Thoughts of...Why is this here?
Sometimes we read a passage of Scripture and we wonder, “Why is that in the Bible?! Why is all that detail given?” Chapters 1 and 2 of the Book of Numbers are a great example.
Numbers 1 painstakingly records God's instructions to Moses to number the congregation of Israel. Numbers 2 details how Israel was to set up camp during their years of wandering in the wilderness. Why did the Holy Spirit through Moses (2 Peter 1:20-21) give us all that detail? What blessing and instruction (2 Tim 3:16-17) could there possibly be in Numbers 1 and 2?
When you find yourself asking those questions, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you (1 John 2:27). More pointedly, since the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to testify of Jesus (John 14:26, John 15:26, John 16:13-14), ask Him, “Where is Jesus in this passage?”
In Numbers 1 and 2, the Holy Spirit would have us draw the word picture He is presenting. All the details are important.
First let’s look at the headcount.
Secondly let’s look at the layout of the camp and the total headcount for each.
East 186,400 (Judah, Issachar, Zebulun)
South 151,450 (Reuben, Simeon, Gad)
West 108,100 (Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin)
North 157,600 (Dan, Asher, Naphtali)
In the midst of the camp of Israel are the Levites and the Tabernacle of God. Notice that, unlike all the other tribes, the Levites are not numbered.
Thirdly, let’s take a very close look at the instructions God gave to Moses. Notice that God said east, west, north and south – He did NOT say NE or SW or SE or NW or SSE, etc. God is a God of order (1 Cor 14:40) so take a piece of graph paper and proportionally draw the camp of Israel per His instructions. What does it look like? A cross!
Fourthly, with Gen 3:24 in mind, consider the orientation of the cross to the points of the compass. If man is to return to fellowship with God, he must travel west. As we make that westward journey and come upon the camp of Israel, where must we stop to approach God in His Tabernacle? At the foot of the Cross!
So why did the Holy Spirit give us all those seemingly meaningless details in Numbers 1 and 2? To give us a vivid word picture of His plan of salvation for fallen man! To show us the Way back into His presence!
2 Tim 2:15