At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses.” (Numbers 9:23, ESV)

I’ve highlighted the words “the command” in this passage so that at a glance you can see that it is repeated over and over again.  Seven times total and three times in our verse alone!  When we see a word repeated like this, we know that the author is trying to tell us something.  It’s repeated in order to emphasize it, to draw it to our attention.

I would argue that the author is drawing our attention to the fact that, during the Exodus, the people moved only at the Lord’s command.  They weren’t traveling around the desert willy-nilly, and they weren’t deciding to move at the whims of Moses and/or Aaron.  They were moving “at the command of the Lord.”  They were in the center of God’s will.  When he wanted them to move, they moved, when he wanted them to stop and camp, they stopped and camped.  They knew it was time to move when the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle.

This close connection to the Lord will not last long, the people will begin to complain in only another chapter and the troubles seem to pile up from there for the generation of the Exodus; however, all through the forty years that the Israelites wandered, God was still with them leading them from place to place.  They were unfaithful to him, but he was always faithful to them.

In the New Testament the generation of the Exodus is a negative example.  They start out well, as we read here in Numbers 9, they do actually move when the Lord indicates that they should move, but obedience was more than just moving when the cloud moved, it involved their whole lives, partial obedience to the Lord, as we shall soon see, is no obedience at all.  We would be wise to understand and heed that lesson.