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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Matt's Messages - Marching Orders

“Marching Orders”
Life in the Wilderness
March 11, 2007
Numbers 9:15-10:36

Today is the big day!

Israel is receiving her “Marching Orders.”

13 months ago, Israel was rescued from Egypt, and God brought them to Mount Sinai.

There, at a mountain on fire, He gave the Law and made a covenant with them to be His covenant people.

And He also gave them the instructions for building a tabernacle: a Tent of Meeting to sit in the center of a nation of tents.

A tent where He would dwell among His people.

And then, God had them number the fighting men: 603,550 when you add them all up (chapter 1).

And He arranged them in 4 different divisions of 12 tribes in a circle around the Tent of Meeting (chapter 2).

And then He had them count the Levites: 22,000 divided into 3 major tribes (chapter 3).

And He situated them between the other tribes of Israel and the Tent of Meeting and gave them all the work of taking care of the Tabernacle and the Holy Things (chapter 4).

And the LORD gave them instructions about how to purify the camp (chapter 5) and how to be totally dedicated to Him (chapter 6).

And He gave the priests a special blessing to pronounce over the people (chapter 6).

And they also dedicated the altar with expensive, extensive and expressive offerings in an elaborate 12 day ceremony (chapter 7).

They set up the lampstand and they cleansed and dedicated the Levites to do their holy work (chapter 8).

And last week, we saw them celebrate the Passover again. Passover 2.0 and 2.1 one year after the Red Sea Rescue and the Exodus from Egypt (chapter 9).

And now, it’s time to move out.

The final preparations are to be made and they are going to march in the direction of the land that God has promised this nation–the land of Canaan–the Promised Land.

In Numbers chapters 9 and 10, the people of Israel get their marching orders from the LORD.

And in one triumphant day with banners unfurled and every man at his post, the people of Israel set out on their march.

That’s what we are going to experience today.

Israel’s marching orders.

It starts with a cloud. Verse 15.

“On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire.”

This cloud first showed up at the Red Rescue. And it was a visible miraculous sign of the powerful presence of God.

And then was at the top of the mountain when Moses received the Law.

And when the Tabernacle was completed, the LORD’s cloud of presence came down and into the middle of the camp and covered the Tabernacle.

What a sight that must have been!

Remember where they are, too. They’re in the desert.

During the day a big cloud would be a welcome shade from the heat of the sun.

And at night? A giant column of fire perhaps heating the entire camp and giving light?!

God’s powerful presence in the middle of His people.

And this cloud did more than just sit there. It actually gave the people their marching orders. Verse 17.

“Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the LORD's command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp.”

You see how the cloud communicates the command. Verse 19.

“When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the LORD's order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the LORD's command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the LORD's command they encamped, and at the LORD's command they set out. They obeyed the LORD's order, in accordance with his command through Moses.”

Those were a lot of verses to say the same thing over and over again.

The cloud was the LORD’s command. When He said go, they went. When He said stay, they stayed.

Point #1. THE LORD GIVES THE MARCHING ORDERS FOR HIS PEOPLE.

This is a picture of how it should be with God and us.

When God clearly says to do something, we should obey.

There should be no questioning, no excuses, no rationalizing of other behavior.

There should be nothing but obedience.

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

It wasn’t just the miraculous fiery cloud that gave the commands. It was also the trumpets. Chapter 10, verse 1.

“The LORD said to Moses: ‘Make two trumpets of hammered silver, and use them for calling the community together and for having the camps set out. When both are sounded [both trumpets], the whole community is to assemble before you at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. If only one is sounded, the leaders–the heads of the clans of Israel–are to assemble before you. When a trumpet blast is sounded, the tribes camping on the east are to set out. At the sounding of a second blast, the camps on the south are to set out. The blast will be the signal for setting out. To gather the assembly, blow the trumpets, but not with the same signal. The sons of Aaron, the priests, are to blow the trumpets. This is to be a lasting ordinance for you and the generations to come. When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the LORD your God and rescued from your enemies. Also at your times of rejoicing–your appointed feasts and New Moon festivals–you are to sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you before your God. I am the LORD your God.’”

Now these two trumpets weren’t a lot like our modern day trumpets. Short little things with valves and buttons. These were long pieces of hammered silver probably as much as two feet long with big flared ends.

[And just to make it interesting I got out my old trombone to give us an idea of what it might have been like. Don’t worry, I won’t blast you like the priests probably blasted their trumpets so that everyone could hear. Trombone blast.]

What was the point of these trumpets?

A few things, including celebrating feasts and calling upon the LORD to rescue them in battle.

But the most basic function of these trumpets was to give assembling and marching orders.

When God wanted them to get together and to set out, these trumpets were to blast.

