"The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and
saw that Aaron's staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only
sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds." Numbers 17:8
A new miracle now meets us. It is God's work. It is the
Spirit's record. Therefore it stands here for our souls' profit. A withered
rod, long severed from the parent stem, in which all vital juice was dried,
sprouts in fresh verdure. Buds show their infant forms, and clustering
blossoms open, while fruit in ripe luxuriance hangs.
This fact claims special thought, from its position in
the sacred page. It raises a conspicuous head high in a vast field of
miracle. Israel's whole journey is a chain of marvels. The falling
manna--the guiding cloud--the flowing stream--prove heavenly care. Each day
evidences, that omnipotence is active for them. But here a fresh prodigy
starts to life. God superadds another sign to win confiding trust.
To us this story of the Budded Rod now comes. May He, who
wrought the wonder, work wonders through it for our growth in grace!
But before we view it with a nearer eye, we must not
disregard the preceding notes. The faithless spies draw an appalling picture
of the searched land. The fortresses defy assault. The men are giants.
Israel's hosts are less than insects at their feet. Such is their evil
record. And it is received. Hearts quake. Blaspheming tongues reproach their
Thus nature shows its proneness to doubt, to tremble, and
to distrust. But such UNBELIEF brings misery in its train. It is a seed,
from which ill ever springs. It changes blessings into curse. It arms the
hand of love with an avenging scourge.
So now wrath instantly goes forth. The murmuring hosts
are doomed to turn their back upon the home just reached. The wilderness
must be re-entered. They now must wander up and down for forty years. Thus
their bright prospects end in darkest night. Their hopes of rest--almost
attained--are gone. They must wear out in woe their dismal days.
Distrust! truly you are the parent of all woe! My soul,
never distrust--cleave fast to God--cast deep your anchor in His word--bear
all things--suffer all pains--but never let one rebel doubt arise.
Pause now, and pray, "O Spirit of the living God, never
withdraw--leave me not to the fears, which sense and folly would excite.
Lord, I believe; help my unbelief."
Surely the downcast host will now tread tremblingly their
retrogressing path--their lips will now be sad with penitence and shame.
They, who so reason, are yet blind to the deep roots of sin. As there is
no mercy, which man's heart will not abuse, so there is no judgment, which
it will not proudly scorn. Open rebellion soon follows these murmurs and
this punishment. Korah and his company dispute the rule of Moses. They
challenge it, as usurpation and self-arrogance. Thus God's authority is
dethroned. But these leaders are leading at His call. Therefore, to revile
them is to revile His will.
Instantly terrific vengeance vindicates God's ways. Moses
proclaims the near approach of impending wrath; and, "He had hardly finished
speaking the words when the ground suddenly split open beneath them. The
earth opened up and swallowed the men, along with their households and the
followers who were standing with them, and everything they owned. So they
went down alive into the grave, along with their belongings. The earth
closed over them, and they all vanished." Numbers 16:31-33
Again we are disposed to cry, 'surely now rebellion must
be buried in that grave! Surely obedience now will meekly walk with God!'
But we soon find, that sin has seeds so deep, and fibers so
far-spreading, that while most withering judgments are descending, it still
will germinate and bring forth its weeds.
The morrow dawns, but not to see contrition in each face.
No, rather, it finds one flood of universal rage. The camp is indignant
against the servants of the Lord. The whole assembly raises the cry, "You
have killed the people of the Lord," But sin cannot thus sin, and wrath not
multiply to punish. A slaying plague speeds forth. It rapidly mows down the
God-defying host. Moses beseeches Aaron to rush forth. He grasps his
censer--fills it with incense--adds the altar-fire--and takes his station
between the living and the dead. God sees the mediating high-priest–the type
of His dear Son. The sight checks wrath. But still a plague-struck pile
stands, as a mighty pyramid--a monument of sin's deserts.
Now, at this moment, God gives the miracle of the Budded
Rod. Another sign now shames unbelieving doubts, and pictures Gospel-truth.
The people had scorned Aaron's priestly rights. God's overflowing love
selects this very time to add confirmation of His choice. Twelve rods are
taken. Each bears the name of the chief ruler of a tribe. They are deposited
before the ark. Thus the night passes. When the morrow comes, Moses
re-enters. Eleven lie, as they were placed, withered, lifeless, dry. The
twelfth, engraved with Aaron's name, is changed--most marvelously changed!
Verdure adorns it--but not verdure only. No branch was ever so enriched.
Blossoms are joined to buds. And amid blossoms ripe fruits swell. Man's hand
has no share here. The proof of God's immediate power appears in every part.
The rod, thus vivified, is to be kept a constant sign. God's voice commands,
"Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a sign against
the rebels." Numb. 17:10.
Let us now advance from the ancient record, to the
still-living Gospel of the fact. The Rod in many graphic tints shows Jesus.
The very name is caught by raptured prophets. Hark, how they announce Him.
"There shall come forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch
shall grow out of his roots." Is. 11:1. "Behold the man, whose name is The
Branch; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the
temple of the Lord--and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon
His throne--and He shall be a Priest upon His throne." Zech. 6:12, 13. Thus
faith gleans lessons from the very title--Rod.
