Bemidbar
For the week of May 31, 2003 / 29 Iyar 5763
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 1:1 - 4:20
Haftarah: Hosea 2:1-22
Replaced by: 1 Samuel 20:18-42

Finding Place

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: "The Israelites are to camp around the Tent of Meeting some distance from it, each man under his standard with the banners of his family" (Bemidbar / Numbers 2:1,2)

The people of Israel prior to leaving Egypt were a community of slaves. Within a relatively short time by the word of their God and under the leadership of Moses and Aaron, these former slaves were transformed into an well-organized nation.

Though the people numbered approximately two million, their societal structure at that time was not very complicated. Their God-given religion was to be their primary influence in all matters of life. Day-to-day living would be preoccupied with the working of the land and the caring of livestock. The men of a certain age would also be available to serve in the nation's defense forces.

Organized by tribe, everyone was allotted a certain portion of land. Property divisions were to last forever. Last week we looked at the Year of Jubilee, where if a person lost possession of his tribal inheritance, it would be returned to his family at the end of a set fifty-year cycle.

The tribal organization of Israel was established prior to their entering the Promised Land, while they traveled through the wilderness. As quoted above, the people camped according to their tribal divisions, encircling their place of worship.

The precise placement of the people in their tribes illustrates for us how God carefully assigns place and position to people. For the most part, where a person lived was determined by God through the family into which he was born.

This is so very different from the self-determined approach to life many of us live. We have been taught to find our own way, to stake out our own territory, and to follow our own dreams.

But God has something better for us. While I don't think that we should attempt to copy the structure of ancient Israel, their structure helps us to understand God's perspective on this.

God, our creator and Father, has already made a way for us. He has given to each one gifts and talents that are designed to fulfill our purpose for living. Along with these abilities comes the space to use them. Our sphere of service - our territory, so to speak has been staked out by God. Instead of striving to find our own way in life, God desires that we discover the place he has for us.

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