Summary: In this message we see that Aaron carried with him a rod that became alive and fruitful. What is it that the world sees us as believers carry? That which is dead or that which is living?
1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2"Speak to the children of Israel, and get from them a rod from each father’s house, all their leaders according to their fathers’ houses--twelve rods. Write each man’s name on his rod. 3And you shall write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi. For there shall be one rod for the head of each father’s house. 4Then you shall place them in the tabernacle of meeting before the Testimony, where I meet with you. 5And it shall be that the rod of the man whom I choose will blossom; thus I will rid Myself of the complaints of the children of Israel, which they make against you."
6So Moses spoke to the children of Israel, and each of their leaders gave him a rod apiece, for each leader according to their fathers’ houses, twelve rods; and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. 7And Moses placed the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness.
8Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.
9Then Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD to all the children of Israel; and they looked, and each man took his rod.
10And the LORD said to Moses, "Bring Aaron’s rod back before the Testimony, to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put their complaints away from Me, lest they die." 11Thus did Moses; just as the LORD had commanded him, so he did.
After the service last Sunday I was wondering what passage to preach on this week. I seemed to be hearing Numbers 17 in my mind. This is the story of how the rod of Aaron miraculously buds. I wondered what was so significant about this passage that the Lord highlighted it in mind. As I reflected on it this week, I began to see some profound truths in this passage.
The background of this chapter is that the people of Israel have challenged the authority of Aaron. In Numbers 17 we read of how God had quelled the rebellion of Korah and his followers. Even after God destroyed the rebels against Moses and Aaron, there were still challenges against their authority. There were especially challenges to Aaron’s position as high priest.
In Numbers 17, God establishes a test. All of the leaders of the twelve tribes were to submit a rod from their leaders. The names of each leader were to be written on the rods and then these were to be placed before the Ark of the Covenant. The rod that would bud would be the one that would indicate the one chosen to be the High Priest.
Let us examine some details of this story at this point. The Hebrew word for rod in this passage is mattah. It is no accident that God chose the Hebrew language for the Old Testament. What we often find in the Old Testament is that God often uses words with double meanings to prove a point.
This word, mattah, has several meanings. It can mean a rod or a branch. It can have the meaning of chastisement as with a rod or governing as with a scepter. It can be a walking staff and it can also represent the support of life. This word mattah is used in the following verse out of Ezekiel 4:16:
16 Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, behold, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem: and they shall eat bread by weight, and with care; and they shall drink water by measure, and with astonishment: (King James)
The word mattah can also mean tribe.
In this passage we see that twelve rods are chosen to represent twelve tribes. As we have mentioned, mattah is the same word used for tribe and rod.
The rod of Aaron in this story has two qualities:
1. It is alive
2. It is fruitful
I. It is alive
We read in this account that it is the staff representing the tribe of Levi that buds. I once wondered why God chose the tribe of Levi to provide spiritual leadership for the nation of Israel.
In the book of Genesis we see that Levi was one of Jacob’s worse sons. Consider Jacob’s last words to Levi:
5"Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place.
6Let not my soul enter their council;
Let not my honor be united to their assembly;
For in their anger they slew a man,
And in their self-will they hamstrung an ox.