Num 2: The divine purpose is entirely orderly. That was
evident in the creative work of God in the beginning, and was repeated in the
creation of a nation to bear His great Name. There was divine organization in
the community which found itself in the wilderness. In the plan of the march by
Israel, the first steps toward nationhood are evident. Its basis was intertribal
relationships; its structure was that of a city with properly defined quarters
for all, and all could be easily located; a plan of march so that it would be
orderly, a plan of worship so that the peoples' religious and secular activities
would be integrated. Thus the people were constituted the Ecclesia in the
wilderness. Moses set out the marching order of Israel in Num 2: (1) Judah
(east), with Issachar, Zebulun (vv 1-9); (2) Reuben (south), with Simeon, Gad
(vv 10-16); (3) Levi and tabernacle (v 17); (4) Ephraim (west), with Manasseh,
Benjamin (vv 18-24); (5) Dan (north), with Asher, Naphtali (vv 25-31). Then
follows a summary of the encampment: vv 32-34. This reveals the separation of
the Levites from the community. They were to become mediators between Yahweh and
His people. What a grand moment it was, when the tribes were set out in order,
and the nation saw the tabernacle-presence of Yahweh in their midst!
THE ISRAELITES ARE TO CAMP AROUND THE TENT OF MEETING SOME
DISTANCE FROM IT: Every man's "tent" (that is, all his family and
possessions) was to be situated with reference to the "tent" of Yahweh, that is,
the tabernacle of His glory. "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness" (Mat
6:33). The spiritual lesson for us is surely this: choose your home -- and make
all your arrangements, work and social life, and so forth -- with reference to
the ecclesial meeting place and the activities there. Arrange the rest of your
life around the place of meeting with your God and your brothers and sisters --
and you will be not far from the kingdom of God. "For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also" (Mat 6:21).
EACH MAN UNDER HIS STANDARD: If we belong to Christ,
then we pitch our tent under his standard: "I, when I am lifted up from the
earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32).
The congregation would always start their march eastward,
toward the "rising of the sun" (Gen 3:24; Rev 16:12), then veer in other
directions if necessary, to follow the cloud.
These 3 tribes followed directly behind the ark, explaining
THEY WILL SET OUT LAST...: "The Danites occupied a very
useful place. Stragglers have to be picked up upon the march, and lost property
has to be gathered from the field" (CHS).