Sunday, September 07, 2008

AARON'S ROD THAT BUDDED


In Numbers 16 & 17 we have the story of the rebellion of Korah and his companions. And they were not alone: they had the support of 250 princes of the Congregation, men of renown. We also read here about Aaron's Rod that Budded.

What is so special about Aaron's Rod that Budded?

And what exactly was Korah's rebellion?

Well, from God's perspective:

Korah, Dathan and Abiram were lifting up themselves.

Let's read that in Numbers 16:3-4,

Numbers 16:3
And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?

Numbers 16:4
And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face:

Do you see what their accusation is?

Paraphrased, this is what they were saying: "Moses and Aaron, you are lifting up yourselves above the Congregation of the LORD as the Chief leader and as the Chief Priest of this Congregation, but we see quite a bit of nepotism here. The two of you take too much power upon you. We do not believe that the LORD has meant this. There has to be some power sharing with us, the princes of the Congregation". We too are holy.

But can you see what really the problem was?

They accused Moses and Aaron of lifting up themselves, but actually Korah, Dathan and Abiram were lifting up themselves. They wanted some of the power that God gave to Moses and Aaron, and they wanted to be priests also.

When Moses heard this, he fell on his face and began praying to God, because he sensed that this was a terrible rebellion, and another disaster from God was coming. Let's continue with verse 5,

Numbers 16:5
And Moses spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow the LORD will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him.

(Notice: God does the choosing)

Numbers 16:6
This do; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company;

Numbers 16:7
And put fire therein, and put incense in them before the LORD to morrow: and it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy: ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.

In other words, Moses said to Korah: "If you think you are eligible to be priests, Korah and all your company, tomorrow we all will take censers and burn incense before the LORD, and whosoever the LORD shall choose shall be a priest. You are accusing me of taking on too much, but actually you are taking on too much. I have not lifted up myself, but you have lifted up yourselves."

Perhaps you remember what the result was the next day. God was so angry that He made the earth to open up and Korah, Dathan and Abiram were swallowed up alive into the pit, and fire came down from the LORD and killed the 250 men that offered incense.

God was teaching this principle:

God Shall Choose Whom He Lifts Up (Numbers 17:5)

In the kingdom of this world it is commendable if we seek to climb up the managerial ladder, but in the Kingdom of God, it is God who makes the appointments, and He chooses whom He wills. We do not lift up ourselves. God calls this: Rebellion. The children of Israel had to learn this the hard way. God was so angry, that in this incident almost 15000 people died. It was in this context, right after the rebellion, that the LORD created a miracle to establish Aaron as His chosen one.

Numbers 17:1
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

Numbers 17:2
Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man's name upon his rod.

Numbers 17:3
And thou shalt write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers.

Numbers 17:4
And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you.

Numbers 17:5
And it shall come to pass, that the man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you.

In other words, God commanded that each tribe of Israel be represented in the Tabernacle by a rod, which is a wooden stick. Moses wrote the name of the tribe on the rod that was submitted. Twelve tribes submitted their representative rods, and God commanded Moses to add a thirteenth rod for the tribe of Levi.

How many rods were there in total?

There were thirteen rods, because there are thirteen tribes in Israel. Not one could be missing.

But God commanded Moses to write the name of Aaron on the rod for the tribe of Levi, because the Levites were given to the house of Aaron as a gift from God, to do the service of the Tabernacle. Therefore Aaron was their representative.

These thirteen rods were to be placed before the Ark of the Covenant, in the Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant is here called "the testimony", because inside the Ark was "the evidence of the revelation of God's Will". It contained the Ten Commandments written on two stone tables, and it contained a pot with manna. Both of these were evidences, or witnesses, or testimonies of God's Will for Israel. Israel was to feed on the Word of God and they were to feed on the manna from heaven.

Then God promised to make one of those rods to blossom. And that was the miracle by which:

God appointed who would be the High Priest (Numbers 17:8, Psalm 110:2)

Numbers 17:6
And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, and every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for each prince one, according to their fathers' houses, even twelve rods: and the rod of Aaron was among their rods.

