Outside the camp. During the time of Israel’s travels through the wilderness, it wasn’t the place one wanted to be. All sorts of unclean things took place there. The ceremonially defiled had to stay there until they were clean again. Outside the camp is often a place of shame.
The carcass of the sin offering was burned outside the camp (Leviticus 4:1-21), as was the red heifer. The heifer’s ashes were gathered and used in certain purifying ceremonies (Numbers 19:1-10). Sometimes being outside the camp involves having our dreams and desires seem like they are nothing but ashes.
Jesus suffered outside the camp. It was a thing of shame. Hebrews 13:11-13 tells us, “For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.”
The camp represents traditional religious thinking. In Jesus’ day, the camp was typified in the four walls of Jerusalem, the capital city of the Jewish religious system. Sometimes, in order to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we find ourselves having to go outside the camp. There are times, for the sake of obedience to Him, that we must step outside of the way the church institution has always done things, outside of the normal protocol. And it can be a thing of shame, with religious people misunderstanding us, condemning us, pointing the finger at us. I am not talking about stepping outside of the Bible, but I am talking about stepping outside of decades of forms and mindsets – the traditions of men.
Sometimes the only way to get to Jesus is to go outside the camp. He is worth any identifying with shame that is necessary in order to be where He is. When Jesus beckons us to go forth from the camp, bearing reproach with Him, we can do it in confidence of being safe with Him. When, in order to be obedient to Jesus, we humbly accept the criticism of those who cannot understand because of their self-imposed religious boundaries, there will be beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
When we lay aside concerns about what others will think so that we can be in the center of Jesus’ will, He treasures our devotion to Him. There is a special joy in the adventure of following Him everywhere – even if He takes us outside the camp.