Without the Camp

By John Thiel

This study embraces God’s character as manifested in the Hebrew camp in the wilderness when the children of Israel were traveling from Egypt to Canaan. The question arises then – how is the experience of the children of Israel in the wilderness relevant to us in these last days?

1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;  4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

Is this a subject that we should be considering? The experience of the children of Israel in their wilderness wonderings was given to us as an example and it is most relevant for those upon whom the end of the world has come. God’s dealings with Israel were for the purpose of manifesting the character of God to us. This is written of in Leviticus and many other Bible texts. Nadab and Abihu had just been destroyed in the temple for using strange fire.

Leviticus 10:2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.

God destroyed Nadab and Abihu because they contaminated God’s temple. God was in effect saying – I will be sanctified, my character will be brought into a sanctifying image in the minds of the people. My character will be made honorable by the way in which I deal with the children of Israel. So today’s meditation is entitled without the camp and in this meditation we will specifically look at what was taken without the camp.

Consider with me all the times that these words were used in the bible without the camp and how we may now understand them to help us in our own experience. When you use the word camp you are talking about a small or large number of people living together. If you have ever been to a camp with a lot of people you can understand the logistics of running that camp are enormous. Now imagine the enormity of the camp of the Children of Israel – there were over a million people all camping together as they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land. What enormous attention to detail was required in order to keep the camp hygienic, to deal with the waste disposal and to prevent the spread of infection?

You know what it’s like when people live together – one person’s sinful practices can rub off on another and before long it can spread like wildfire. I have heard even in our own midst parents’ expressing concern about the effects of certain wrongful influences upon their children. Can you imagine safeguarding your children in a social setting as large and diverse as the mixed multitude? The Israelites did not comprise Jewish people alone, the Bible says that they were a mixed multitude all living and camping together. Imagine trying to safeguard your marital and family privacy sleeping in a tent! In such circumstances it was necessary for God to lay before the people some very strict instructions to safeguard the spiritual rectitude of the camp. Now that we have explored what the camp of Israel is, let us now consider the term without the camp. What was taken without the camp so that it would not affect the people living close together? FOUR things that were taken without the camp:

1)    Bodily Waste

Deuteronomy 23:10 If there be among you any man, that is not clean by reason of uncleanness that chanceth him by night, then shall he go abroad out of the camp, he shall not come within the camp: 11 But it shall be, when evening cometh on, he shall wash himself with water: and when the sun is down, he shall come into the camp again. 12 Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad: 13 And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee: 14 For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.

All bodily waste had to be taken without the camp. There was to be no unclean thing around the precincts of the tents and the people because God does not tolerate filth.

2)    In the second point we look at people with infectious diseases

Number 5:2 Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead: 3 Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell.

Leprosy is an infectious disease. Any uncleanness was taken outside the camp. Once again the words were you shall put without the camp that you defile not the camp in the midst thereof where I dwell. This is because where God dwells he would have purity.

3)    The third thing that was removed from the camp was SIN

Numbers 19:2 This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke: 3 And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face: 4 And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times: 5 And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn: 6 And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. 7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even. 8 And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even. 9 And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.

Here we read of a symbolic transaction by which sin was to be taken out of the camp and burnt. All the sins that were in Israel were taken out of the camp in the symbolisation of the red heifer.

4)    The fourth thing taken without the camp was unrepentant sinners

Numbers 15:29 Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them. 30 But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.

What we see here is that a special law was applied to those who sinned ignorantly. Their sacrificial offering was made inside the camp but the animal was not burned totally.

Numbers 15:32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. 33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. 34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. 35 And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. 36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.

For the one who did not have a repentant spirit his sin and impurity was dealt with by God without the camp. Thus it was – and our Lord and saviour has indeed come to this earth to deal with sin in exactly that way. Let us now refer to our scripture reading

Hebrews 13:11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.

Its starts off about the body of the beasts that carried the sin were outside the camp.  Jesus was represented by that red heifer. In exactly the same way as the heifer Jesus was taken out of the city of Jerusalem and slayed at Golgotha without the camp. This is a direct reality that sin had to be taken out of the camp. Jesus was the sin bearer that was slain for you and for me. Jesus was made to be sin for us so that sin could be removed from the camp of God’s people. The camp in which God walked was to be kept clean. Clean physically, spiritually, morally. We read this in Deuteronomy 3:14 – that I might walk among you do not walk in impurity. God wants to walk among his people in exactly the same way today because God does not change. He will make sure that his floor is clean.