But the grand significance of the type is to REJECT ALL
RIVALS. It sets Aaron alone upon the priestly seat. The parallel proclaims,
that similarly JESUS is our only Priest. God
calls--anoints--appoints--accepts, and ever hears Him--but Him alone. In His
hands only do these functions live. He sprinkles the true mercy-seat with
ever-pleading blood. He bears His people's name upon His breast. He perfumes
all their petitions--praises--service, with meritorious fragrance. He
intercedes, and they are pardoned. He blesses, and all blessings crown them.
But He shares not the glory with a colleague. They, who seek God with
censers of their own, like Korah scorn the only avenue--like Korah rush
to ruin. My soul, be satisfied with Jesus. Shout–"None but the consecrated
God-man--He is my total Priest--I need no more."
Next, the constant luxuriance has a clear voice. In
nature's field, buds--blossoms--fruit, soon wither. The grove--the
garden--lovely in spring--laden in autumn--soon droop. Not so this Rod. Its
rich abundance was forever rich. Its verdure was forever green. Its fruit
was ever ripe. Beside the ark it was reserved in never-fading beauty. Here
is the ever-blooming Priesthood of our Lord. "You are a Priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek." Ps. 110:4. "This man--because He continues
forever--has an unchangeable Priesthood." Heb. 7:24. What joy--what rapture
fills the heart of faith, when with adoring eye it looks aloft and sees its
ever-living High-Priest on the throne! At every moment Jesus stands in all
the freshness of salvation's vigor. Our prayers are ofttimes cold and
languid. Our lips are dull to speak. Our thoughts stray far away. Petitions
are as an intermitting stream. The channel sometimes is quite dry. It is not
so in heaven. There, always is full tide of priestly mediation. Here is the
cause why saints prevail, and grace survives. Hence Satan with all his
legioned host is beaten back. Hence faith's tiny bark rides on the crest of
mountain-waves, and safely reaches the blest haven. Hence plans for
Gospel-progress triumph. Because Christ ever lives, and ever loves, and ever
prays, and ever works, therefore His kingdom swells.
And so it shall be, while the need remains. But when the
last of the redeemed is safely gathered in, then heaven shall no more hear
the interceding Priest. Then the one sound from the vast throng shall
be--Hallelujah. Thus the Rod, ever fresh--shows Jesus ever mighty in His
Mark, moreover, that types of Jesus often comprehend the
CHURCH. It is so with these rods. The twelve rods at first seem all alike.
They are all sapless twigs. The same grove saw their birth. Man's eye sees
but one likeness in their dry forms. But suddenly one puts forth
loveliness--while the others still remain worthless and withered. Here is a
picture of God's dealings with a sin-slain race. Since Adam's fall, all are
born lifeless branches of a withered stock. Many abide so, and thus pass as
fuel to the quenchless fire. But in a chosen remnant, a new birth occurs.
The grave sprouts into life. The sapless put forth buds. Blossoms appear.
Fruit ripens. Whence is the difference? It is not nature's work. No dry
stick can restore itself. No withered helplessness can deck itself with
verdure. This cannot be. When any child of man arises from the death of sin,
and blooms in grace, God has arisen with divine almightiness. Free,
sovereign love decrees renewal. Boundless power achieves it.
Believer, the Budded Rod gives another warning. It is a
picture of LUXURIANCE. Turn from it and look inward. Is your soul thus
richly fertile? Is life in you abundant life? Where are the almonds?
They are rare. Instead of fruit, you often yield the thorn. Should it be so?
"Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, so shall you be My
disciples." John 15:8. Whence is the fault? Why is the stem thus bare? The
fertilizing means abound. Perhaps they are little heeded. "Abide in Me and I
in you--as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the
vine, no more can you, except you abide in Me." John 15:4. Perhaps your
neglectful soul departs from Christ. Thus fructifying sap is checked. Thus
bloom is nipped. Thus early buds fall off. You leave the sunny slopes of
Zion's hill. You stray into the chilly marshes of the world. Then blight and
mildew mar the expected fruit. The Word is not the daily food. Hence the
roots drink not renovating moisture--and the withered leaf drops off.
Meditate in God's law day and night, and you "shall be like a tree planted
by the rivers of waters, that brings forth his fruit in his
season--his leaf also shall not wither--and whatever he does shall
prosper." Ps. 1:3.
But if the Budded Rod rebukes the scanty fruit in the
newborn soul, what is its voice to unregenerate worldlings? Alas! these are
a forest of sticks, wholly dry. The curse, which fell on Eden's garden,
blasted their nature to the core. Thus withered they were born. Thus
withered they continue. What will their end be? That end draws near. What
then awaits them? Can they be beams and rafters in the palace of heaven's
King! Oh! no. The decree is sure. Faithfulness has warned. Almighty power
will execute. "That, which bears thorns and briers, is rejected, and is near
unto cursing, whose end is to be burned." Heb. 6:8.