They were signals of God’s will, God’s command. God’s marching orders.

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

Where do you get your orders?

Some people take their cues from the world.
Some people take their orders from their spouse.
Some people take their prompts from what their friends are doing.

Many people, especially Americans, want to make up their own marching orders.

Go their own way.

But God’s people, Christ-followers are under His command.

Do you think of yourself that way, as under His command?

At this moment in time, Israel recognize that they were under God’s command and obeyed.

And His command was to march. Chapter 10, verse 11.

“On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the Testimony. [It’s time to go!] Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran. They set out, this first time, at the LORD's command through Moses.”

The trumpets sound and the tribes fell in to their marching formations. Verse 14.

“The divisions of the camp of Judah went first, under their standard. Nahshon son of Amminadab was in command. Nethanel son of Zuar was over the division of the tribe of Issachar, and Eliab son of Helon was over the division of the tribe of Zebulun.”

Do those names sound familiar? It’s the fourth time in the book of Numbers that we’ve heard them.

These are the same names of the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel. And they have their banners (their standards) unfurled and proudly they march forward in their order.

The tribes to the East are first. Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.

Then the tabernacle. Verse 17.

“Then the tabernacle was taken down, and the Gershonites and Merarites, who carried it, set out. The divisions of the camp of Reuben [to the South] went next, under their standard. Elizur son of Shedeur was in command. Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai was over the division of the tribe of Simeon, and Eliasaph son of Deuel was over the division of the tribe of Gad.”

“Then [more Levites] the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. The tabernacle was to be set up before they arrived. [From the West...] The divisions of the camp of Ephraim went next, under their standard. Elishama son of Ammihud was in command. Gamaliel son of Pedahzur was over the division of the tribe of Manasseh, and Abidan son of Gideoni was over the division of the tribe of Benjamin. Finally, as the rear guard for all the units, the divisions of the camp of Dan set out [from the North], under their standard. Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai was in command. Pagiel son of Ocran was over the division of the tribe of Asher, and Ahira son of Enan was over the division of the tribe of Naphtali. This was the order of march for the Israelite divisions as they set out.”

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

This was a big day, wasn’t it?

Triumphant, exultant, jubilant, joyful, and...obedient.

The people of Israel began their march.

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

And He does so today, as well.

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people today.

But today, we don’t need a cloud. (Sometimes we’d like one, but we don’t need one.)

Today, we don’t need a fiery cloud.

Today, we don’t need the trumpets.

Today, we don’t even need a system of priests to tell us what God wants us to do.

Because, today, we have God’s marching orders right here in God’s Holy Word.

And each one of us who believes in Jesus have the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit inside of us.

God Himself is present and lives within each of one us who believes.

And through His Word and His Spirit, today, He gives us His marching orders.

The question is, “Will we obey?”

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

He is the commander in chief of the church.

And we are called to obey.

But you say, “I thought that as a church we are called into a love relationship with Jesus Christ. Not a slavish obedience!”

This is what Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

That’s John 14:15, and I’ve been meditating on it the last couple of days.

You should to. Everyone should have that one memorized. John 14:15. “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

What is the relationship between our love for and trust in Jesus and our obedience to Jesus?

Well, we don’t obey Him to get into His good favor.

We can’t earn God’s blessing by racking up the brownie points through obedience.

But if we do trust Him, and if we do love Him–if we are in a trusting love relationship with Jesus Christ, then we will obey Him.

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

And they obey Him out of love.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

Are you obeying Jesus Christ?

Do you think of yourself as “under command?”

And are there any significant areas right now where you are not in compliance with His will?

To the extent that you don’t do what He commands, to that extent you don’t love Him.

Are you obeying Jesus’ commands to love?
To love your enemies?
To do good to those who mistreat you?
To forgive?

Are you obeying Jesus’ commands to give as the Lord has given to you?
To not place your treasure where thieves break in and steal and moths destroy.
To place your treasure in heaven where nobody and nothing can get at it?

Are you obeying Jesus’ commands to make disciples?
To be baptized as a disciple?
To teach disciples to obey everything that Jesus has commanded?

Are you obeying Jesus’ commands to not worry?
To not worry about what you will eat or drink or what you will wear?
To put first the Big Rock of the Kingdom of God and all the little rocks will find their places.

Are you obeying Jesus’ commands to forgive your brother when he sins against you?

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

And they obey Him out of love.

There is probably something that you know that the LORD is calling you to do and you are not doing.

Write it down right now and pray for the power to obey in love.

This day was the picture of how God relates to His people. Everything was working just right.

God said to march, and the people got up and marched just as God had commanded.

Have you noticed that Israel has obeyed everything God has commanded for the first 10 chapters?