But the days of purification of the church are hastening on apace. God will have a people pure and true. In the mighty sifting soon to take place we shall be better able to measure the strength of Israel. The signs reveal that the time is near when the Lord will manifest that His fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor. {5T 79.4}

His church, his camp must be pure, must be clean.

 No outward forms can make us clean; no ordinance, administered by the saintliest of men, can take the place of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of God must do its work upon the heart. All who have not experienced its regenerating power are chaff among the wheat. Our Lord has His fan in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor. In the coming day He will discern between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not. {5T 227.2}

All that we have read about in reference to God and the children of Israel within the camp – keeping the camp pure and clean is what God will do in these last days too. He will cleanse His church in one of two ways. In the first instance God will cleanse individuals in the church. The sin offering will be applied to the souls who are repentant for their sins by taking them outside the camp. The second means is applied when the church as a whole needs to be purified. With relation to cleansing the camp, there are two types of sin offering. There was the sin offering that was slain and burnt in the sanctuary within the camp , but there was also another method of removing sin – the sin offering offered without the camp. These two aspects of cleansing the individual and the church without the camp is where we want to conclude our meditation today. As with Israel of old, when a person in the church commits a gross sin that will affect the church – they must be made an example of so that the camp would remain clean. In the camp of Israel – Miriam was made such an example. In Numbers the insurrection by Miriam against Moses and her display of envy and jealousy began to fetter into error that would have transcended in the camp. God had to do something.

Numbers 12:1 And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. 2 And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it. 3 (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.) 4 And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. 5 And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. 6 And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. 7 My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. 8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? 9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed. 10 And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous. 11 And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned. 12 Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother’s womb. 13 And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee. 14 And the LORD said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again. 15 And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again. 16 And afterward the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran.

The sin of Miriam could have caused her death. She could have been stoned over that matter. But when she was taken out of the camp she did not die – we know. She was only taken out of the camp for a time – 7 days. Miriam was jealous of Zipporah (the wife of Moses) because Zipporah’s Father Jethro, the high priest of Midian, (an Ethiopian) counseled Moses to separate the camp into different rulership areas to take some of the burden off his shoulders. Miriam did not want Moses listening to an Ethiopian person from outside the camp

 God had chosen Moses, and had put His Spirit upon him; and Miriam and Aaron, by their murmurings, were guilty of disloyalty, not only to their appointed leader, but to God Himself. The seditious whisperers were summoned to the tabernacle, and brought face to face with Moses. And Jehovah came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. Their claim to the prophetic gift was not denied; God might have spoken to them in visions and dreams. But to Moses, whom the Lord Himself declared faithful in all Mine house, a nearer communion had been granted. With him God spake mouth to mouth. Wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against My servant Moses? And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and He departed. The cloud disappeared from the tabernacle in token of God’s displeasure, and Miriam was smitten. She became leprous, white as snow. Aaron was spared, but he was severely rebuked in Miriam’s punishment. Now, their pride humbled in the dust, Aaron confessed their sin, and entreated that his sister might not be left to perish by that loathsome and deadly scourge. In answer to the prayers of Moses the leprosy was cleansed. Miriam was, however, shut out of the camp for seven days. Not until she was banished from the encampment did the symbol of God’s favor again rest upon the tabernacle. In respect for her high position, and in grief at the blow that had fallen upon her, the whole company abode in Hazeroth, awaiting her return. {PP 384.3}

This manifestation of the Lord’s displeasure was designed to be a warning to all Israel, to check the growing spirit of discontent and insubordination. If Miriam’s envy and dissatisfaction had not been signally rebuked, it would have resulted in great evil. Envy is one of the most satanic traits that can exist in the human heart, and it is one of the most baleful in its effects. Says the wise man, Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy? Proverbs 27:4. It was envy that first caused discord in heaven, and its indulgence has wrought untold evil among men. Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. James 3:16. {PP 385.1}

This soul who had sinned was taken out of the camp until the sin was cleansed. That is one way of dealing with sin to purify the camp. When Miriam was cleansed she was brought back in. That is how God deals with individuals in some cases.

