And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: “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 2:1-2)
Order In God’s Plan
The population of Israel when they left Egypt has been suggested to be around two million souls. Managing this kind of crowd would be an immense undertaking. The exodus from Egypt included 603,550 twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war. Adding the number of all other adults and children would swell that number to an incredible amount of people to move from one place to another. The crossing of the Red Sea must have been a sight to behold as they passed through the sea in one night. As the Hebrews made their way to Sinai the inhabitants of the land would have feared such a large body of people moving through their land. In a very literal way, a complete nation was on the move to the land of Canaan.
God is not the author of confusion and like His beautiful design in creation; He establishes a pattern of order to facilitate the needs of the people. Reading of the travels of Israel and especially the forty year wanderings, it should not be lost on the reader the immense crowd of people requiring food, water, clothing and every day logistics to care for their needs. A nation was on the move. God’s will includes a pattern of organization that will bring unity to His purpose and design. When the people of Israel moved from place to place, they did so according to their tribes. Everyone camped by his own standard according to their fathers house. The tabernacle of meeting was in the center of the camp and all the tribes encircled it according to the plan of the Lord. On the east side the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun camped. To the south Reuben, Simeon and Gad. On the west side of the tabernacle Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin placed their tribes. Finally on the north flank the tribes of Dan, Asher and Naphtali completed the plan. The Levites would encircle the tabernacle all around as buffer between the people and the tabernacle. They camped by their standards and broke camp, each one by his family, according to their fathers’ houses.
When it was time to leave, the standard of the camp of Judah (including Issachar and Zebulun) set out first followed by the tabernacle carried by the sons of Gershon and Merari. Then the standard of Reuben (Simeon and Gad) followed with the Kohathites carrying the holy things with the standard of Ephraim (Manasseh and Benjamin) taking their place. The rear guard of all the camps included Dan, Asher and Naphtali. This was the order of march of the children of Israel, according to their armies, when they begin their journey. The cloud of the Lord was above them by day to guide them. And they followed in the order prescribed by the Lord set forth as a pattern of His will. Design. Purpose. Unity.
The New Testament church is built upon a pattern of the unity of God’s will. Corinth is an example of how the Lord designed the church with order and purpose. It may not be as evident on the surface but when the saints at Corinth left the pattern of authority confusion became the norm. Their worship services were filled with chaos and disorder. During the days of miraculous gifts, the early Christians were making the worship of the Lord to be a contest of superiority and competition. Paul emphasized in his letter to Corinth that God was not the author of confusion but of peace. The apostle stated that all things should be done decently and in order. This hearkens back to the manner Israel was organized and how the Lord demanded His will to be followed in a design of order. Too often men have made the worship of God to be a place of raucous pandemonium believing this is a pattern of worship. It does not suggest that worship should be dull and without feeling. Quite the contrary as Jesus told the woman at well that worship to God must be in spirit and truth. There must be spirit in worship according to truth but there must be order and pattern in that worship.
A study of the Corinthian problem finds that when men follow the pattern of God there will be edification and knowledge leading to salvation. When men do not follow the pattern of the Lord they rebel against authority. The children of Israel had no choice about who went first and who followed. As far as we know they followed this pattern throughout the forty years in the wilderness. The church of today must follow the pattern of unity prescribed in God’s word and resist the temptation to go beyond what is written. There is no authority but that given by the one who ordained, organized and prescribed its worship according to His divine plan. Worship must be filled with the spirit of God. It must be done decently and in order. That is the will of God.