Chapters 5 to 10. 10 relate to: The Purification of the Camp, chs. 5 and 6; The Provision for Service, chs. 7 and 8; and The Prospect of Advance, chs. 9 to 10. 10.
The need for purity in the camp is emphasized by the fact that anyone who suffered from a discharge of any kind, or who was ceremonially unclean because of contact with a dead body, was put out of the camp, for it must be remembered that the camp was the place “in the midst whereof I dwell”, 5. 1-3. The presence of the Lord can only be realized and enjoyed as discipline is maintained in the house of God, and this involves the corporate judgment of evil. It is the prerogative of every member of a family to enjoy its privileges, but it is also the responsibility of every member to be subject to its discipline. Though it is not for any man to judge another’s motives, the church may be required to judge his ways, 1 Cor. 5. 12, 13.
The remainder of chapter 5 deals with the trespass of individuals and their self-judgment, confession and restitution. It was not only incumbent upon the trespasser to confess his sin, but to “recompense his trespass” with the principal and an addition of a fifth part, 5. 5-10. It is of paramount importance that confession is accompanied by the practical evidence of sincerity. Communion with unconfessed sin on the conscience is a moral impossibility. Paul considered it a necessary exercise “to have always a conscience void of offence towards God, and toward men”, Acts 24. 16.
The chapter concludes with the peril of “jealousy” between husband and wife, and the ritual of “holy water”, 5. 17. Where suspicion and jealousy exist there can be no intimate fellowship; only as the evidence of such sin is brought to light and judged is restoration possible.
Chapter 6 describes the vow of the Nazarite, 6. 1-21, and the priestly blessing, 6. 22-27. The path of the Nazarite was one of complete devotedness to God, and was expressed in three ways: firstly, by abstinence from wine and strong drink and all that emanated from the grapevine even to the seeds and skins; secondly, hair and beard were to remain uncut, and thirdly, contact with a dead body was forbidden. The Nazarite must consequently surrender all earthly distractions, human dignity and rights, and keep himself from contact with the defiling influence of death, for “all the days of his separation he is holy unto the Lord”, 6. 8. If however by any means he became defiled, there was provision for him, though the days lost were never regained and he was required to make a new start, 6. 12. When communion with the Lord is broken, spiritual progress can only be resumed by returning to the place where the break first occurred.
The chapter concludes with the priestly benediction, 6. 22-27. With the camp duly planned and purified, Jehovah could pronounce His blessing upon the congregation, so “they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them”, 6. 27. Three pairs of blessings are enunciated: the first expresses the source of the blessing and God’s love; the second, the channel and God’s grace, and the third, the experience and God’s fellowship. The New Testament counterpart is found in Paul’s benediction to the saints at Corinth, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all”, 2 Cor. 13. 14.
Chapter 7 recounts the contribution of the princes of the congregation at the setting up of the tabernacle. The voluntary offerings were by divine arrangement, and, by equality in giving, no spirit of rivalry and partiality could arise among them. Each prince “on his day” offered for the dedication of the altar, v. 11, the Holy Spirit recording in detail the name of the offerer and the substance of his offering. Whatever is given to God is recorded in His book of remembrance; the minutest gift receives His recognition; even the widow’s mite or the cup of cold water in His name does not escape His notice. When all was complete, Moses entered the tabernacle and heard “the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat”, v. 89. This was no subjective impression on Moses’ part, but a clear and objective communication from the Lord Himself. It is still true that God reveals Himself to those who do His will and are prepared to wait in His presence, “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord”, Lam. 3. 26.
The greater part of chapter 8 describes the consecration of the Levites, but it is noteworthy that, between this and the contribution of the princes previously described, the priests were to light the seven lamps of the golden lampstand, a reminder that only in the light of the sanctuary can true worth be measured. It was Aaron’s task to light the lamps, provide the oil and trim the wicks in order that the lamps should “give light over against the candlestick”, v. 2. He would direct attention, not to himself or his work, but to that which spoke of Christ. Ministry which is truly spiritual will not contribute to the prominence of the Lord’s servant but to the exaltation of the glorious name of Christ as Lord. In connection with the Levites, there is the recurrence of the phrase: Aaron offered them before the Lord, vv. 11, 13, 15, 21, or more literally, “Aaron waved them before the Lord”. Dedicated as a special gift of the Israelites to Jehovah, they proceeded to do the service of the Lord, and their standing and position in the sight of God was now to be realized in practice. We are mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus in His high-priestly prayer, I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated in truth, John 17. 19.
In this section we see God’s provision in grace and His plan for guidance. It was commanded that the passover be celebrated in the first month of the second year after the exodus from Egypt, but there was a special provision for those who through circumstances were unable to keep it at the time appointed. Neither death nor distance was to prevent the observance of this most important feast, 9. 10, 11. When situations arise for which there are no clear instructions, how wise it is to act as Moses did and “stand still, and … hear what the Lord will command”, v. 8. In this is revealed the true greatness of the “meekest man”. Redemption formed the basis of Israel’s history, and the passover, instituted at the deliverance from Egypt, Exod. 12, was now kept in the wilderness and later celebrated on entry into Canaan. The shed blood is ever the sure and certain pledge of complete and glorious victory, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us”, 1 Cor. 5. 7. Since the passover was the memorial of Israel’s redemption, it was never to be lightly esteemed. How much more is the memorial of the Lord’s death of supreme importance to every believer redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. Instituted by the Lord himself, Luke 22. 19, 20, and celebrated on the first day of the week by His disciples, Acts 20. 7, Paul declared by revelation its true significance, for “as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show (proclaim) the Lord’s death till he come”, 1 Cor. 11. 23-26.
The divine plan for guidance through the trackless desert was the presence of the fiery cloud over the tabernacle, for “At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched”, Num. 9. 18. Completely dependent upon the Lord for guidance, they were not to decide the time or direction of the march for, “whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle … the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not”, v. 22. James, in his letter, warns of the futility of human decisions in planning the future, and writes that we ought always to say, “if the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that”, James 4. 13-15. It is often more difficult to wait God’s time than to tread new paths.
There was not only the sight of the cloud but the sound of the trumpets, both unmistakable ways of God’s communication to His people, Num. 10. 1-10. At the sound of the two silver trumpets the congregation assembled and the camp advanced. The trumpet was sounded for worship or war, assembly or advance, alarm or appointed feasts. The divine directive is clear and plain, “if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”, 1 Cor. 14. 8. Unquestioning obedience to every precept of God’s word is incumbent upon every believer, for when the voice of God is clear and plain it is not a matter for discussion or opinion, but obedience. With the plan, purification and provision of the camp now completed, all was ready for the journey, This we shall consider in the next paper.
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