When Sin Defiles the Whole Church

What does God do in this situation? Moses came down from Mt Sinai and finds the people dancing around the golden calf. The children of Israel had just made a covenant to God that they would keep his commandments but only a very short space of time after they had broken it.

Exodus 33:5 For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee. 6 And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb. 7 And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp. What was taken out of the camp? God’s tabernacle – the place of worship where God meets with the people was taken afar off. 33:8 And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle. 9 And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. 10 And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.

 Because the people had defiled the camp, the tabernacle of God had to be removed without the camp. When Moses went out of the camp to worship in the tabernacle afar off, the people had to stand at their tent doors and wait to see if the cloudy pillar (God’s presence) would descend and commune with Moses. The people had to worship God from their tent doors. The lord had removed the sanctuary without the camp – a far way off. His presence was no longer in the camp. God is very particular. Even after the slaying of the worst offenders (3000 people) the tabernacle was removed from the camp. Notice how God had arranged this situation to deal with the camp sin as a whole.

Exodus 32:26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. 27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. 28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. 

Those who had not joined in the apostasy were to take their position at the right of Moses; those who were guilty but repentant, at the left. The command was obeyed. It was found that the tribe of Levi had taken no part in the idolatrous worship. From among other tribes there were great numbers who, although they had sinned, now signified their repentance. But a large company, mostly of the mixed multitude that instigated the making of the calf, stubbornly persisted in their rebellion. In the name of the Lord God of Israel, Moses now commanded those upon his right hand, who had kept themselves clear of idolatry, to gird on their swords and slay all who persisted in rebellion. And there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. Without regard to position, kindred, or friendship, the ringleaders in wickedness were cut off; but all who repented and humbled themselves were spared. {PP 324.1}

Here was a situation of catastrophic enormity which affected the whole camp.

God is the guardian as well as the sovereign of His people. He cuts off those who are determined upon rebellion, that they may not lead others to ruin. {PP 325.2}

This is God’s means of purification so that people will not be infested. And so the description goes on that God deals with corrupt principles by removing them thoroughly purging his floor by those who were still repentant and not slain. They were to worship God and go out of the camp to worship him because the tabernacle was removed and then they went back to their tents to see whether their sacrifice had been accepted or not.

In deep sadness the people had buried their dead. Three thousand had fallen by the sword; a plague had soon after broken out in the encampment; and now the message came to them that the divine Presence would no longer accompany them in their journeyings. Jehovah had declared, I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way. And the command was given, Put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee. Now there was mourning throughout the encampment. In penitence and humiliation the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb. {PP 327.1}

 By the divine direction the tent that had served as a temporary place of worship was removed afar off from the camp. This was still further evidence that God had withdrawn His presence from them. He would reveal Himself to Moses, but not to such a people. The rebuke was keenly felt, and to the conscience-smitten multitudes it seemed a foreboding of greater calamity. Had not the Lord separated Moses from the camp that He might utterly destroy them? But they were not left without hope. The tent was pitched without the encampment, but Moses called it the tabernacle of the congregation. All who were truly penitent, and desired to return to the Lord, were directed to repair thither to confess their sins and seek His mercy. When they returned to their tents Moses entered the tabernacle. With agonizing interest the people watched for some token that his intercessions in their behalf were accepted. If God should condescend to meet with him, they might hope that they were not to be utterly consumed. When the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the entrance of the tabernacle, the people wept for joy, and they rose up and worshiped, every man in his tent door. {PP 327.2}

Can you see what God is like? He is ready to forgive but he will have a clean camp. And the reality of sin he will not palliate sin. This is no light hearted way of dealing with sin! There is no easy way out and yet God has mercy. And in his mercy those who are worthy of death were given an opportunity that although as a whole people the tabernacle was removed out of the camp the whole people could find restitution. Just like Miriam (an individual) the people could find restitution again but they had to go one by one to the temple outside. The Lord had removed his sanctuary from the congregation. Can you see how God thoroughly purges his floor and how He does it today exactly like he did it back then? Come with me to Zachariah

 Zechariah 13:7 Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.

