Numbers 9:21, “And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed, whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up they journeyed.” I have read this book of Numbers a number of times, and given thought to it, it is an interesting portion of the Bible for us today. It is not merely past history, not a fairy tale, for we are all on the same road, all on a journey. Maybe there is not so much ahead of us, maybe there is more behind us of this journey. We are all somewhere on the road, we all have the same struggles, everyone knows the special battle that they face, and maybe we could say that our personality is different, my make-up is different, no, and we all have the same kind of struggle. The book of Numbers is as good a help as any, all there for our profit. In the first 10 chapters, God gives us an ideal order that He has for His people. The way of God is a very orderly way. We have to do things in order, we may not like it, but even Paul wrote, “Do not have company with the disorderly.” Do not have anything to do with them. The Psalmist wrote, “Lord, order my steps.” He wanted to be in order, before the Lord first, and then his people. We love the will of God, and we love the book, if we love the book we will love the Lord. The first 10 chapters of Numbers are much the same as the first 10 chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. A perfect order in the Acts of the servants of God, and today we could not exceed that, we could not come near that, but by the help of God, we can try. In the verse that we read, it shows the perfect arrangement of the journeying of the camp.
There were between 2 and 3 million people together, and there had to be an order of things. We journey with a perfect faith, we are not perfect, but we are living God’s promises. Jesus spoke, “Come unto Me all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is the Canaan victory, we can be victorious by a faith in Jesus, not our determination, not self-sufficient, but by faith in God’s promises to us. Salvation is not living in defeat, but gaining victory, singing the overcomers song, going on submitting to God, this is our ideal. In the wilderness, the Lord fed the people with manna, but when they got to the Promised Land, the manna stopped, no more manna, but now they were able to partake of the fruit of the land, the fruits of victory. They were now getting below the surface to grow this fruit. When we first decided we did not know how to read so the Lord helped us, but then later we began to taste the fruit of victory we were getting off further, as the hymn says, “Beyond the sacred page,” we were drawing help from God.
Numbers 2:2, “Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard with the ensign of their father’s house.” Verse 34, “And the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so they pitched by their standards, and so they set forward, everyone after their families, according to the house of their fathers.” There would be confusion without order, but here there was no confusion because everyone was serving where they ought to be, over 2 million people, all in order. There were twelve tribes, and every tribe had their place, they all had a leader. Who appointed the leaders of the tribes? It was the Lord. This house of God is God’s house, and we will only be God’s people if God is over all, when God is in charge giving the direction. We as Workers are not in charge. When Joshua was to succeed Moses, Joshua saw men with drawn swords, and he said, “Are you for us?” The answer came, “As the captain of the host of Israel, am I sent.” Joshua welcomed him, because he was not the leader, there was One above, Joshua was directed by the one above. The Lord is over all, and these leaders were appointed by the Lord, and they had the seal of God, they were to be captains and advisers. Every tribe had their own place, and there were to be three tribes going along together.
The first tribe was Judah, now Judah did not say, “I’m going to be first, I’m the one.” No, the Lord said, “Judah shall go first,” and it is none of our business where or how we are serving, so long as it is God’s guidance. Dan was to be the last, and he may have said, “Who wants to be the rear guard? Who wants to be in obscurity?” It is not in our human nature to work where no one sees, but maybe the best work we will do is what the Lord alone sees we do. The Lord sees the battle we are fighting, and good if we are willing to serve wherever it may be. Then the tribe of Rueben was to be in the second rank, and maybe he did not want to be with Judah, but there was not any complaint. We cannot do any better anywhere else, but we will be the best we can, with what we have; where we are. If the Lord wants us to go elsewhere, we don’t have to lift one finger to go there. The Lord will arrange everything for us. There will be peace in our hearts if we do our best no matter where we are serving. The tribes had their place and every man and family had their place, every tribe and family had their own place, their own ensign. Everyone in their own place, what a grand sight. We have a measure of the unity of the spirit because we believe the same things, we have the same ideal, the same Son of God, the same Book, and only one right way. No matter whether we have been serving sixty years or ten years we believe the same, with one exception. We believe it more so because of what we have learned. What we know has not been contradicted, all is clearer. We have been slow to learn – here a little, there a little.
One time, there was a boy who had been in school for fourteen years and the teacher said, “It is a pleasure to teach him,” a nice commendation. Nice if the Lord can find this with us, that we are taking this in, complying with it, each year learning a little more. Not be at a stand-still. There was a man from the farm who was sitting in his rocking chair looking out of the window at a view of a field 50 acres in size. His neighbour came in and saw him sitting there and the man said to him, “It is no fun turning over the field.” This man was turning the field over in his mind, but not going out to do anything about it. It is no use turning it over in our minds, we have to do something about it. Not wish that something will happen. If we see to these things, all the other affairs will take their place. These are God’s people, this is God’s house, as long as God is directing, as long as He is in charge. He should be consulted in all things, if we lose this, we are done.
