They shall go last with their banners. - Numbers 2:31
I remember when my three brothers and I would play some crazy “make-believe” games in the backyard. What may seem small to most was actually an alternate world of imagination. We always wanted to have an objective...and there were always enemies to conquer, to win back. The last position or “title” of a character in a role-play game is never the “worthwhile” character. It is always the most cunning, adventurous, brave, lead character who was most valuable to the team.
When the armies of Israel were on march, the tribe of Dan would follow last in regime. The Danites, though specifically last, were exactly where they needed to be. All tribes within Israel partook in the same manna from heaven, drank from the same water from the rock struck by Moses, followed the same fiery cloud, and journeyed through the same mission yearning to reach the promised land. The tribes were not just an army for the Lord, they were family. Yet, no one wants to be last, especially when so vulnerable. The Danites took it upon themselves to uphold and value the call of God to “watch the back” of their family. With such honor, we must ask ourselves, “Why don’t I value this?” Is it not the standard of God that surpasses and proclaims the joy of seeking the standard of a “last mentality”?
Even the menial work of Jesus is asked of from the family of God. With a westernized civilization that hungers for success, productivity, fast-paced integration, globalization, and industry-driven border crossing empowerment, we seem dissatisfied, angry, and tired. The Danites were set in a very useful place. When their brothers, sisters, or children struggled with the journey, when circumstances were overwhelming or hopeless, love would motivate these Danites to seek God first and His people. The treasure of the “the last position” speaks that God is enough. Because he is perfect, His mission is perfect and true joy overflows when you stop living for yourself and start living for others. This can only happen when superiority is transformed into meekness.
We are reminded, as God’s people, through the bestowment of Christ and His mighty Spirit, to value each position God has given us in this hurting world. When we lose faith or joy in the position He has given us, this is actually the best position to be in. Although this seems counterintuitive, we are strong at our weakest. We are surrounded by our Savior and King who also took the position of last, but yet is the Almighty God. No position is greater than the position of prostration, even amongst our brothers and sisters.
The small tribe of Dan can teach us well today in a postmodern society and culture. There is possible attack from every side, even within our own home in the form of comfort. It is shown that Amalek eventually came and did slay many in Israel (Deuteronomy 25: 17-19). Yet, the loving, mature Christian will learn that the last position is the best place to be. The example, you ask? It has always been Jesus. His delight was to be last so those lost could be found. As said by Paul, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). There are those amongst us today unaided, doubting, wavering, wanting refuge, seeking hope. May we as a Church, in full faith and courage, keep the standard of “the last” given by God. May we compassionately, with powerful Christlike love, help those in their journeys and value the position He has placed us in. The hope? That together we will rejoice in knowing Jehovah-Nissi (The Lord is my Banner) has always been enough.