Ever since the first advent of Jesus this procedure has been repeated time and time again! Awake Oh sword against my shephered says the lord of hosts. Smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered. We know that Jesus is the shepherd and that this scripture is talking about Jesus being smitten and the disciples being scattered.

Zechariah 13:8 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. 9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.

They shall weep for joy that even though the whole church has rejected her Lord – there remains a little company – a third – that returned to the Lord. This is the same scenario today as the whole camp being affected in the time of Moses and a large number of people being cut off while the faithful ones who did repent were brought through the fire and refined. What a refining experience these people who were repentant had to go through. Outside of the camp there is refining and they had to meet it as a whole people and they have had to meet it in each church period since the time of Christ.

 As the light and life of men was rejected by the ecclesiastical authorities in the days of Christ, so it has been rejected in every succeeding generation. Again and again the history of Christ’s withdrawal from Judea has been repeated. When the Reformers preached the word of God, they had no thought of separating themselves from the established church; but the religious leaders would not tolerate the light, and those that bore it were forced to seek another class, who were longing for the truth. In our day few of the professed followers of the Reformers are actuated by their spirit. Few are listening for the voice of God, and ready to accept truth in whatever guise it may be presented. Often those who follow in the steps of the Reformers are forced to turn away from the churches they love, in order to declare the plain teaching of the word of God. And many times those who are seeking for light are by the same teaching obliged to leave the church of their fathers, that they may render obedience. {DA 232.2}

Can you see the perfect comparison? One third of the children of Israel had had to leave the camp and offer repentance and confession and come under the temple which was without their camp. In the ranks of Adventism today we have precisely the same scenario. The Adventist Church in Sister White’s time was declared God’s church – the remnant church. In 1888 the message of Christ Our Righteousness was given and rejected by the Adventist ministers and the people. In 1915 the temple was taken without the camp so that many people could come to repentance and there was a great deal of suffering throughout World War 1 and 2.  Then in 1951 there was more sifting in the church and the SDA Reform Movement split in two. What now? Is it going to go on – or is it all over?

Malachi 3:2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:

This scripture describes the times in which we are living – the day of Jesus in the most holy place working to cleanse his church. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Indeed we understand that the same God of whom we have been studying in reference to without the camp is still the same God today. Sin is not passed by carelessly – it is dealt with sharply but with compassion and every individual and every church is given a possibility to cleanse themselves by moving out of the camp either as an individual or out of the camp as a church OR face the camp being destitute of the sanctuary in the presence of God. They have to go out of the camp to be nurtured and helped. This is the story of Jesus in his sacrifice for you and me. Jesus went out of the camp to help us.

Hebrews 13:12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

As we live in the final scenes of purification in which we are now those individuals who have sinned grievously – are placed without the camp to return again as a body being prepared. We need to enter the tabernacle without the camp as Jesus has done. Bearing his reproach – what was the reproach that Jesus bore? It was my sin. By so doing if we will do what is here written we will comprise the company that is finally going to stand as his people

 The Lord Jesus will always have a chosen people to serve Him. When the Jewish people rejected Christ, the Prince of life, He took from them the kingdom of God and gave it unto the Gentiles. God will continue to work on this principle with every branch of His work. When a church proves unfaithful to the word of the Lord, whatever their position may be, however high and sacred their calling, the Lord can no longer work with them. Others are then chosen to bear important responsibilities. But, if these in turn do not purify their lives from every wrong action, if they do not establish pure and holy principles in all their borders, then the Lord will grievously afflict and humble them and, unless they repent, will remove them from their place and make them a reproach. {UL 131.3}

God is known by his actions of the past. He changes not. Let us submit to his ways.

Isaiah 66:2-5. For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. 3 He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. 4 I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.

Didn’t the children of Israel who were repentant tremble at God’s Word? As they trembled didn’t they wait upon the Lord to do exactly what he had said? Remove your ornaments – confess your sin – come out of your camp and come to where my tabernacle is. Tremble at my word!

Isaiah 66:5 Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.


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Posted on 21/03/2010, in Divine Service Sermons and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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