Numbers 10:11-36

The Tribes Leave Sinai

11 Now in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month, the cloud was lifted from over the [d]tabernacle of the testimony; 12 and the sons of Israel set out on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai. Then the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. 13 So they moved out for the first time according to the [e]commandment of the Lord through Moses. 14 The standard of the camp of the sons of Judah, according to their armies, set out first, with Nahshon the son of Amminadab, over its army, 15 and Nethanel the son of Zuar, over the tribal army of the sons of Issachar; 16 and Eliab the son of Helon over the tribal army of the sons of Zebulun.

17 Then the tabernacle was taken down; and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari, who were carrying the tabernacle, set out. 18 Next the standard of the camp of Reuben, according to their armies, set out with Elizur the son of Shedeur, over its army, 19 and Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai over the tribal army of the sons of Simeon, 20 and Eliasaph the son of Deuel was over the tribal army of the sons of Gad.

21 Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy objects; and the tabernacle was set up before their arrival. 22 Next the standard of the camp of the sons of Ephraim, according to their armies, was set out, with Elishama the son of Ammihud over its army, 23 and Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur over the tribal army of the sons of Manasseh; 24 and Abidan the son of Gideoni over the tribal army of the sons of Benjamin.

25 Then the standard of the camp of the sons of Dan, according to their armies, which formed the rear guard for all the camps, set out, with Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai over its army, 26 and Pagiel the son of Ochran over the tribal army of the sons of Asher; 27 and Ahira the son of Enan over the tribal army of the sons of Naphtali. 28 [f]This was the order of march of the sons of Israel by their armies as they set out.

29 Then Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out to the place of which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you’; come with us and we will do you good, for the Lord has [g]promised good concerning Israel.” 30 But he said to him, “I will not come, but rather will go to my own land and relatives.” 31 Then he said, “Please do not leave us, inasmuch as you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will be as eyes for us. 32 So it will be, if you go with us, that [h]whatever good the Lord [i]does for us, we will [j]do for you.”

33 Thus they set out from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord journeying in front of them for the [k]three days, to seek out a resting place for them. 34 The cloud of the Lord was over them by day when they set out from the camp.

35 Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said,

“Rise up, O Lord!
And let Your enemies be scattered,
And let those who hate You flee [l]before You.”

36 When it came to rest, he said,

“Return, O Lord,
To the myriad thousands of Israel.”

Sometimes we set Moses on this high pedestal, as if he never made a mistake, and his devotion to God was somehow beyond us. But the fact of the matter is that Moses was very much human as we are, and faced difficulty in following God as well. When he first came down from Sinai he had an outburst of anger that caused him to destroy the stone tablets with the law written on them.

Later on, we’ll see he is banned from entering the promised land because he didn’t follow God’s instructions to provide water for the Israelites in the wilderness. Here, we see another bout of insecurity, where he loses sight of the fact that God is going before them with a pillar of cloud to tell them the way they ought to go, and where they ought to camp.

He asks his father-in-law to travel with them, for exactly that same purpose, to be their guide in the wilderness. It’s almost surprising his father-in-law didn’t say “hey dummy, why do you need me when you’ve got God leading the way with the cloud?” But he doesn’t, and goes along to be a comfort to Moses travelling into the “unknown”.

We too forget (often) that God is in control, and He is leading us. What have we to fear when God is our guide? Nothing can separate us from Him, except our own stubborn pride. Be rid of that, and trust in Him always.

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