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God’s Word for You

Numbers 17:8-13 Aaron’s budding staff

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, October 1, 2021

8 On the next day Moses went into the Tent of the Testimony and discovered that Aaron’s staff representing the house of Levi had sprouted, budded, blossomed, and produced almonds.

There was no difference between any of the twelve staffs that were in the tent. They were all dead wood. Each one had a name written or carved on it. But in the morning, one was different. God had promised that one of them would sprout. One had sprouted. But wait, someone might think, if one sprouted, should they leave the staffs inside the tent, because another one, or maybe two, might also sprout, given time? No. The one staff had not just sprouted. The little leafy twig that had sprouted from the one staff also had buds on it. And more than that. Some of the buds on the leafy twig had already blossomed, opening up into flowers (almonds usually have white, pink or yellow blossoms). And still more: The staff had even produced almonds. Overnight. Almonds.

Jesus describes the natural work of the soil and its produce: “All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head, (then) the grain is ripe” (Mark 4:28,29). But this isn’t what happened in the tent overnight. This wasn’t the natural way of things. This was a supernatural miracle produced by God overnight so there would be no question as to which staff was chosen by him. It was there for everyone to see, and it would remain as a sign for the future. “Better what the eye sees than the roving of desire” (Ecclesiastes 6:9). Aaron’s staff was a testimony for anyone who grumbled or questioned God’s chosen leader.

9 Moses brought out all the staffs from the LORD’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked, and each man took his staff.

The twelve representatives, the leaders of the tribes, were all called forward to inspect their staffs, and to inspect the staff of Aaron. Then they took their staffs; each man taking his own. Then Elizur, leader of the tribe of Reuben,  would have gone back with his staff to his wife in their tent. “Which staff sprouted?” she would have asked. “Aaron’s,” he would have said, “but it did more than sprout. It budded, and blossomed, and produced almonds.” “Almonds!” she would have exclaimed. “Then we know, the Lord has chosen Aaron.” And if he was honest for once, alone in his tent with his wife, he should have said, “No. We knew that all along. I didn’t lead us out of Egypt. Nahshon of Judah didn’t lead us. Nethanel of Issachar didn’t lead us. Eliab of Zebulun didn’t lead us. We followed Moses and Aaron, and we still follow Moses and Aaron. Everyone who has rebelled has paid for it with their lives, and Moses isn’t the one who put them to death. The Lord did. I have escaped the Lord’s judgment by the skin of my teeth, “like a bird out of the fowler’s snare” (Psalm 124:7). Now we will follow the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, and our children will enter into the Promised Land.”

10 The LORD said to Moses, “Put Aaron’s staff back in front of the Testimony to be kept as a sign against the rebellious. In this way you will put an end to their grumblings against me, so that they do not die.” 11 That is what Moses did. He did just as the LORD commanded him. 12 The Israelites said to Moses, “Look, we are perishing! We are lost! We are all lost! 13 Everyone who approaches the LORD’s Dwelling dies! Must we all perish?”

This short chapter ends with the people finally understanding the price of rebellion: Death. To approach the Dwelling of the Lord with sin in one’s mouth was a death sentence. Yet there was a way. They could approach. This will be the subject of the chapters that follow.

There was nothing in Aaron that was special or different from the other tribal leaders. He was as sinful as any of them; as any of us. In fact, he and Miriam had rebelled against Moses! Soon (by the end of chapter 20), both Aaron and Miriam would be dead, like all of the other adults who came out of Egypt. The only thing that made Aaron different came from outside; it was the choice that God made.

This is the same with us. We did not enter into God’s family because we chose to, but because he called us through the gospel, enlightened us with his gifts, and sanctified and kept us in the one true faith. “In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith” (Small Catechism, explanation of the Third Article). As Jesus said: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16). Once called, he invites us to grow in our faith the way a wife’s love for her husband deepens and grows over time. We are led deeper into the garden of God’s delights as our understanding of his word grows. He wants us to share that deepening faith and to show our love for one another. “You who dwell in the gardens with friends in attendance, let me hear your voice!” (Song 8:13). Let us call on the name of the Lord, and serve him shoulder to shoulder.  Like Aaron and his staff, we are what we are because God put his hands on our shoulders to choose us. May the Lord’s hand on your shoulder always be a blessing, never adding to your burdens, but always lifting them away (Psalm 81:6).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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