Besides John 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11, and Philippians 4:13, there is one other verse that is extremely popular in Christian circles.
The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. – Numbers 2:1-2
Now, obviously I’m kidding. You may have never seen that short little passage before.
Recently I’ve been reading through the book of Numbers in my time with the Lord. There is a whole lot about it that confuses and befuddles me, and I’m only just getting into it. Seriously, my journal is filled with a lot of questions.
But reflecting on this chapter (2) has been convicting and encouraging.
Let me unpack what is going on in these verses and how life-forming they should be for us as followers of Jesus. Here’s some truths to take away and consider.
1. God Was With His People
The ‘tent of meeting’ was the tabernacle, the place where the presence of God dwelled. Jesus shows us the exact nature of God the Father, but Jesus was not the first theophany (appearance of God on earth), rather He was the ultimate one.
God appears on earth over and over again, beginning with walking in the garden with Adam and Eve. He appears to Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. While leading the people of God out of Egypt, He appeared as a pillar of fire and a pillar of smoke.
Now, here in the trek towards the promised land, He is with them in the tent of meeting.
Guys, the message of the Bible is not ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do that’. The message of the Bible is NOT about being good, moral people. The message of the Bible is ‘God with us’. It’s what we celebrate at Christmas. God with us.
Y’all, the commands of Scripture (of which there certainly are many) do not come from ethereal being in the heavens who has no relationship with His people. No, the commands of Scripture are built upon the foundation of God’s presence with His people.
Every family of God’s people made sure that their tents faced the tent of meeting. Think about it. Every morning, when they left their tent, they looked at where God’s presence dwelt. Every day began with reflections about God’s presence.
2. When You Forget God Is With You, Sin Surely Follows
Things are relatively good at this point in the story of God’s people. The people have been rescued from slavery. They have a God who is with them, leading them.
The rest of the book of Numbers however unpacks how the people of God descend into lots of sin, simply because they forget that God is able and willing to provide for them and protect them.
In Numbers 11, the people of God complain against the Lord. They doubt His ability to provide for them in the wilderness. So then this happens.
Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord,and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the Lord had burned among them. – Numbers 11:1-3
God’s anger was aroused and some of their were destroyed.
Now, this is probably one of those passages that people would use to accuse the portrayal of God in the OT to be one of anger and malice.
A couple quick things. First off, God is a righteous and angry God. We forget that anger is not inherently sinful. God has the right to be angry with His people. Our sin is telling Him that we are not allegiant to Him as Lord.
Secondly, the fact that God didn’t destroy everyone here is grace. When we accuse God of mistreatment, we forget that just one sin separates us from Him. One sin requires judgment and justice. So this passage is exuding grace, even if our human sensibilities are irked.
Lastly, God immediately provides manna and quail for His people. Even in their sin, God is still providing for His people.
Later on in the story, the people of God are on the cusp of the promised land. They are commanded and called by God to go to war and remove the Canaanites. But instead, they refuse to go in. They think that the people of the land are way too big and powerful.
THESE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE THAT HAD WATCHED GOD RAIN DOWN PLAGUES UPON THEIR ENEMIES IN EGYPT.
Yet, now their cowardice leads to sin. They forget that God is with them and is ready to protect them.
And their punishment is a generation dying out in the wilderness.
Now, before you start thinking that these people are a bunch of idiots, look in the mirror (I’m including myself in this, fyi). God no longer dwells in a tent of meeting or a temple. Rather, according to the message of Scripture, He dwells in us.
I mean, come on!
We have the very presence of God with us, in us. Yet we doubt His ability to provide and protect. We forget He is near. God is omnipresent. There is no such thing as private sin in my life. God sees it all.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let your life reflect that God is with you. Do people see you trusting in His ability to provide and protect? Do people see you reflecting His character?
Brothers and sisters, God is with you.
He is with you.
Rest in that.
Rejoice in that.
God is with you.
Don’t forget it.
In His Name,