And the children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp, and every man by his own standard…
And the children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp, and every man by his own standard, throughout their hosts.
I. UNITY WITHOUT UNIFORMITY. Reading the history of the Israelites, we are made to feel they were assuredly one nation, and yet just as assuredly twelve tribes. Everything was done to keep each tribe separate and yet all the tribes together. So, ever and anon, some new regulation came out to manifest afresh the unity, yet diversity, of Israel. Every man traced his genealogy back to a son of Jacob, and this itself showed him to be of the seed of Abraham. Jacob had a blessing for each of his children separately, a blessing meant to rest upon each tribe down through all its increase and vicissitudes. So here each tribe was numbered as well as the sum of the congregation. Each tribe had its place in resting and in marching; whether honourable or not was scarcely the question, seeing it was by express appointment of Jehovah. And as if to emphasize this separation, it was provided for in Canaan as well as in the wilderness.
II. THE TYPICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS WITH RESPECT TO THE CHURCH. There are diversities in the Church. There is one Saviour and one gospel; but there were twelve apostles, each directly chosen of the Saviour. Consider the epistles: the individuality of the writers is as clear as their inspiration. So there is one Church, but many sects; and one might almost say God has ordered there should be many sects. There is probably no sect in evangelical Christendom but what, if it were possible to interrogate its founders, they would say, "We could do no other." God has honoured all the sects in turn. Princes in Israel and captains in the war against sin have sprung from all of them. We see in part and we prophesy in part; and we do not all see the same parts, and thus our prophecies differ. Must be faithful, each of us, to what we see of truth, keeping clear of all that is censorious with respect to those who, though they differ, are still our brethren. Diversity must belong to the imperfections of mankind. Imperfections in the regenerate even more manifest than in the unregenerate. In all the diversity there is unity. Tribe does not infringe on tribe; each man has his own camp, his own standard. But with all these separating regulations, there was a central power to unite. The tribes lay eastward, southward, westward, northward; but eastward, etc. of what? The tabernacle. Immediately around it were Aaron and the Levites in special charge, but the whole of Israel was also around it. So in all our diversities we are related to Christ. We cannot separate from one another as long as each is true to him. In all our divisions, even in our sometimes acrimonious disputings, it remains true - one Lord, one faith, one baptism. A family none the less a family though there be many differences among its members. The spirit of Christ is one that first of all produces life, and then leads us into all the truth. As all the tribes compose one nation, so all the sects one Church. We have all one God and Father, and the features of our celestial parentage will be revealed in each, however much there may be for a time to obscure. This diversity as well as unity may extend to the heavenly state. It may belong to heaven as well as earth. Diversity may belong to the perfection of the believer as well as his imperfection. The highest perfection may be that of harmony. This diversity is significantly hinted at in Revelation 7, where twelve thousand are sealed from each tribe. The twelve foundations in the New Jerusalem had each of them its own order of precious stones. Cherish both variety and unity as essential elements in the kingdom of God. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp, and every man by his own standard, throughout their hosts.