We’ve seen it over and over again. God speaks to Moses and says “Do this or that.” And Moses tells the people, and they obey. It says over and over again, “They did just as the LORD commanded Moses.”

It’s been almost boring, hasn’t it?

I think that one of the things that makes the first 10 chapters of Numbers so boring to sinners like you and me is how boringly obedient the people of Israel have been.

Well, starting next chapter, they aren’t going to be boring any more. But they’re going to lose an awful lot of their blessings, too.

Right now, they are right where God’s people should be.

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people. And we obey Him out of love.

It’s not always going to be easy.

These people were setting out to march as nomads in tents.
And they were warned (even in verse 9) that they were going to face warfare.

The Christian life isn’t always easy. It’s not a bed of roses.

But they set out together and obediently.

And they were headed for something good.

Point #2. THE LORD PROMISES GOOD THINGS TO HIS PEOPLE.

Israel was marching towards something very good.

That’s what Moses told Hobab. Verse 29.

“Now Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law, ‘We are setting out for the place about 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.’”

Hobab was Moses’ brother-in-law. He would make an excellent desert guide. He and his people knew the desert like the back of their hands. And Moses invited Him to come along.

And what was the incentive? “The LORD has promised good things to Israel.” Verse 30.

“[Hobab] answered, ‘No, I will not go; I am going back to my own land and my own people.’ But Moses said, ‘Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the desert, and you can be our eyes. If you come with us, we will share with you whatever good things the LORD gives us.’”

The book of Judges tells us that Hobab agreed and came along as a guide.

He believed what Moses was saying, that God had promised good things for His people.

You see, when God tells His people to march, He’s promising them that they are marching towards something good!

And that’s just as true today.

Jesus’ commands are for our good and they lead us to good.

And we need to trust Him that He knows what He’s doing and follow Him wherever He leads.

The LORD promises good things to His people.

You can count on that.

Because, when He makes a promise, He always keeps it.

The Lord Jesus has promised Heaven to His people!

That’s the ultimate in “good things.” It’s what the Promised Land was a picture and a foretaste of.

But you have to be one of God’s people to get there.

Hobab was a pagan outside of the covenant. But Moses invited him to tag along.

You and I are Gentiles, naturally outside of the covenant ourselves. But Jesus has invited us to come into the New Covenant by His blood.

Jesus died on the Cross to let us in to His promises for good things.

But we must accept His invitation.

We must put our trust in Jesus and Jesus alone.

And when we do, we become heirs of these great and precious promises, too.

We become God’s people.

And God promises good things to His people!

Have you trusted Jesus Christ alone as your Lord and Savior?

I challenge you today, to receive Him as King and Rescuer.

Putting all of your trust in Him alone.

You’ll never regret it...forever!

Because He’s a great God.

Want to know how great He is?

Where is God in this picture?

Where in the formation do you think the Ark–which was a representation of the Throne of the LORD–marched?

Right here at the front. What the military calls the Vanguard. Verse 33.

“So they set out from the mountain of the LORD and traveled for three days. The ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them during those three days to find them a place to rest.”

Point #3. THE LORD MARCHES AHEAD OF HIS PEOPLE.

God goes first.

Here He is not at the center. He is that vanguard. He is the advance troop.

He is not hanging back being defended by His people.

He goes before them (v.33) “to find them a place to rest.”

Wow!

Did you know that you have a God like that? A warrior God Who is before you and fighting at the forefront of your battles?

We tend to wonder sometimes where God is.

He’s right out front!

Listen to Moses’ battle cry. It’s all about God. Verse 34.

“The cloud of the LORD was over them by day when they set out from the camp. Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Rise up, O LORD! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.’ Whenever it came to rest, he said, ‘Return, O LORD, to the countless thousands of Israel.’”

What would happen if we went into our days with faith like that?

If we got up in the morning and said, “Rise up, O LORD! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you as I got into this day.”

And when we lie down at night, “Return, O LORD, I rest, one of the countless thousands of your children.”

The LORD marches ahead of His people!

He doesn’t send us anywhere that He hasn’t gone first.

Maybe it doesn’t seem like that to you right now.

Maybe it seems like God is distant and far away.

Maybe it seems like He doesn’t care or that you’re fighting alone.

But that’s not the truth if you are a child of God.

YHWH is fighting for you. He is the vanguard, the forefront of your battle, your trial, your problem.

And He is fighting for you.

Trust Him.

Trust Him.

Call upon Him to rise up and scatter His enemies.

Trust Him.

And obey Him.

Follow His marching orders no matter what He says.
Because if you do, you will march right into good things.
And He’ll be there before you.

Trust Him.

Trust Him.

The LORD marches ahead of you.

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