Tabernacle - Family Worship -Keeping the Tabernacle Central for Family Worship - Abraham Hamilton III

Keeping the Tabernacle Central for Family Worship

by Abraham Hamilton III

Numbers 2 is a very interesting chapter. It consists of thirty-four verses containing the specific instructions YHWH gave to Moses concerning the arrangement of the tribes of Israel—both as they camped in the wilderness and whenever they were in transit.

The tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun were to always set up on the eastward side of the Israelite camp, “toward the sunrise” (v. 3). Rueben, Simeon and Gad camped on the south side. Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin camped on the west side. Dan, Asher, and Naphtali camped on the north side. This was their YHWH-assigned camp location throughout their forty-year wilderness journey.

YHWH instructed that the tabernacle, or tent of meeting, was to remain in the midst of the camp at all times. The Levites were to set up camp in the midst of the assembly, closest to the tabernacle. So, envision the rectangular tabernacle structure with four sets of three tribes, each set on one of its four sides at all times.

Then, whenever the Israelites moved to a new location, YHWH instructed Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun to set out first, followed by Reuben, Simeon, and Gad. The tabernacle components which had been broken down for transport by the Levites were to follow next, guarded by the Levites. Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin followed them. And finally, Dan, Asher, and Naphtali joined the procession. This was the order in which they were to travel at all times.

Military experts have pointed out that this consistency in camping arrangement and travel provided advantageous tactile positioning and situational awareness. However, something much deeper is conveyed to us here.

YHWH is preeminent in family worship.

In camp and on the march, the tabernacle, guarded by the Levites, was always to be at the center. The tabernacle housed the Ark of the Covenant, which was the representation of YHWH’s tangible presence with Israel as well as the focal point of YHWH worship. It was to always be at the center, just as He was to be at the heart of the nation.

This is an Old Testament representation of the reality of Christ’s preeminence conveyed in Colossians 1:15-18:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

Christ-followers must keep Christ preeminent. We can be involved in lots of things, even pursuing undertakings in the name of “ministry” yet lose the centrality of Christ’s preeminence in the process. If we’re not careful, our service to Christ can morph into “my ministry.” Pastors’ preaching can devolve into “just doing my job.” Home-based discipleship or homeschooling can devolve into “a better educational route to secure my child’s future.” Even, devotional times can turn into rote “reading,” void of the power, presence, and urgency of Christ. We can get so consumed in the doing that Christ’s preeminence fades into the background and becomes a faint whisper.

We must always remember to introspectively re-visit our “why.” Why do we do what we do? Are we engaged in what we do because the preeminence of Christ compels us, or is something else driving us? Why are we homeschooling? Why are we involved in ministry? Remember, the Old Testament example of idolatry did not consist of the Israelites’ complete abandonment of YHWH worship. They simply put Baal, Molech, Milcom, Ashtoreth, the “Queen of Heaven,” et. al. on the same plane of commitment and devotion as they did YHWH. They violated the first commandment by making an equivalency between gods and the one true God. In the New Testament, Jesus said,

But the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful (Mark 4:19).

Other things all cut in on God’s Word and make it unfruitful. Not because God’s Word is fruitless, but because people treat God as merely one among many gods. No matter what we are doing, Christ’s preeminence must remain central to who we are and what we do if, in fact, we are His!

This article originally appeared in AFA’s The Stand which can be found at

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