Chapter 3, here is another division, the Levites. Aaron and his children were set aside for the priesthood, at first God said He would take the firstborn, but now He was going to have the Levites. What if they did not want to be chosen, they were to have no farms, no land, and they could have said that they should have the same rights as their brethren. Numbers 3:9, “And thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons, they are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel.” Verse 45, “‘Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle, land, the Levites shall be Mine,’ saith the Lord.” I am the Lord — do we understand? Do we have any right to make our own plans, any right to choose our own path? No. “They are Mine.” The Lord’s servants today are the same. They look after the temple and tabernacle both entirely. All in the Work have this thought that this is not our choice. They are willing to go, not dare do otherwise. Why did the Lord choose the Levites? On one occasion, something happened and Moses was angry, he asked the question “Who is on the Lord’s side?” The whole tribe of the Levites stood forward to be on the Lord’s side. They were great fighters for the truth, fierce fighters for the truth. They had no partiality, they were no pushover by the enemy, not pushed over by any trend in the world, did not copy them. They were fierce fighters for the truth. It does not matter whether we are fourteen or eighty four years of age, it does not make a particle of difference as we have the ideal in the Son of God that is the truth.
The tribes were to be divided into three families, all three families did not have the same duties, and every person knew what they were to be doing. I marvel when I see the arrangement of God. The family of Gershon were responsible for the tent and the tabernacle. The family of Merari were responsible for the furnishings and the cherubims and the Ark of the Covenant. The first two families were given wagons to carry their goods. The team of Kohath were to carry on their shoulders the Mercy Seat and the Ark of the Covenant. This was never to be changed. We will be walking this, carrying this Gospel on our shoulders, no modern way, over the radio or the television, but a burden on the shoulders of the servants. We are to live it, not by great preaching, we are living and walking this. This is the everlasting truth of Jesus, never another truth, no change about this Jesus, this will be lived. Maybe we want a wagon, seek an easier way than this, but there were no complaints in this family. Do we want to change anything that is in your power, no crossing of a t, or dotting of an I, because the more we learn the more we see it is perfect.
Chapter 4:16, “And to the office of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest pertaineth the oil for the light, and sweet incense, and the daily meat offering, the anointing oil, and the oversight of all the tabernacle, and all that therein is, in the sanctuary, in the vessels thereof.” Every one of us can shoulder this responsibility, having oil for the light, what will bring this? It is obedience to the Lord today. If we are not obedient, we do not have light. All the money given to the work of God, all the letters we could write, visit the sick, will not substitute for obedience. Obedience is the love of God in action. When we read the word of God, we say, “This is for me.” We take heed to it and this brings light. Jesus spoke “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.” It means if we are professing and not obeying, we have darkness, the worst darkness in the world. We go to the meeting, take part, and not obeying, it is the greatest deception, and darkness. Sweet incense is our relationship with God. As we go through the motions of serving God, what we are doing is very savoury to our Father. God is getting pleasure.
Bread for the table, this is bread we bring to God. If we are right with God, we bring bread that the Lord will feed upon. There was to be the daily meal offering, continual bread on the altar. Then there was the daily burnt offering, the offering up of ourselves. This sacrifice was to be without a blemish, quite an ideal, a high ideal. This is the main business of life, straining every day to be a sacrifice without blemish, not marred by the world, flesh, or devil. The holy anointing oil. This is so vital. We praying for the anointing of the Lord on His servants, God will hear the wise petition. Good if we can have a little of what Jesus had, myrrh, cassia, from the ivory palaces, good if this is not lost among us. The ashes from the burnt offering were to be taken away, ashes are what remain, the memory of what we did yesterday. Do we take the memory with us? No. It is placed in a clean place outside the camp. This means that we forget what we did, but it is not forgotten by the grind of God. The Lord remembers, we are busy today with a new offering, forgetting what we did yesterday. Sometimes we remind people of what they did, and they reply, “I don’t remember that,” but God remembers.
Chapter 5:2, “Command the children of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper, and everyone that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead.” We saw this is rather stringent and severe, to be put out, the unclean person is to be put out. Do we not have something recorded in the New Testament? Paul writes, “not having any company with those who are disorderly or living unclean lives.” We live in an unclean day, we need to have an honest fight to remain clean, pure in heart, to have men and women free of the leprosy of uncleanness, free from selfishness. If we have these things in us, we will be outside. Men and women who are unclean have no place inside, there are chronic complainers, always fault-finding. There were two boys who were cousins, their mothers were sisters. They were only aged 8. One boy said, “My mother gripes all the time.” The other said, “Mine does, too. You can tell they are sisters.” If we have the love of God in our hearts, our rejoicing will be contagious. Everyone will rejoice. Any defiled by the dead, this means dead company, they are no help to us. We do not want to cultivate their company or we will find ourselves outside the camp of God. The Lord said, “I’m dwelling in the midst of the camp.”
When they journeyed, there was the cloud by day and the fire by night, so it was always. The direction was always there, when the cloud moved they were to move, maybe they were tired at that particular time, maybe they wanted more time, but when the cloud moved they were to move. In the middle of the night, early in the morning, raining or snowing, sun shining, heat. Do we understand? What God says, we are to do it, not next week but we begin now, if the cloud is moving. We do not say the time that is convenient for us, and if the cloud is to remain and not move for a year or two years, maybe you want to go, but you stay where you are and wait for the direction of God, you will be preserved and we will be making the best progress. There were to be two trumpets of silver to call the assembly together. They represent two servants of God. Suppose for a moment that there were no longer any servants of God, what would happen? No more convention, who would call the assembly? Who would do this? God has provided for us, from my earliest childhood I have had the greatest admiration and respect for the servants of God. Chapter 10:35, “And it came to pass when the Ark set forward that Moses said, ‘Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered, them that hate thee flee before thee,’ and when it rested, he said, ‘Return, oh Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel.'” This is our consolation and what is worth more than this, the Lord with us in our journeying. Not living in a fool’s paradise but God being for us, we can sing a new song at the end of every year.