These verses from the book of Numbers might, at first glance, seem irrelevant to contemporary worshipers of God. Numbers matter-of-factly informs us of how the ancient Israelites set out in the desert by stages according to their respective tribes and how they proceeded when stopping their sojourns. Yet, if we take the time to engage in pilgrimage with the Israelites, we observe the heart of worship and life for God’s people.
The tabernacle, that is, the ark of the covenant with its accompanying tent and holy articles, was the primary symbol for Israel of God’s presence. As such, the tabernacle was at the actual center of Israelite life, both physically and spiritually. The tabernacle would leave first and be set up by the tribe of Levites before the other tribes came and encamped around it.
Observing this constant ancient ritual in the desert begs several questions for us today: Is God at the center of our life and worship? Or, do we expect him to come and bless our already camped out thoughts, ideas, and practices? If God is truly at the center of all we do, what is the evidence that this is so? Are we patient to wait for God’s leading to present itself? Or, do we act and then seek God to give his stamp of approval over it? The wise believer will allow God to set the agenda and pace of our life journey, and not the other way around.
Sovereign God, you always lead in a way that is good, just, and right. Help me to slow down long enough to enter into the rest and connection with your will that I so desperately need through Jesus my Lord. Amen.