After the long trek in the wilderness, Moses, speaking for the Lord (he was a prophet, though, indeed, more than a prophet), said: “See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to your fathers — to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — to give to them and their descendants after them” (Deuteronomy 1:8).
Notice, however, what comes next.
Read Deuteronomy 1:9-11. What is the significance of these words, especially in light of the fact that, in a real sense, they were being punished by God for the rebellion at Kadesh Barnea?
Here we see another example of the graciousness of God. Even amid the wilderness wanderings, they were blessed: “Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness; They lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell” (Nehemiah 9:21).
And Moses, again showing his love for his people, asked God to multiply them a thousand more times than God already had done!
Read Deuteronomy 1:12-17. As a direct result of God’s blessing upon them, what happened, and what steps did Moses take to deal with the situation?
Thus, even when the Lord was so powerfully present among them, there was the need for organization, for structure, for a system of accountability. Israel was a qahal, an organized assembly (see Deuteronomy 31:30), a precursor to the New Testament ekklesia, Greek for “church” (see Matthew 16:18). And though working in a different context, Paul was never far from his Jewish roots, and in 1 Corinthians 12 we see him clearly delineating the need for qualified people to assume various roles for the proper functioning of the body, just as we see here in Deuteronomy and the qahal in the wilderness. The church today, as the qahal back then, needs to be a unified body with people fulfilling various roles according to their gifts.
Though we sometimes hear people rail against “organized” religion (what would they prefer, “disorganized” religion instead?), the Word of God, especially the New Testament, acknowledges no other kind but an organized one.