Daughter of Zion Eternally
The Message Of The Cross In The Wilderness Part One
I have a friend who is fond of saying that the Old Testament Israel had a "witnessing mandate". When I hear that I think of the Tabernacle and the Law and the sacrifices and the separateness of the people from among the nations. Indeed they are separated and have all the Law and the sacrifices and the whole nine yards and then some but, as is always with Scripture, one can read passages in reading a bible through a year and just not see the obvious right under the nose. This case is no different for me.
Not only do they have all the Levitical Mosaic Law and the this huge cordoned off space smack in the middle of this massive encampment but they also have a prophetic message right out in plain sight and a closer look reveals messages within messages, both to the world and to us as Believers today. God is truly thoughtful and even crafty in how He makes the message of the ultimate plan of His known as far back as the trek in the wilderness of Sin as He kills off an entire generation of Israelites
The text of Numbers 3:1-40 describes God's camp design. It designates a "camp standard tribe" and splits the twelve into runs of three under one banner. What I mean is that for example Reuben is a "camp standard tribe" as in the camp's name is Reuben and consists of Reuben and two other tribes. Now in the past when I had read this I visualized a concentric type of rings or very odd configuration circling the Tabernacle Complex but in some study I learned that the text which says this tribe is next to that tribe which is next the preceding tribe is that they stack outwards in a straight line like spokes on a wheel. But this isn't a circle. No, there are four directions and ONLY four direction and each encampment sits on a side of the Tabernacle Complex radiation straight forming a ... Cross.
The concept of the Crucifixion was even by this time practiced somewhere but the thought of God someday coming to take on Human flesh and condition and being nailed up on a Cross was quite possible so far fetched as to be thought madness. I imagine if one tried to explain that to the common Israelite of the day they would have been laughed to scorn or maybe lapidated (stoned to death).
But here is God parading His bluntly put message for every bird to see and any nation who had the gall to try to spy out the camp from any distance would see this CROSS. My friend has is right, they did have a witnessing madate and everything they did screamed about Jesus Christ far before He ever set foot as Incarnate. But wait, there's more.
Lets look closer at this camp shall we?
Orienting ourselves as North up we have N E S W. But God's description and starting place is East. So rounding clockwise ES W N. Facing the "rising sun" is where God starts, now stop right there because this is so very new agey it isn't funny. But God isn't into the worship of the bright thing He hung up in the Cosmos to govern the day back in Genesis chapter 1, no its a double play here. 1 Malachi 4:2 "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. Notice that Malachi uses the Hebrew word for the sun up in the sky, but the implication is the Son whose return will come East to West as the sun rising. Matthew 24:27 "For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
This side of the encampment is unique as well in that surrounding the Tabernacle Complex because ordinarily immediately before each Tribal Standard encampment of the people is the Levite Tribe split into its component service houses, Gershon, Kohath and Merari and each of these sub familial groupings of Levy are situated right up on three sides of the Complex between the common Tribal Standard camps and the Complex itself, for the protection of the people but it the case of the eastward face only one person or in this case two people are housed there. Then you will have the standard Tribe of camp Judah.
This spot is reserved for the High Priest. In this case there is also Moses until his death. Now Moses means "drawn out" but Aaron means " lofty or exalted" In the Epistle to the Philippians we are told that the name of Jesus is highly exalted. Philippians 2:9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, ... Both Moses and Aaron are typifying the Christ. Now the Encampment is named Judah and that name means Praise. So we see here the High Priest praising in the midst of the people facing God in His coming. That statement might not make sense until you realize that you are looking at Jesus the High Priest who is also The Sacrifice, in the camp setting facing the Risen Exalted King who is to come and none of the above had even happened yet. Now to us the Psalm of etiquette upon approaching God applies. Psalm 100:4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. In this east facing of the second coming we would be facing the "court of God" for it is in this that the Nations are judged. Yes I am well aware of the play on words for there is the "court" of God's justice and the "court" of God's presence, and they are one and the same.
Onwards round our clock to the south.
