The fourth primary banner that flew in the encampment of the Israelites around the tabernacle was that of a man. This banner belonged to the tribe of Reuben, which was the primary tribe of the southern encampment. The tribes of Simeon and Gad completed this division. We will now consider the aspect of sonship as it is represented by the symbol of a man and further illuminated by the meaning of the names of the tribes of this southern division.
The image of a man represents sonship for God made mankind in His own image and likeness as His sons and daughters. Sonship, which transcends gender, is God’s highest purpose and calling for mankind and represents the highest vocation of all created beings in both the seen and unseen realms. It is also the consummate calling which incorporates the three other primary callings of priestly, prophetic, and kingly into one. In the vision of the four living creatures that Ezekiel saw (Ezekiel 1), the primary face and form was that of a man and additionally, each had the face of an ox, an eagle, and a lion.
Reuben – The tribe of Reuben was the primary tribe of the southern encampment and was known by its banner of a man. The name Reuben means “behold a son.” Reuben was the firstborn son of Jacob. The image on Reuben’s standard along with the meaning of his name clearly establishes the connection between the face of the man and sonship.
Simeon – The second tribe of the southern division was Simeon whose name means “hearing.” This name is derived from the Hebrew primitive root, “shama`“ which means “to hear, heed, obey. “ When it comes to sonship, the single most important means by which young, immature children grow up unto maturity is through hearing, heeding, and obeying.
In Deuteronomy 6:4, the Lord spoke to the nation of Israel, His “firstborn son” (Deuteronomy. 4:22) and said, “Hear (Hebrew=”shama`”), O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.” He then goes on to command His people to make sure that their children, likewise, daily hear His commandments: “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7) The parental imperative is to daily instruct their children in the words, wisdom, and ways of God and the child’s responsibility is to hear, heed, and obey what they are taught. This is the key to growth unto full maturity.
Solomon further emphasizes these generational imperatives in the book of Proverbs:
“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them.” Proverbs 4:1-5
The Messiah, the Son of God, similarly had an instruction/hearing relationship with His Father. Isaiah records concerning the “servant of the Lord”: “He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away.” (Isaiah 50:4b-5 NIV)
So we see the primary significance of hearing in the raising up of son’s and daughters unto full maturity. The name Simeon (“hearing”), therefore, is a most fitting name to be associated with this calling of sonship.
Gad – The third tribe of the southern encampment was Gad. The name Gad is an interesting one meaning “fortune” and is also sometimes translated as “troop.” It comes from the Hebrew verb transliterated, gadad, meaning “to penetrate, cut, attack, invade.” The name points to the fortunes procured by an invading band/troop.
The mission of the Son of God was very much akin to this (though initially only as “an army of one.”) It was an heavenly invasion that procured for Himself and His people unspeakable, spiritual fortunes. As a reaping of these spoils of battle, we are now blessed “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:3) and have become “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.” (Romans 8:17) Is it possible to be more richly blessed with greater spiritual fortunes than that?!?
Furthermore, as the Father sent His Son into the world, so now Christ is sending us (see John 20:21.) The “sons of God” are now being raised up as a world-wide army (“troop”) to join in the ongoing mission of the Son of God until He has fully reaped the reward of His sufferings. All of this culminates in the bringing of “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10) unto an “inheritance that can never perish, spoil of fade.” (1 Peter 1:4) These are the unspeakable fortunes of “the Son of God” and of “the sons of God.” The name of Gad (“fortune”, “troop”), therefore, is a most fitting name to consummate this matter of sonship.
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As we’ve considered these four faces of the ox, the eagle, the lion, and the man in relation to the tribes of Israel as they encamped around the tabernacle in the wilderness, we’ve seen how all of God’s people were connected in some way to one of these four primary “faces”/callings. This gives a rudimentary picture of the significance of the four aspects of the priestly, prophetic, kingly, and sonship callings in regards to God’s people in general. In the full thought of God, however, all four faces/callings are integral to the constitution and calling of all of God’s people, both individually and corporately. We will explore the individual aspect of that reality in the next post. See you then! 🙂
The Anointed One
Four Faces of the Anointed One
Four Faces in the Wilderness
The Face of the Ox – Priestly Calling
The Face of the Eagle – Prophetic Calling
The Face of the Lion – Kingly Calling