Numbers 17:7
And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness.

Numbers 17:8
And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.

Numbers 17:9
And Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD unto all the children of Israel: and they looked, and took every man his rod.

And then they saw that Aaron's Rod had changed. It was no longer a dead wooden stick, but it had become so much alive that it was bearing buds for new flowers, and it was bearing blossoms, and it was bearing almonds, indicating that it was already bearing fruit.

That was a stupendous miracle that God performed, but what was it for?

Why did God do that?

What has this to do with the Gospel?

Well, first of all, God showed hereby that He had chosen Aaron to be the High Priest in Israel, and God had chosen the tribe of Levi as His special people. Twelve of the thirteen tribes received land as their inheritance, but not the tribe of Levi. Actually the tribe of Levi received the greatest inheritance, because the LORD is their inheritance (Deuteronomy 18:2).

Imagine the consternation of the twelve tribes: The rod of Levi was transformed from dead to life, but their wooden sticks remained dead wood. It indicated that the tribe of Levi was alive unto God, but the other tribes were as good as dead wood. And Aaron was undeniably the High Priest of Israel. All their murmurings against Moses and Aaron was actually rebellion against God. Now they saw it.

The word for "Rod" that is used in this chapter is the Hebrew word "matteh". Is it not amazing that God used this same word "matteh" in Psalm 110 where it refers to Christ. Please turn to Psalm 110,

Psalm 110:1 (A Psalm of David.)
The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

Psalm 110:2
The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.

This is unmistakably a Messianic Psalm, because Jesus quoted these words to the Pharisees. Verse 2 says that God shall send Christ, the Rod of His strength, out of Zion, which is the place where God resides, and Christ shall rule in the midst of His enemies.

And how shall He rule there?

We already know that our God is an absolutely Righteous God, and we already know that our God is a Sovereign God, which means that God does not wait taking the next step until He has seen our reaction. God rules as a Sovereign King. But we also read in the Bible:

The Lord killeth and maketh alive (I Samuel 2:6-8, Romans 9:15-16)

This is how God rules.

Is it not amazing that this verse is in the Bible?

We read in I Samuel 2:6,

1 Samuel 2:6
The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.

1 Samuel 2:7
The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.

1 Samuel 2:8
He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them.

What is the common denominator in all these examples that God brings up here?

You see, all these examples show how God brings salvation. In each case a person is first made low, and then he is lifted up. First he is dead, and then he is made alive. Just like Aaron's rod that was dead, and then it was made alive. When Adam and Eve sinned they came under the curse of God, spiritually they became dead; the LORD killeth.

Afterward, God had mercy on them and He made them spiritually alive. God brought Christ down to the grave, and then He raised him up.

For what purpose?

To bring salvation to many. Before we were saved we were spiritually poor, but then He saved us and made us spiritually rich.

When God quickens us to spiritual life, God first makes us see what a terrible sinners we are; He bringeth low; and then He lifts us up. When God quickens us to spiritual life, God first makes us see that we are poor and made out of dust, and we are actually beggars pleading for salvation because this sin cursed earth is but a dunghill. But then He found us on the dunghill, and when He saves us He sets us among princes in heaven, and makes us inherit the throne of glory.

God says to us, like He said to Abraham: "I Am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward".

What greater glory could God bestow upon us?

We inherit God Himself. There is no greater glory that He could give us.

You see, that is the significance of the miracle of Aaron's Rod that budded. It signified the miracle of salvation. Something that was dead was made alive. We all were dead in trespasses and sins, and we all were under the wrath of God, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, has made us alive together with Christ; therefore, by Grace are ye saved. In the tabernacle not all thirteen sticks of dead wood were made alive. God chose whom He wants to make alive.

God says in Romans 9:15-16,

Romans 9:15
For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

Romans 9:16
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

God chooses whom He wants to save. God does the saving. It is all a gift by the Grace of God.

But now, let me show you another aspect of Numbers 17.

