather quickly, and sparsely, over these, for sake of time; is found, just a few decades later, during the reign of David, and chronicled in II Samuel 24.
"And the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say; Go, and number Israel and Judah."
Now, in the first place; we could well ask, 'Why was the anger of the Lord aroused against Israel?'
Let's take a look at the previous chapter; what had happened in this chapter (23) that might anger the Lord? If you'll take a look at this chapter, you'll see that it is a listing of all of David's 'mighty men'; and what does David say about his 'mighty men? To 'cut things short' here, David says, of his house (hold); “He who rules over men, must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” (v. 3) This David says that he has from the Holy Spirit.
Although my house is not so with God, yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant.” (v.5) This is all well and good, because, even though we don't/didn't deserve God's grace, yet He established His Eternal Covenant with us!
But the man who touches them (of my house) must be armed with iron, and the shaft of a spear”; then David, or rather, his chronicler, goes on, listing David's 'mighty men', and along with this list; records the interesting story of what happened at the well in Bethlehem. I've always thought it interesting, why David would lay a guilt trip like that on his 'mighty men', and then refuse to drink, when they actually brought him what he wanted! Was David being self-righteous, like his 'son', Ahaz, quite a few years (generations) later (Isaiah 7:12), or was he 'testing' his men's loyalty, to see how far they would actually go in their service to him? I would say, probably yes, to both of these; but I would tend further to say that David was getting a little prideful in his 'mighty men'!
We all know what God has to say in the Scriptures, and there are many we could look at, about 'pride', but for sake of time and space, we'll just site one; Solomon later wrote, maybe thinking of this particular 'blunder' of his father's, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
So, now that we've seen why the Lord might have been angered, yet again, with His People, Israel; we turn now to why this (numbering/census) might have caused the Lord to levy the punishment upon Israel that He did, later on.
There is no place in Scripture, that I could find, that expressly forbids the taking of census, or numbering the people; in fact, somewhat the opposite, as we see in Exodus 30:12, for the purpose of taxation; Numbers 1:2,3, for the purposes of war; Numbers 3:15, for the purpose of service; and etc.
So, how did David sin in numbering Israel? I think that David became prideful of all that the Lord had blessed him with, because they (his house) were something that he could 'see', and as I've said before, we humans have a 'natural' tendency to trust what we can 'see', rather than what we can't, necessarily, see! (II Kings 6:17, John 20:28)
We now turn to the New(er) Testament, for a few more Biblical examples of where a 'Focus on the Physical' had terrible, and long-lasting repercussions!
This should be fairly easy to figure out; from the beginning of their long, and somewhat scandalous, history, the children of Israel had a problem with this 'Focus on the Physical', as I've already shown, in but a few of the many examples that we have available in Scripture: and it didn't get any better as time went on. The Pharisees, part of the ruling-class of the Jews, while they did reject Jesus, as the Christ, or Messiah, partially because He was 'physical', and claimed to be 'The Son of God', at the same time (John 11:33); their, including the rest of the Jews, main reason for rejecting Him, was that His kingship, or Kingdom, was not 'physical; His purpose in Coming was not to set up an earthly, or 'physical' kingdom, but a kingdom 'within' the hearts of true believers (John 18:36, Luke 17:20,21)!
This problem, as you can probably see for yourselves, was a problem, not only within the hearts and minds of the Pharisees,, and then, the rest of the Jews; but also one that the disciples of our Lord, themselves, had a 'problem' remembering, even though they 'walked' (Gen. 3:8) with Him, personally! Philip even asked Him to 'show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us'; the disciples even had a hard time believing that He was Who He said He was! (John 14:8)
In another sense, Peter's “Focus on the Physical' got him into a world of pain, worse than the 'physical' pain that he feared, in his infamous denial of our, and his, Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ! (Matthew 26:69-75, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:55-72, John 18:25-27).
Lastly, Martha, when told by Jesus that her 'sleeping' brother, Lazarus,, would rise again, which he did (physically) come back to life, but I don't think that He was speaking of his (physical) rising, for Jesus then told Martha, “I AM the Resurrection”, and I think that He was saying, not only that those who come to the Father through Him would be resurrected, but that Jesus Himself was actually THE resurrection, those found 'in' Him would never 'see' death (John 18:26, 5:24) !
This little 'study' of the 'Focus on the Physical' throughout the history of Israel, is by no means comprehensive (in fact, to some of you, it may be quite incomprehensible!) of the amount of Scripture that speaks of this 'problem' which, I believe, has plagued the Church, or Israel, down through the ages, and more study could, and probably should, be done on this subject, but this will have to suffice for now!