In Numbers 1:2-4, God commanded Moses to “number” the amount of men capable of going to war. Every able bodied male over the age of twenty was counted and expected to be part of his tribe’s army. God also placed a man over each tribe’s army as its commander ensuring that battles would not be done haphazardly. As you read on, you find a list of the commanders and the amount of men under their charge.
TRIBE MEN LEADER Reuben 46,500 Elizur the son of Shedeur Simeon 59,300 Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai Gad 45,650 Eliasaph the son of Deuel Judah 74,600 Nahshon the son of Amminadab Issachar 54,400 Nethanel the son of Zuar Zebulun 57,400 Eliab the son of Helon Ephraim 40,500 Elishama the son of Ammihud Manasseh 32,200 Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur Benjamin 35,400 Abidan the son of Gideoni Dan 62,700 Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai Asher 41,500 Pagiel the son of Ocran Naphtali 53,500 Ahira the son of Enan TOTAL 603,550
To this point, we can see the amount of soldiers available as well as who was placed over each army. However, this was not enough to keep the young nation organized for its own protection. The next step was the placement of the tribal armies around the camp of Israel (Num. 2:1-34). God in his wisdom organized them according to the four points of the compass, ensuring that each side of the encampment would be guarded at all times.
The commands given in this book organized the Israelites for practical reasons. They were better prepared to defend their families and could also carry out offensive strategies without tripping over each other. Imagine the confidence this new layout created in the minds of each soldier. They each knew where to be at any given time and were prepared to do whatever was needed.
Beyond the practical implications, these commands reveal something about the character of our God. While his holiness can be seen throughout the Law, these commands reveal that God is also concerned about order. But is his concern for orderliness something to be left in the Old Testament? Are we free to live lives of disorder as his children? Consider a New Testament passage which underscores his continued desire for order in the lives of his children.
For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. … Let all things be done decently and in order.
1 Corinthians 14:33, 40
In this passage, Paul was pointing out the need for the church to be a place of order. During a gathering of believers, it was not practical for all to be speaking at once. It is obvious that such bedlam would prohibit anyone from hearing what another was saying. However, this was not Paul’s primary concern. He was more concerned that believers be like their heavenly Father who is “not the author of confusion.” Any assembly of believers ought to be marked by this orderliness for the simple reason that this is our Father’s way of doing things.
This same orderliness ought to be evident in the lives of God’s children. Honestly, not all of us are blessed with the “gift” of organization. My basement desk is ample evidence of my need to become more organized. But each of us should strive to keep our lives and families in order so that we can be like our Father and represent him well. Such orderliness might include a daily schedule, a calendar for coming events, a financial budget, and a plan of attack for chores around the house.
Should the Lord not return in the coming week, let us be sure to order our lives so that we are like our heavenly Father. In this way, we will represent his character well, enjoy the benefits or being organized, and will be better prepared to face the challenges that will come.