In The Midst
(Numbers 2:17) Then the tabernacle of the congregation shall set forward with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camp: as they encamp, so shall they set forward, every man in his place by their standards. The second chapter of Numbers details God's prescribed layout of Israel's tribes as they wandered in the wilderness. Twelve tribes were assigned specific geographic locations around the tabernacle so that the overall picture was like an analog clock with the tabernacle as the hub. The tabernacle was the sanctuary where God would dwell: “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (EXO 25:8). The tabernacle where God dwelt in the midst of the camp was obviously central to everything for the O.T. “...church in the wilderness...” (ACT 7:38). The Apostle Paul shows us that the O.T. tabernacle was a type of our Lord Jesus Christ (“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” COL 2:9) and also a type of heaven where He ministers (HEB 8:2; HEB 9:1-11; HEB 9:24; HEB 10:19-20). It is interesting to note how much the theme, “in the midst” applies to the Lord Jesus Christ and His relationship to His church. God dwells in Christ Who, like the tabernacle of old, is absolutely central to the church. Through Jesus Christ, God is in the midst of the church. Jesus Christ being “in the midst” is significantly noted in Scripture. At Christ's first advent, He was rejected by that O.T. church He came to reform but the rejection was not owing to a lack of proof that He was the miracle-working Prophet that Moses said should come (DEU 18:15), nor owing to a lack of personal interaction whereby the people could discern Him. Peter would later tell them, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:” (ACT 2:22). When He was giving instructions to the disciples for N.T. church order, He said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (MAT 18:20). When He was preparing for Calvary, He initiated the Lord's Supper among the disciples and sang a hymn with them (MAT 26:26-30) and just before going to the garden of Gethsemane, prayed to His Father, “And I have declared unto them thy name...” (JOH 17:26). Those apostles were foundation stones of the church that Jesus would build (MAT 16:18 c/w EPH 2:20-22). Christ's actions that night fulfilled a prophecy David had made long before, which Paul renders, “Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee” (HEB 2:12). Soon after, Jesus was unjustly arrested, arraigned, convicted, sentenced to death and taken to Golgotha, “Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” (JOH 19:18). There, to save His elect church and in order to be made Head and King of the local church, hung the Savior in the midst of sinners, suspended in the midst between earth and heaven, rejected by the former and forsaken by the latter. A few days later, having resurrected, He appeared, “Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead” (ACT 10:41), the Apostle Peter said. It was to the apostles of His church that He manifested Himself suddenly and “...stood in the midst...” (LUK 24:36; JOH 20:19; JOH 20:26). The significance of the tabernacle being in the midst of the camp (NUM 2:17) should be more obvious by now, dear reader. There is more. That Mosaic tabernacle was eventually set aside. King David, the first king of the prophesied royal tribe of Judah (GEN 49:10) through whom Christ the King would come, desired to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. The ark was where God particularly manifested Himself as Israel's indwelling God (EXO 25:21-22). When David had made appropriate preparations, “...they brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it: and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD” (2SAM 6:17). God there dwelt in the midst. That tabernacle was eventually discarded and fell into disrepair but the prophet Amos prophesied that one day when Israel was sifted among the nations (i.e., scattered), “...In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:” (AMO 9:9-11). The Apostle James tells us that Amos' prophecy was referring to the gospel church of the Lord Jesus Christ which was being constructed of believing Jews and believing Gentiles: (ACT 15:14) Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. (ACT 15:15) And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, (ACT 15:16) After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: (ACT 15:17) That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. The timing was right: the ten tribes of Israel had long since been scattered in the nations and Judah was about to be likewise. The rebuilt tabernacle of David is plainly identified here as the N.T. church. It is very relevant that the prophet Isaiah, when prophesying of Christ assuming David's throne, said, “And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness” (ISA 16:5). Putting this all together, the expected reign of Messiah was not to be on a political throne like David's, but in the tabernacle of David which is the gospel church! And thus we read of Christ reigning over, examining and judging His local churches in Asia (pictured as seven candlesticks): (REV 1:13) And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. (REV 2:1) Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; God is still in the midst of His camp. Christ the Tabernacle indwells and reigns in the midst of David's tabernacle which is the gospel church. He does so in spite of foes without it or sometimes even within it, in fulfillment of one more “in the midst” prophecy: “The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies” (PSA 110:2). How central indeed is Christ to the church: central to its salvation, its worship, its government, its justice, its protection, its preservation.