“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 2:2, ESV)

To say that God gave Moses a challenging undertaking in leading the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land would be an understatement. The company of people was large, the living conditions difficult, and their devotion to the task at hand questionable.

At the best of times, the Israelites vowed to follow God and live by His commandments. At the worst of times, they became rebellious, complaining, contemptuous of leadership, and quick to follow false gods.

As we observe and learn from their experiences, their story can help us examine our own walk with God.

the center of it all

The Tabernacle was the center of the entire camp. This strange-looking structure made of skins and without any outward beauty, contained wonderfully fashioned items of pure gold on the inside. Outside the air smelled of death from the sacrifices, but inside the air was fragrant with incense. As the Israelites walked out their tent door each morning, the tabernacle stood before them, for their tents bordered each of its sides.

Nor could the people forget God as they moved about the camp. God established rules on how they were to come near this structure that housed His presence. They could not change the rules on a personal whim. To do so meant death. They could not approach Him in a haphazard, indifferent, or irreverent manner. That would be sacrilege. Only the high priest had access behind the veil to the Ark of the Covenant.

If a man were assigned a particular job in the tabernacle and then decided to go fishing (except there was no place to fish), he couldn’t ask his buddy from the next tribe to fill in. Each had his own position to fill. If his job was to carry a board or ring—how important could that really be? —he could not put this task on another.

If someone from the tribe of Dan had a friend from the tribe of Reuben, he could not just move his tent next door to that friend. Dan’s assigned place was on the north side of the Tabernacle, while those from Reuben pitched their tents on the south. Each lived where God directed.

The Israelites may have roamed through a barren wilderness, but they never lacked for food or clothing. It was their disobedience, rather than God wishing to be cruel, that brought on their sufferings.

the importance of god’s commandments

It would be easy to say all these rules for everyday life were unimportant, even absurd. Why live so restricted? God is an orderly God. His commandments (rules if you will) are for our protection and give stability to our lives. They keep us focused on what is important and on ways we can honor God.

Does your place in the body of Christ seem insignificant? Did God ask you to only carry a board while someone else carries the beautiful golden candlestick? Your board is part of the total structure that holds it all together. Unless you fulfill your part, the church will not be complete.

recognizing our life’s center

Just as each Israelite stepped outside his tent to see the Tabernacle in the center of his existence, we must keep an awareness that the church, the body of Christ, must be kept at the center of our thoughts and actions. Like the badger skins covering the Tabernacle, the church may appear unattractive to an observer. Inside, however, we find beauty and holiness. The fragrance of God’s Spirit fills our nostrils.

Have you pitched your tent—your life—to face the church? Do you remind your children each day of the beauty and protection found inside? Do you teach them that their very existence should be God-centered and God-directed? Do they know God provides their every need?

Is your attitude thankful and obedient rather than complaining and rebellious? Do you honor God-ordained leadership?

Make sure your tent faces the right direction. Keep the church in the center of your life.



Mary enjoys traveling, meeting new people, and spending time with old friends. Although directionally challenged, she would rather take the back roads with their discoveries than the boredom of the interstate.

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