Numbers 2:1-2 “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: “The Israelites are to camp around the tent of meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standard and holding the banners of their family.”
Numbers 2:34 “So the Israelites did everything the Lord commanded Moses; that is the way they encamped under their standards, and that is the way they set out, each of them with their clan and family.”
At the very start of Numbers, we saw God command a meticulous count of Israelite men above the age of 20 for the purpose of forming an Israelite army. In Chapter 2 we see the nation put in structural order as they move and as they encamp while they travel to the promised land.
The Order of their Travel and Encampment
Verses 3-31 detail out the position of each tribe in relation to the tabernacle.
The tent of meeting was to be in the very centre of the camp around which the Levites at some distance laid out their camps and then everyone else took their respective positions.
On the east side were the tribe of Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
On the south were the tribes of Reuben, Simeon and Gad.
On the west were the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin.
On the north were the tribes of Dan Asher and Naphtali.
God Centred Living
The tent of meeting was a representation of God’s presence and power in the heart of the camp and a powerful visual reminder to always live relative to God being the very central focus of their daily existence.
When we look at the Israelites journey through the wilderness towards the promised land, we can draw a parallel of their journey and ours through our time here on earth till we are called home to be with the Lord. And in that journey where is God? Is He right in the centre around which everything else takes its place and perspective?
As the Israelites rested and moved ahead, God’s position from the very heart of them was not to change. Do our times of rest and the times we move, always reflect God in our very core?
What does your time of rest look like? What you watch on TV, how you talk and behave on a night out with friends, what you think and do in the quiet of your mind and home. Are those times still lived out like His presence is in the very centre of your lives?
How is your movement centred around God, when you are at work, doing life, meeting people, making decisions and wherever life takes you, do we push God to the back or is He in the very centre of how we live and breathe.
The layout of the Israelites was given by God, this shows us His desire to be in the very centre of his people’s lives. That is how He wanted His people to do life. What a simple but profound reminder of the design God had for his people.
When we choose to place God at the centre of our lives, He becomes the one through whom all our thoughts, decisions and directions unfold from.
How would your journey through life look like if God is in the very centre of everything you do? Would fear dominate? Would anger linger? Would unforgiveness fester?
To live relative to His Presence and Power is His ideal structure for us.
Find your Tribe
This structure besides placing God in the very centre, also in detail gives us the position of each tribe. And it served a purpose, of protection of the people as they were placed according to their armies. We might not need to journey through life with a physical army for protection against invading nations, but we know that our enemy attacks our faith and when one is solitary, they are much easier to take down.
The ever-relatable Psalms, gives us moments where we get to see David express his anguish over his loneliness. In Psalm 25:16, we read, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted,” and in Psalm 142:4 he says, “Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.”
But what do we read in Psalm 68:6 “God settles the Solitary in a home.”
God created us for community, we are not meant to journey alone. Loneliness may not necessarily be something we feel when alone, but it can be something we experience even when we are surrounded by people. We have the Lord always with us to fill our hearts and comfort us when we feel no one cares but God intends for us to find our tribe, our community. He has designed us to not walk through life solitary but to reach out and belong.
Who are the people God has placed with and around you? Find your tribe who would do life with you, help you stay accountable, pray for and with you, give you godly advice and help nudge you back on track when you deviate.
With all the tribes in their respective places and roles around the tabernacle, we also get a beautiful picture in the broader sense of the entire people of God (Church) having different roles and places but very much under God.
God had a plan for the Israelites, and He perfectly positioned each of them as He carried out His plan for them. In the same way, God has placed us somewhere, it might seem far from ideal, you might be feeling the heat of the wilderness and the uncertainty of how you will get through it is ever present. Or the mundaneness of the everyday through the wilderness seems frustrating and inconsequential.
But He has perfectly positioned you, He is right with you and wants you to keep your eyes on Him, because it is not only His presence that goes along with you but also His power, and our obedience through that mundane matters. And as Ephesians 2:19 reminds us “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Find your tribe of brothers and sisters in Christ, we do not have to journey alone. And when the enemy whispers lies to make you feel defeated, to give up or question your faith, God’s presence in the very core of our lives and those of faith in our tribe will enable us to walk faithfully and obediently.