OUTSIDE THE CAMP
“Outside the camp” is an interesting study. There is a negative and positive side to it. Of course inside or within the camp refers to where the people of God gathered and arrayed their tents around the Tabernacle in the wilderness. All activity and religious ceremony took place there.
Outside the camp was where lepers, “unclean” people, refuse and animal carcasses were taken. In most cases this would be the negative side of “outside the camp.” However, there were some occasions when God in His glory showed up outside the camp, which is very significant.
Usually the first mention of something in the Bible is important and sets an initial pattern that will be built upon through out the Bible. For example: the tree of life is first mentioned in Genesis and the final book in the Bible also mentions the tree of life in full fruition. The same is true with this phrase. There are many verses that use this phrase through out the Bible. We will just look at a few in order to see God’s heart and mind about “outside the camp.”
The first such occasion is found in Exodus 19. Moses has been on the mountain and God has been talking to him. Moses comes down, reenters the camp and tells the people what God is saying. The people respond by saying, “all God has said, we will do.” At that point, the people probably thought they could do it. It’s so easy to flippantly say you will DO whatever God says. If only they/we knew!
Finally the day arrives for God to come down among the people (v.17) “and Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God…” God tests His people by demonstrating His awesome power, holiness and glory with thunder, lightning, fire and smoke. Later Moses explains that the purpose of the test was to impress the people of the fear of God so they may not sin (33:20). The people tremble, God calls Moses to come back up to the mountain. Now keep in mind that God has come down to meet with His people and this is all taking place outside the camp. It is at this time that God speaks forth and gives Moses the “Ten Commandments.”
We all know the story of the people of God’s great sin, and the golden calf incident. But the next appearance of God OUTSIDE the camp is equally significant. It’s found in Exodus 33. God has dealt with the sin “in the camp,” and God has declared to Moses what a “stiff-necked” people they are. Moses goes down and removes his personal tent from inside the camp and places it OUTSIDE the camp. At this point in time, Moses tent becomes the “tent of meeting” (v.7). The reason it is called that is because God personally comes down (v.11) and “the Lord spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks to his friend.” Wow! Can you imagine the God of the universe being so intimate with someone? It is also called the “tent of meeting” because that is where “everyone who sought the Lord went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp.” (v.7). The people within the camp witnessed the pillar of cloud come down and they worshipped at their tent door inside the camp (v.10). It seems the people inside the camp were content with watching. They had spoken earlier to Moses at the foot of the mountain after witnessing God’s awesome glory, and said, “You speak with us, and we will hear: but do not let God speak to us lest we die.” (20:19) Moses tries to reason with the people by saying, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” (v.20) The people failed the test and were content to remain afar. To this day, most are within the camp, safe and content to let someone else face God for them while they watch and listen from afar.
Many may be familiar with Heb. 13:13, but notice in v.11 it says specifically that the bodies of the animals sacrificed are burned outside the camp. V.12 says THAT is where Jesus also suffered, then comes verse 13, with the invitation that WE also should “go forth unto Him outside the camp.” What began as something negative has now become one of the most positive things in the universe!
What can we learn from this? When the people of God within the camp, fail to see what God is doing and wanting to do, God chooses to go outside the camp to declare His power, holiness and glory to those want an intimate relationship with Him. These are they who by faith draw near and embrace the fear of the Lord, learning the wisdom and knowledge of God as they press on to higher ground. Those who remain outside the camp chose the “better part” like Mary did, but those inside the camp chose to merely watch, hear and worship afar at their tent door.
Why are so many still remaining within the camp? Could it be because there is a Christian religious system today that is based upon one or a few men who draw close? Do you think that maybe it is that same system which does not encourage nor provide the way for ALL to find and remain (abide) with God in intimate fellership? How can they if they are taught it’s OK to just sit, watch, listen and worship? There is a paid staff that will do the rest for you.
Jesus is calling for us to join Him outside the camp today. Which do you want? Stand or sit aloof in your convenient tent door (pew), and have someone else tell you what God says, placing your trust and money in that - OR risk stepping OUTSIDE, bearing the reproach of Christ and partaking of His Divine nature (IIPet.1:4) in fellership with God and others outside?
CTL - 8/2006