Here we read how the camp of the Israelites was laid out as they wandered in the wilderness forty years, following the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
Our ancient ancestors were organized by tribes throughout their wanderings, each tribe having its own ensign, as well as the various families within the tribes. The four major standards divided the nation into quarters. It is where the ancient art of heraldry had its origin.
On the east side toward the rising of the sun shall be the standard of the camp of Judah (verse 3) On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben (verse 10) On the west side shall be the standard of the camp of Ephraim (verse 18) On the north side shall be the standard of the camp of Dan (verse 25)
But what I want us to see in this passage above all else is where the Tabernacle itself was situated. It was in the midst of the camp – the middle – the center.
The Tabernacle was where the presence of God dwelt. That presence was made manifest in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Ever present with them was the assurance of God’s divine presence. And that presence was in the center of the camp. This was by purposeful design. The entire nation revolved around God. He was the center of their life, both nationally and personally.
Just as the Tabernacle in the wilderness was in the center of the camp, so God wants to be the center of our lives – both nationally and personally – still today. He loves us with a love that goes beyond anything we can even perceive, and He wants both our attention and our heartfelt devotion. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” Psalms 42:1-2
Dear reader, do you thirst after Him like this? Is He the center of your life? Do you consider Him in every decision? Do you spend time with Him in prayer and devotion each day? Can others tell you are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?
There was a cowboy preacher I knew down in Texas years ago, and he shared once about how his father used to train him to follow close behind him whenever they would drive cattle when he was a boy. He would tell him, “Now you stay close to me, boy. You never know when a situation might arise when you will need me, and I want you close by.”
He likened it to how God wants us to stay close to Him, and I will never forget how he put it. He said, with tears in his eyes and in a manner which would indicate great desire, “I want to stay so close to Him I can smell Him.”
Amen. In this dark and evil day, may we all stay so close to our blessed Lord that we can smell Him. And may we all make very sure, as far as we are able, that He will forever remain – the center of the camp.