Everyone of the children of Israel shall camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house; they shall camp some distance from the tabernacle of meeting. – Numbers 2:2
In the opening of Numbers, we read where God gives Moses and Aaron specific instructions on what tribes are to camp on each side of the tabernacle when it is pitched “in the camp.” There were to be three tribes on each side: north, south, east and west. Inside that arrangement the Levites were to camp around the tent as God ordered to prevent the people from coming too close to the holy articles and dying. Of the four groups that were to encamp around the tent of meeting, the largest group was under the banner of Judah and comprised a mass of 186,000 men and their families. This was by far the largest group in Israel. The other camps ranged between 108,000 – 158,000 men and their families.
Not too long ago, I heard a messianic rabbi speak on this arrangement. He displayed a graphic that showed the layout of the Hebrew camp as designed by God, which took into account the differing sizes of the four groups. Judah’s group was the largest, Ephraim’s the smallest, and the other two were about equal in size. In the very center of the camp was the tent of meeting where God met with the people and dwelled among them above the mercy-seat. He was in the center of the camp, as He should be in our lives today.
So many times in our daily walk with God we read things and zoom right over them and never pay attention to the seemingly small yet important details. When we read of the arrangement of the camp, we get it that God is at the center. No doubt about it. However, have you ever stopped to consider why God aligned the four groups as He did? Even right there in the midst of Israel God was speaking to them about His salvation plan and did so right under their noses. And much as they missed it, we most often do too, as we read about it.
Take a look at the crude yet effective graphic of the camp’s layout below. You will notice almost immediately the hidden message that God designed into the alignment of the tribes, as they encamped around the tent of meeting, or God’s presence. Do you see it? When you do, think about it. Mediate on it. Understand what Has been telling us since the beginning: He’s the center of our lives, the Lamb of God would be slain from the foundation of the world, and He loved us enough to pay the price of our redemption through tremendous suffering.
Father, thank You for reminding me today of Your love for humanity and how You chose to redeem us through Your suffering on the cross. Even from the founding of the nation of Israel, You told them and us that salvation would only come through Your suffering on the cross. You meet with Your people daily. In the OT it was the tent of meeting/temple, but today is the human temple not made with human hands, our spirits. You must be at the very center of our lives and all that we do. How amazing it is to see that even in the design and alignment of Israel’s tribes around the mercy-seat, You formed them into an outline of their coming salvation in their Messiah, and mine, Jesus. Your ways and thoughts truly ascend above all I could ever hope for or imagine. You are the Almighty. I love YOU! In Jesus’ name, Amen.