The Ark of the Covenant (Numbers 17:8, Numbers 17:10, Hebrews 9:1-4)

Numbers 17:8
And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.

We have seen that God performed this miracle to show that He has chosen Aaron as the High Priest and that He has chosen the tribe of Levi as His special people to minister unto Aaron. We have seen that God performed this miracle to show us what salvation is: God takes something that is dead and makes it alive. But there is more that is attached to this miracle done with Aaron's Rod.

Numbers 17:10
And the LORD said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not.

In other words, God said to Moses: "Bring Aaron's Rod back before the Ark of the Covenant, to be kept for a token against the rebels".

To be kept where?

In front of the Ark of the Covenant?

But we don't read anywhere in the history of the nation of Israel where Aaron's Rod was kept.

It is only when we turn to the New Testament that we see Aaron's Rod again.

In Hebrews chapter 8 God declared His terms for the Covenant of Grace: God takes the initiative. Then in chapter 9 God speaks about the Ceremonial Law as an integral part of His Covenant with the children of Israel. Within that Ceremonial Law was the command to build a tabernacle, or tent, wherein was a compartment that was called the Holy of Holies, and therein was the Ark of the Covenant. We read in:

Hebrews 9:1
Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.

Hebrews 9:2
For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the showbread; which is called the sanctuary.

Hebrews 9:3
And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;

Hebrews 9:4
Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;

There you have it. The Ark of the Covenant contained the golden pot with manna, and Aaron's Rod that budded, and the tables of the Covenant. If we did not have the New Testament. we would never have known where Aaron's Rod was kept.

But why was Aaron's Rod so special that it should be kept in the golden Ark of the Covenant?

It was because Aaron's Rod, together with the two other items in the Ark of the Covenant, were types of Christ as Savior, and Christ the giver of life.

The Ark of the Covenant was kept behind the second veil in the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest was allowed to come, once a year on the Day of Atonement, and he had to come with blood of a goat, which was a picture of the Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, and the High Priest had to sprinkle the blood on the lid of the Ark, which was called the Mercy-Seat.

Inside the Ark was a picture of: Christ the Word of God, and Christ the Bread from heaven.

The tables of the Covenant were two tables of stone that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. On those tables were written the Ten Commandments, written by the finger of God. These Ten Commandments were not the whole Law of God, but these were a representation of the Law of God, and these were a representation of the Word of God.

By itself, the Law of God could not save anyone, because the Law could not change the rottenness of the human soul. These two tables of stone were only a shadow of the real Word of God. And the Word of God could bring salvation, because the Word of God stands for the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ could bring salvation.

John 1:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:2
The same was in the beginning with God.

John 1:3
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John 1:4
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

You know who is in view here in this passage.

It is Christ as the Word of God.

Did you notice verse 4?

In Christ as the Word of God, in Him was life, and this life He could give to men so that they could see the light of the Gospel. Thus Christ as the Word of God is pictured here as a life giver.

The second item in the Ark is that of the golden pot with manna. The Jews knew the manna as "the bread from heaven". But the Lord Jesus corrected that view. The manna was only a type of the real Bread from heaven. Jesus said in John 6:33-35,

John 6:33
For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

John 6:34
Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

John 6:35
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

The Lord Jesus said that the manna was only a shadow of Christ. He really was the Bread from heaven, and He was not just food for their physical life, but He was food for their spiritual life, because everyone who comes to Christ shall never hunger nor thirst. Christ did not mean to say that we as Christians would never be hungry or thirsty any more. He was speaking in spiritual terms. The Lord Jesus said that He is the true Bread from heaven, and that He is the Bread of Life. Christ is the Bread that was pictured as the life giver. The pot with manna was only a shadow of that Bread.

How do we partake of Christ as the Bread of Life?

How do we eat Christ?

Many people believe that we eat this Bread of Life in the communion service when the bread and wine are passed around. But that is false. To partake of Christ, the Bread of Life, means to believe with all our heart that the sufferings and death of Christ were a complete Atonement for all our sins. Also to partake of Christ means to draw closer and closer to Christ, by reading His Word and beseeching Him in prayer.

