The children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses: so they pitched by their standards, and so they set forward, every one after their families, according to the house of their fathers.

—Numbers 2:34

I remember as a young Christian when I got my first awful, wonderful, entrancing vision of God. I was in West Virginia in the woods sitting on a log reading the Scriptures along with an old Irish evangelist by the name of Robert J. Cunningham, now long in heaven. I got up and wandered away to have prayer by myself. I had been reading one of the driest passages imaginable from the Scriptures where Israel came out of Egypt and God arranged them into a diamond-shaped camp. He put Levi in the middle and Reuben out in front and Benjamin behind. It was a diamond-shaped moving city with a flame of fire in the middle giving light. Suddenly it broke over me; God is a geometrician, He’s an artist! When He laid out that city He laid it out skillfully, diamond-shaped with a plume in the middle, and it suddenly swept over me like a wave of the sea: how beautiful God is and how artistic and how poetic and how musical, and I worshiped God there under that tree all by myself. WMJ023-024

Lord, You’ve displayed Your artistry and poetry throughout all of Your great creation. Help us not to miss the beauty around us and in doing so miss such an important aspect of Your person. Amen. [1]

34 As in 1:54, these words of absolute compliance contrast with Israel’s later folly. This verse also speaks of significant order—a major accomplishment for a people so numerous, so recently enslaved, and more recently a mob in disarray. The text speaks well of the administrative leadership of Moses, God’s reluctant prophet, and of the work done by the twelve worthies who were the leaders of each tribe. Certainly the text points to the mercy of God and his blessing on the people. It may have been the beauty of the order of this plan of encampment that led the unlikely prophet Balaam to say, “How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, / your dwelling places, O Israel!” (Nu 24:5).

Fittingly, Balaam’s words—the gasp of an outsider—became among the most treasured in the community. Cyrus Gordon wrote of them, “They have remained the most cherished passages in Scripture throughout Synagogue history” (Before the Bible: The Common Background of Greek and Hebrew Civilizations [London: Collins, 1962], 41). In receiving praise from the outsider Balaam, the order and beauty of the camp must continue to stir the heart of the faithful to exhibit even more robust praise. Again the book of Numbers, despite our initial misgivings, is a book of worship.[2]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Allen, R. B. (2012). Numbers. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Numbers–Ruth (Revised Edition) (Vol. 2, p. 100). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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