Tuesday after Invocavit
Scripture: Numbers 10:11-36 (NKJV)
11 Now it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle of the Testimony. 12 And the children of Israel set out from the Wilderness of Sinai on their journeys; then the cloud settled down in the Wilderness of Paran. 13 So they started out for the first time according to the command of the Lord by the hand of Moses.
14 The standard of the camp of the children of Judah set out first according to their armies; over their army was Nahshon the son of Amminadab. 15 Over the army of the tribe of the children of Issachar was Nethanel the son of Zuar. 16 And over the army of the tribe of the children of Zebulun was Eliab the son of Helon.
17 Then the tabernacle was taken down; and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari set out, carrying the tabernacle.
18 And the standard of the camp of Reuben set out according to their armies; over their army was Elizur the son of Shedeur. 19 Over the army of the tribe of the children of Simeon was Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. 20 And over the army of the tribe of the children of Gad was Eliasaph the son of Deuel.
21 Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. (The tabernacle would be prepared for their arrival.)
22 And the standard of the camp of the children of Ephraim set out according to their armies; over their army was Elishama the son of Ammihud. 23 Over the army of the tribe of the children of Manasseh was Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. 24 And over the army of the tribe of the children of Benjamin was Abidan the son of Gideoni.
25 Then the standard of the camp of the children of Dan (the rear guard of all the camps) set out according to their armies; over their army was Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. 26 Over the army of the tribe of the children of Asher was Pagiel the son of Ocran. 27 And over the army of the tribe of the children of Naphtali was Ahira the son of Enan.
28 Thus was the order of march of the children of Israel, according to their armies, when they began their journey.
29 Now Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will treat you well; for the Lord has promised good things to Israel.”
30 And he said to him, “I will not go, but I will depart to my own land and to my relatives.”
31 So Moses said, “Please do not leave, inasmuch as you know how we are to camp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes. 32 And it shall be, if you go with us—indeed it shall be—that whatever good the Lord will do to us, the same we will do to you.”
33 So they departed from the mountain of the Lord on a journey of three days; and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them for the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them. 34 And the cloud of the Lord was above them by day when they went out from the camp.
35 So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: “Rise up, O Lord! Let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.”
36 And when it rested, he said: “Return, O Lord, to the many thousands of Israel.”
It took three days for the nation to get fully mobilized likely because of the huge numbers of people in the tribes of Israel. The description of this mobilization also resembles that of an army of antiquity and thus reinforces the portrayal of Israel as the Lord’s army on the march, with the Lord at its head. Thus the image of Israel as a people victorious over Egypt and moving triumphantly toward the Promised Land is brought to mind.
In this time of Lent as we are called to repentantly look upon our sinful failure to fully engage in the triumphant march toward the promised land of the New Heaven and the New Earth, we also know Israel will not enter Canaan in a few short months. God provides all that His people need to achieve what He wills for them, but we are weak—and though He offers order for our lives we so often choose disorder by refusing to follow the gracious path laid out by Him. God’s graciousness is further demonstrated in the invitation extended to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, to join the Lord’s elect and share in all the blessings that grace-filled invitation entails.
The tabernacle and the holy things within it are carried in the middle of the assembly so that God’s house is thus in the midst of the camp even when the camp is on the march. The reference to the ark emphasizes the fact that the real guide of Israel was not Hobab but the Lord Who dwelled above the mercy seat of the ark. He directed the course of the march through “the cloud.”
May the Lord so dwell and guide our lives through His Means of Grace. Amen.