The third item in the Ark was The Tribe That Budded (Hebrews 9:11-15)

Why did I say "The Tribe that Budded"?

Let me come back to that Hebrew word for "Rod". You remember that is the word "matteh". That word matteh has been translated "rod" 52 times, but the same word has been translated "tribe" 182 times. Of course it was not the whole tribe of Levi that was locked up in the Ark of the Covenant. But Aaron's Rod was representing the whole tribe of Levi.

But how does this apply to us?

Well, this Rod that Budded was representing a whole tribe that was dead, and was made alive. Aaron's Rod that Budded was a picture of Christ as the life giver of the tribe of all Believers, because He as our High Priest was giving His blood behind the veil.

When the High Priest, once a year, on the Day of Atonement, went behind the veil with the blood of a goat and of a bullock, that was a spiritual picture of Christ as our High Priest going behind the veil, sprinkling His blood on the Mercy Seat.

Hebrews 9:11
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

Hebrews 9:12
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Hebrews 9:13
For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:

Hebrews 9:14
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Hebrews 9:15
And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

All the Old Testament ceremonial laws were just shadows of the more perfect sacrifice that the Lord Jesus Christ gave when He was crucified. On the Cross, Christ was the Lamb of God that was slain, but Christ was also the High Priest who killed that Lamb, and Christ was also the Tabernacle where the High Priest offered that Lamb. His body was a greater and more perfect tabernacle than the tabernacle that was made with hands. He offered not the blood of goats and calves, but He offered His own blood. He did not have to do this year after year, but only once.

All this is symbolized in Aaron's Rod that Budded, and that is why it was placed in the Ark of the Covenant. And that Rod symbolized the tribe of all Believers throughout time. This is the tribe that budded, and brought forth flowers and fruit, because we all must be fruit bearing.

Now, take a good look at why God did all this in Numbers 17.

God says: Do this In Order That You Take Away Their Murmurings From Me (Numbers 17:10)

Look closely at the wording in verse 10,

Numbers 17:10
And the LORD said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not.

In other words, using our New Testament information, God says: "Bring Aaron's Rod again before the Ark, and later place it later in the Ark of the Covenant, to be preserved for a token against the rebels; and hereby you shall make an end of their murmurings, so that they die not."

But what does this mean?

Why would the act of placing Aaron's Rod that Budded into the Ark of the Covenant, have the double effect that they would stop murmuring and that they die not?

Is this really what God means?

Check again. God says in verse 5,

Numbers 17:5 ...and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you.

Definitely, God said it twice that this miracle and the act of placing Aaron's Rod in the Ark will stop the murmurings of the children of Israel. But if we continue Israel's history in Numbers 20, we read that the people again murmured for lack of water, and nobody died there.

If God was not lying in Numbers 17, verses 5 and 10, then we must not interpret verses 5 and 10 in a historical fashion.

What then was God saying in verse 5 and 10?

What was Aaron's Rod representing?

Aaron's Rod that Budded was a picture of Christ as the life giver of the tribe of all Believers, because He as our High Priest was giving His blood behind the veil. Aaron's Rod became a symbol of the Atonement. Christ became the giver of Life to those for whom He died on the Cross of Calvary.

For whom did Christ die?

For rebels like you and me; for dirty rotten sinners like you and me.

Now look again at the words of verse 10,

Numbers 17:10
And the LORD said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not.

Aaron's Rod was to be kept before the testimony of Christ, as the Word of God, and Christ, as the Bread of Life, for a token against the rebels that their murmurings were taken away, that they die not.

What was that token before Christ died?

It was Aaron's Rod that Budded.

What is that token after Christ died?

It is the Cross of Christ: An empty Cross, because Christ has risen from the dead, and all our sins have been taken away, so that we die not: We will not be condemned to Hell.

Did the children of Israel understand all of this?

