Today we are going to talk about Numbers 2 and the instructions that the Israelites are given and how this parallels our lives.
The organizing of the nation of Israel for the coming Holy War continues. And the Israelites are given instructions on how they are to set up camp and deploy when they are at rest.
Let’s remember that out in the wilderness the Israelites didn’t move all that often. They stayed in one location for many months at a time (years in some cases) before they were led by the Shekinah of the fire cloud to move again.
So when they set up an encampment it wasn’t for a weekend of recreational tent camping. Rather than have some type of disorganized mess it was necessary to have order.
And the claimed enormity of 2-3 million people meant that the organization and structure had to be even more precise and organized than if this were but a few people. Not surprisingly a fairly rigid hierarchy is laid out for the Israelites.
Of utmost importance is that they are to set up their vast tent village around the Holy Sanctuary. A kind of square formation would be set up with each division consisting of 3 tribes assigned a particular place. And that place was designated by compass directions east, west, north, and south.
Why a square?
Why the Wilderness Tabernacle in the center?
Well despite the obvious reasons that by means of the people surrounding the Tabernacle it was better protected we also find that historically Rameses II used this exact formation during his battle campaigns.
The royal tent of Pharaoh was placed in the protected middle and certain battalions were assigned in a kind of pecking order around the tent. These Israelites who had spent generations in Egypt, were completely familiar with this method.
I only bring this up to make the point that, generally speaking, God deals with us using manners and ways that we are familiar with in our culture. Most of the rituals God gave to Israel, and the form the Laws and ordinances were presented in (even the use of the Menorah, and of burnt offerings, and of burning incense, and of circumcision, and so on) had some parallel already long existent in the Middle Eastern societies.
We mustn’t think that God kept up some steady barrage of instructing the Israelites about things, and in ways, that were completely foreign to them and totally new to the world. No.
There was no need for this. Centuries of civil customs had been developed and God used many those imperfect customs for His purposes. For Israel some of the customs He changed, some He outlawed, and some He gave a profoundly different meaning.
The point is that most of what Israel did, they did because it was already well known to them. That said over the centuries of following God’s ways and better understanding God’s purposes for them, Israel’s customs did begin to look very different from other folks.
Their ways became stranger and stranger to the rest of the world and indeed that DOES appear to be God’s plan for His people.
We as Yeshua’s disciples are to operate the same way. When we get redeemed (saved):
- We still live in houses.
- We wake up in the morning and go to jobs.
- We put on shoes and wear clothes.
- We drive cars.
- We still read newspapers.
- The speed limits remain the same,
- We still have to pay our taxes,
- We vote and continue using electricity.
- We eat with a knife and fork and
- We read books.
Externally we were saved INSIDE the environment and culture we were familiar with. And usually we’ll make our kingdom journey with God inside the culture we were familiar with before we submitted to Him.
And God will also likely send us to do His bidding inside the same society we knew before we were redeemed. When we’re first redeemed usually ALL the change is internal.
It’s over time (if it’s like my life, LONG periods of time) that the internal changes begin to show up externally. So eventually we start looking pretty strange to the world, and the world looks even stranger to us.
Or we start appearing to the world as a threat to their hopes and aspirations as we move from being perceived as merely obnoxious to being an enemy. That was how it was for Israel then and (if you don’t recognize it) how it is for us now.