Beginning of the End


The Terrible Grumblings of God’s People

This chapter is based on Numbers 10 to 12.

The government of Israel was very organized, amazingly complete and simple. God was the center of government—He was the ruler of Israel. Moses stood as leader to administer the law in His name. Later, a council of seventy was chosen to assist Moses in the general business of the nation. Next came the priests, who consulted the Lord in the sanctuary. Chiefs, or princes, ruled over the tribes. Under these were “leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, leaders of tens” (Deuteronomy 1:15). BOE 183.1

The Hebrew camp was separated into three great divisions. In the center was the tabernacle, the dwelling place of the invisible King. The priests and Levites were stationed around the tabernacle. All the other tribes were camped beyond the priests and Levites. BOE 183.2

Each tribe was assigned a position. Each was to march and to camp beside its own banner, as the Lord had commanded (Numbers 2:2, 17). The mixed multitude that had accompanied Israel from Egypt were to stay on the outskirts of the camp, and their children were to be excluded from the community until the third generation (Deuteronomy 23:7, 8). BOE 183.3

Strict order and specific sanitary regulations were enforced, rules essential to preserving health among so large a group of people. It was also necessary to maintain perfect order and purity. God declared: “The Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy” (Deuteronomy 23:14). BOE 183.4

In all of Israel’s traveling, “the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them ... to search out a resting place for them.” Priests with silver trumpets were stationed near the ark, and these priests received directions from Moses, which they communicated to the people by the trumpets. It was the duty of the leaders of each company to give precise directions concerning all the movements to be made, as indicated by the trumpets. BOE 183.5

God is a God of order. Everything connected with heaven is in perfect order; complete discipline is a feature of the movements of all the angels. Success can only come with order and cooperative, well-balanced action. God requires this now just as much as in the days of Israel. BOE 183.6

God Himself directed the Israelites in their travels. The coming down of the pillar of cloud showed the place they were to camp, and the cloud rested over the tabernacle as long as they were to remain in camp. When they were to continue their journey, it rose high above the sacred tent. BOE 184.1

It was only an eleven day journey between Mt. Sinai and Kadesh, on the borders of Canaan. With the hope of soon entering the promised land, all of Israel resumed their march when the cloud gave the signal. What blessings could they expect, now that they had officially been acknowledged as the chosen people of the Most High? BOE 184.2

With reluctance many left the place where they had camped. The scene was so closely associated with the presence of God and holy angels that it seemed too sacred to be left thoughtlessly, or even gladly. At the signal from the trumpeters, however, all eyes turned anxiously to see in what direction the cloud would lead. As it moved toward the east, where only black and desolate mountain masses huddled together, a feeling of sadness and doubt arose in many hearts. BOE 184.3

As they moved along, the way became more difficult. Their route went through stony canyons and empty wilderness, “a land of deserts and pits ... a land of drought and the shadow of death ... a land that no one crossed, and where no one dwelt” (Jeremiah 2:6). Their progress was slow and hard, and the multitudes were not prepared to endure the dangers and discomforts of the way. BOE 184.4