The Transient Tabernacle
Num 7:1 And it came to pass on the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle, and had anointed it, and sanctified it, and all the instruments thereof, both the altar and all the vessels thereof, and had anointed them, and sanctified them; Num 7:2 That the princes of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, who were the princes of the tribes, and were over them that were numbered, offered: Num 7:3 And they brought their offering before the LORD, six covered wagons, and twelve oxen; a wagon for two of the princes, and for each one an ox: and they brought them before the tabernacle. Num 7:4 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Num 7:5 Take it of them, that they may be to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; and thou shalt give them unto the Levites, to every man according to his service. Num 7:6 And Moses took the wagons and the oxen, and gave them unto the Levites. Num 7:7 Two wagons and four oxen he gave unto the sons of Gershon, according to their service: Num 7:8 And four wagons and eight oxen he gave unto the sons of Merari, according unto their service, under the hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. Num 7:9 But unto the sons of Kohath he gave none: because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they should bear upon their shoulders. Set before us in our text is a curious juxtaposition: on the day that the tabernacle was fully set up, provision was made for its removal. Those who build for God in this world must ever be mindful that this world is a transient existence and, under the bondage of corruption (ROM 8:21), the beginning of all things is also the beginning of their end. We rightly sing in the hymn, “Change and decay in all around I see...” (Abide With Me). A man is no sooner conceived than a contest begins between his growth rate and the rate of corruption/decay. Only one Man has ever truly won that race. Until His return, the rest of us must, like Peter, be prepared to “...put off this my tabernacle...” (2PE 1:14). Believers who walk in the steps of Abraham’s faith are likely to find that they also will be as sojourners, strangers and pilgrims in this world (HEB 11:8-13) because they are not of the world (JOH 17:14). The walk of faith directs believers to be where God is found and the flesh is lost. Ruth knew she had to abandon her comfort zone to be in the right place: “...whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (RUTH 1:16), choosing like Moses, “...rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (HEB 11:25). It is a sad observation that many will go no further than is convenient for them to identify with true worshippers of the true God, and for such, a pair of calves at Dan and Bethel suffices (1KI 12:26-30) or a television, radio or internet connection. Per our text, the tabernacle then had no certain dwelling place, a condition with which Paul could identify (1CO 4:11). The tabernacle and the camp of Israel moved at the direction of God by the cloud (NUM 9:15-23). N.T. church members should follow suit---they should remain in the church to which the Spirit joined them (ACT 2:47 c/w 1CO 12:13) until directed to move on by the revelatory direction of Scripture which demands they withdraw from it because of disorder (2TH 3:6) or by the providential direction of God which leads them to the fellowship of another faithful church. Such removals stand in contrast to those who for fleshly reasons, “...separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit” (JUDE 1:19). The providential direction of God has often been responsible for the spreading of the gospel, as when the church was scattered because of the stoning of Stephen and Samaria then received the gospel (ACT 8:1-5). Jesus had even given the disciples direction to move on when their testimony was rejected (MAR 6:11), and flee to other cities as necessary (MAT 10:23). Bless God that He has by varied means moved His church and gospel from one place to another, closing doors where men have sinned away their light, privileges, blessings and His presence while He opens doors of faith at His pleasure to preserve faith in the earth elsewhere. The kingdom of God in this world, like the tabernacle, is not fixed to one spot (MAT 21:43) which is both a blessing and a warning (ROM 11:11-24). NOTE: Every church of Jesus Christ has the potential of spreading the true gospel elsewhere through evangelism or apostasy. The wise will choose evangelism. Say not, “...Let us do evil, that good may come...” (ROM 3:8) for the good will come to others and leave damnation in its wake. Sadly, the power of delusion is such that the church which God has abandoned because of apostasy may have no sense of its own desolation. If a church that still has its candlestick can be deluded to think it is full and needs nothing when it is wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked (REV 3:14-18), how much stronger may be the delusion in what God no longer even considers a true church? It may even increase numerically (as manure draws more flies), unaware, like Samson, “...that the LORD was departed from him” (JDG 16:20), and that it is no longer the church of the living God (1TI 3:15) but the church of Ichabod: the glory is departed (1SAM 4:21).