To the south we have the family of Kohath of whom rebellion came. Interestingly enough three words are synonymous to that Hebrew name; Congregation, wrinkle and bluntness. If in the Epistle to the Hebrews the sides of the North is the place where the Divine Kingdom is said to reside than the supposed opposite might be said of the South. But another way to look at this is the downward facing. Because we are envisioning a Cross here, we must see it as God is intending us to see it. We see it flat on the ground but He intends it ...standing.
Now the whole camp starts to make sense. Northward points to heaven but Southward points to Earth. Now Congregation and bluntness are two best applications of the name because it is paired with this Tribal Standard... Reuben. Reuben's name means Behold A Son. In Jesus day the congregation of Israel was "blunt" or dull of ear. It's prophetic sharpness had pretty much fled save for the one lone transitional voice in the wilderness, Jesus cousin, John. After John is beheaded there is only The Prophet who is rejected. That He is also Savior King God besides Prophet here only adds to the "bluntness" of the "congregation" of the Nation. It is into this that "A Son" comes. Now to us is the "blunt" message to Behold The Son. 2 Corintheans 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. That is the beholding of The Son via Scripture through The Holy Spirit that is being shown here.
Facing away from the "rising sun" and outwards into the world, so to speak, is the Western side. Here we have the family of Gershon whose name means Sojourner or Stranger coupled with the Tribal Standard Camp of Ephraim. Ephraim means "Fruitful". We are reminded that we are strangers in this world and yet are to be "fruitful" in the works of God. One might say also that East is the Mary position of Worship whereas West is the Martha position of Work. But it is not all just about the doing for God's work but it is primarily that we ARE the workmanship displayed and paraded about BY God as well.
As the Southern facing spoke to the Humanity Of Jesus the Western facing will speak to the Servanthood and Sonship of Christ. He really was The Sojourner among mankind as man/God (God/man) proclaiming the Name in the midst of the wrinkled defiled dull blunted congregation. Doing the works of The Father in the midst and fulfilling the directive given to Him.
Finally we come full circle to the North. Now this is where the sides of God are in the Epistle to the Hebrews 12:2 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, Two apparent contradiction occur here. One i the name of the family facing north and the other the name of the Standard Tribal Camp. The family name is Merari which means both bitter and to provoke but the Standard Tribal Camp name is Dan which means judgment or He judged. Now this at first face looks contrary, like God made a mistake here or something but when we look at it in terms of the Kingdom it all makes sense. Like I said, you have to see the Cross standing so in this case you see the Tribal name OVER the family name. God judging the bitter provocation. This might make you pause to wonder what that factoid has to do with the high price of anything, anywhere let alone tea from China. To the people of that day it spoke of the tension of the covenant, and the people so covenanted, being constantly checked by The Law. But we all know it was a fruitless endeavor for the Law redeems not. For us now it is the inevitable Divine tension of "already/not yet" as is in found in the Sanctification Process.
We see Jesus the High Priest of Praise in the East, The Son amongst the Congregation in the South, The Fruitful Stranger in the West but here in the North we see Him as The Sanctifier. He both has the power to judge and indeed via the Holy Spirit convicts the Believer, for remember in Christ there is found no condemnation, and The Intercessor (one of two for the Holy Spirit is also an Intercessor for us) He is still functioning as High Priest of our confession of the faith of the Son of God until He returns as King. By that point He will have been the Perfecter and we are Glorified along with/in Him.
Can you picture God parading the very instrument of His reconciliation of the world to Himself through the Wilderness? Now when it was time to muster and move Judah from outwards to inwards moves out first followed by Reuben and the Tabernacle Complex now broken down and covered over. Men with wagons or pack beasts or hand carry are packing out fabric coverings and interior drapery, boards with all the mortise sockets and posts with all their sockets and joining equipment, but the most striking will be the continually changing group parading covered items suspended on poles walking in the midst of it all. finally Ephraim musters to move out and lastly Dan. Now I am not at all certain but we tend to think of this as a long line but according to the scriptures each Tribal Camp musters outward to inward. So what if the whole thing moves as one giant Cross grouping of people with gear and flocks driven out flanking in the battle arrays outside to protect women and children inside, and the special grouping in the very center from place to place. Now if I were a nation and saw THAT configuration moving in one fluid motion all over the Wilderness as one generation dies off and then see it finally enter Canaan, I think I might have a weak kneed moment as well. It is said that the nations were terrified of this People.
Think about it