It was an example of the grace of God that after He had worked several miracles in the last chapter to punish sin, He would work one more miracle to prevent it from happening again. By a further interference of Divine authority, the Lord was pleased to make it very clear to all the people of Israel that Aaron was the one whom He had chosen to be His high priest to minister in holy things.
Twelve rods or staves were to be brought into the Tabernacle. Each prince or head of each of the 12 tribes was to bring his rod, with his name written upon it. Aaron’s name, of course, was to be written on the rod that represented the tribe of Levi. It is probable that the princes used these staves as symbols of their authority. They were old, dry pieces of wood that had no sap or life in them. But the Lord told Moses that the people should expect to see buds and blossoms appear on the rod of the tribe or prince whom He had chosen to serve in the priesthood. In obedience to Him, Moses did not object that this matter was sufficiently settled already; rather, he left the case in His hands.
True to the Lord’s word, while all the other rods remained as they were, Aaron’s rod became a living branch! On some places of the rod, there were buds; on others, blossoms; and on still others, fruit – all at the same time! This was indeed miraculous! In this extraordinary way, Aaron was clearly and visibly shown to be under the special blessing of heaven. Fruitfulness is the best evidence of a Divine call; the plants that God has planted will surely flourish.
The other 11 princes of the tribes came and retrieved their rods again. But Aaron’s rod was preserved before Jehovah’s presence, so that it might be a testimony and a standing reminder to the people that the Lord had really chosen him. This was done in order to “take away” the murmurings of the people, so that they would not die for uttering them anymore against the man whom He had selected to serve Him in the priest’s office. The purpose of God in all of His Providences, and in the memorials of them, is to take away sin. That was why Christ was made manifest – to take away sin! He was expressly called a rod out of the stem of Jesse (Isa. 11:1, 2). The prospects of His flourishing were very small indeed, according to human views. But this dry rod revived and blossomed – to the confusion of His adversaries!
After seeing the miracle with Aaron’s rod, the people cried, “Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish!” It is hard to determine whether these words were spoken in fear or submission, or both. But since the Lord had graciously undertaken to “take away” their murmurings, it may teach us how very effectual the Lord’s means are when He is pleased to work. And even more, it teaches us how great our mercies are – for we live under the Gospel, which is established upon better promises; and we have our Great High Priest, Who is gone in before the mercy-seat for us, so that we do not die! Under His advocacy and propitiation, His people are secure from all danger (1 John 2:1, 2).
Thus, in this sweet manner, the Lord showed the people of Israel a picture of the everlasting priesthood of our glorious Intercessor! Nothing except Jesus’ Almighty righteousness and sin-offering atonement can bring forth the blessed fruits of salvation for us. Just as all our “righteousnesses” are like filthy rags; so also, all our rods of our own strength – even if they are laid up in the Tabernacle – will be found unfruitful, dead, and withered. But in the various manifestations of God’s grace in the buddings, blossoms, and fruit-bearing excellences of His mercies; how graciously does our Savior show forth the rod of his strength by convincing, converting, strengthening, refreshing, and establishing His people!
Dearest Jesus! May we find grace from Your Holy Spirit to rejoice in You as the rod of all Gospel-mercies that are laid up for us, in time and to all eternity. And although Your glory was veiled from many when You were on earth, and although Your Priesthood is unacknowledged and unknown by thousands now; yet to us – in all Your precious offices and characters – be always blooming forth in every suitable grace, and in every seasonable mercy, in all our times of need. Let murmurers now dispute, if they dare, the sovereignty of Your Godhead; and let them despise the preciousness of Your great salvation and Priesthood, because they do not know them. But Lord, be to us – and to all Your children – the never-failing almond tree of righteousness and peace, which cannot be destroyed by drought nor storm, nor by all the wintry inclinations of our hearts, nor by the powers of darkness. By the influences of Your Holy Spirit, and by being enabled to abide in You, may we bring forth fruit to the praise of Your holy name. And – as You have said – because You live, we shall live also! Amen.
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