Perhaps not, but these words were written for our instruction:

Numbers 17:12
And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish.

(They realized that they all were dead in trespasses and sins.)

All of them?

You must take God's Word seriously (Numbers 17:5)

Were all of them condemned for their sins?

Or were all of them saved from their sins?

Let's look again at the words of verse 5:

Numbers 17:5
And it shall come to pass, that the man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you.

God says: "It shall come to pass that the man's tribe whom I shall choose, shall blossom", shall be made alive. God chooses whom He will make alive, and God chooses whose sins He will make to cease from Him, by casting their sins into the depths of the sea.

We all were at one time the children of wrath, even as others. We all were dead in trespasses and sins. We all started out as dead sticks. Therefore, it is impossible that God would reward anyone with the gift of salvation based on something that we did. We could not do anything right, because we were dead. Is it then any wonder that God will choose whom He wishes to save?

It is no surprise to God who will get saved and who will remain in their sins. God decided that before the foundation of the world and He has so written in the Bible. God says in Ephesians 1:4,

Ephesians 1:4
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

Is it then any wonder that the Lord Jesus Christ died only for those whom God has chosen to save?

That is why God said to Moses: "and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel".

Which Israel did God have in view?

The Lord Jesus Christ is called Israel in the Bible. We only need to read it carefully.

Who then are the children of Israel?

We call ourselves Christians, meaning "of the family of Christ", or "of the family of Israel".

And how can we know that we indeed are the children of God?

This is how: "and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel".

Do we still murmur against God?

Do we grumble and complain that we deserve a better life?

Do we feel sorry for ourselves?

Stop it!

It is all rebellion. God says that He will cause to cease from Him the murmurings of the children of Israel. God's children are going to be content with their lot. God's children are not complaining to God that God has given them the short end of the stick.

But also, it means that God has removed the sins of His children far from Him. He has removed the sins of our past murmurings far away from Him, as far as the East is from the West.

Murmurings: Are they still with us? (I Corinthians 10:11)

It certainly seems so. Why else would God remind us of these sordid stories? For example, God says in I Corinthians 10:11

1 Corinthians 10:11
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

We need to meditate on the following question:

Why does God take rebellion against His instructions so seriously?

Why did God take such drastic measures sometimes?

Do we still have to worry about our sins?

Didn't Christ pay for all our sins?

Did He?

Remember I Corinthians 10:11. God wrote these words for our admonition, because we need this.

Just think of what happened to a lot of marriages; they ended up in divorce.
But God hates divorce. People divorce anyway, regardless what God says.

Just think of why so many women are found to occupy the office of Elders and Deacons.
God said that an Elder or a Deacon is to be the husband of one wife. They ignore what God says.

Just remember: God does not ask us. In the freewill churches their god is asking and begging: Please follow My directions, and please come to Church on Sunday; it will do you a lot of good.

But we know better: God does not ask us. God commands us. The Lord Jesus says it very plainly: "If ye love Me, keep My commandments". Then we can in turn ask ourselves:

How deep does our love go for our Lord Jesus Christ?

Is He really our Lord?

Do we really love Him that much?

We like Him to be our Savior. O Yes!

Was that not nice of Jesus to go for us to the Cross?

But we do not like it when Jesus says: "He who does not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me". And yet, this is nothing compared to what Jesus has done for us.

And will we then treat Him like the children of Israel treated Him?

They had no love for the God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of slavery.

God demonstrated by this great miracle that God has a passionate desire to dwell with man?

Is this a one way love, or do we see in ourselves a passionate desire to be with God?

Let us summarize what we have learned in this study: Aaron's Rod that budded = the Tribe of Christ that blossomed, in the midst of a Congregation that was in rebellion against Christ. That is how we were.

We were in Church, we were in the Congregation, but we were not saved. The Lord killeth and then He maketh alive.

How do we know if we have been made alive?

Are those murmurings still with us, or has Christ become our greatest desire in this life?

How great is our love for Him?

Only you know the answer to this question.

Amen.

By Alfred J. Chompff

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