These past two Sundays I’ve preached a two-part sermon on Numbers 9:15-23 at First Baptist Church, Irving, TX, where I am the new interim pastor.
Numbers 9:15-23 signals the conclusion of the time of Israel’s one-year encampment at Sinai and their embarkation on their journey through the wilderness to the promised land. During that year, between the first Passover in Egypt in Exodus 12, and the next Passover recorded in Numbers 9:1, God gave the people a series of new beginnings. He gave them the Law. He instituted the priesthood and sacrificial system. He gave them the tabernacle. He organized the twelve tribes; three tribes camping on each of the four sides of the newly constructed tabernacle.
The very presence of God Himself was evidenced by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. When the tabernacle was completed, this cloud of God’s glory and presence hovered over it. Here is God’s presence with and among His people . . . constantly (verse 16).
Whenever the cloud moved, the people moved. When the cloud stopped the people camped. “At the command of the Lord they marched, and at the command of the Lord they camped.” The people were totally dependent upon God for direction when to march and when to camp.
Once camped, there was a constant uncertainty of departure. While on the march, there was a constant uncertainty of duration. There was a constant uncertainty of destination as to where they would camp next.
Why was this? God was teaching His people dependence on Him. Days and weeks may pass, and the cloud did not move. Then suddenly, perhaps when least expected, the cloud moved! Both the continuance and the change alike were the will of God!
Israel had to be ready to break camp at a moment’s notice. Imagine the inconvenience! Some were impatient with God when he delayed moving. Some were impulsive and wanted to get ahead of God. Some were intransigent and wanted to lag behind or return to Egypt!
Notice the seven-fold repetition of the phrase “at the command of the Lord they marched/camped.” Notice the two-fold repetition of the phrase “they kept the Lord’s charge.” It was all about obedience to God. The phrase “they kept the Lord’s charge” in Hebrew connotes the notion of pulling guard duty!
We should be so concerned to guard every word that comes to us from God that we act in obedience to his commands.
We need to learn this lesson:
The manna always falls and the water always flows where the cloud of God’s presence broods.
It took 40 hours to get Israel out of Egypt. It took 40 years to get Egypt out of Israel. Why? The high cost of disobedience.