But the LORD said to Moses, “Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings against Me, so that they will not die.”
This verse is the conclusion of a test devised and ordered by God Himself. He tells Moses that He wants to lessen the grumblings of the Israelites about Moses and Aaron being God’s appointees (v 5) and that the test He provides will sort the problem out. And it does. The end of this chapter and the beginning of the next are not grumbling about Moses or Aaron being in charge, but worrying about the people who come near the tabernacle dying, a concern that God addresses by drafting the Levites into service.
There are some things that I notice particularly as I read this verse.
First, this rod is no longer ordinary. This rod has become a sign. God takes the ordinary and makes it exceptional, just as He does with people. This rod was dead wood that God made live and bear fruit, just as He does with people. This rod was one of many that were in most ways identical except that God had chosen one and not chosen the others, just as He does with people for service to Him. And this sign is meant to be against the rebels, more literally the sons of rebellion. All of us are born into the rebellion against God and all of us must make the choice to lay down our arms and cease from our rebellion. All of us are dead, apart from God’s touch on us, and not one of us is fruitful unless God makes us so.
Second, the grumblings that were about Moses were against God. When I complain and grumble and am otherwise malcontent with the person whom God has chosen to complete a particular work, I am grumbling against God. That person is God’s choice. More than once, Jesus said to His disciples that they did not choose Him, but He chose them. If I am chosen by God for a particular work, then any complaints about me when I am faithfully and righteously discharging that work are complaints against God. It is entirely valid when people see me screw up and say so. I need to be accountable. But people’s complaints about how I do the work when I am diligently and faithfully doing as God has instructed are complaints against God. I am sure that there were people who complained about how Ezekiel prophesied and wished he was not lying in the street for over a year.
Third, Aaron’s rod is put back with the (ark of the) testimony. There were three things that were put into the Ark of the Testimony: the stone tablets with The Law (the Ten Commandments) written on them, a pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod. Taken together, these remind me that God has a standard of righteousness and that God will provide and that God will choose and demonstrate His Chosen One by bringing to life what was dead and making fruitful what was fruitless. This, in a box of acacia wood, is the gospel. God’s standard is perfect and unchanging; written in stone. But God will supply what is needed. What is needed is the Bread of Life; the Chosen One; the Messiah; the Christ. And God demonstrates His Messiah; His Chosen One by restoring to life those who were dead in their trespasses and making fruitful we who were fruitless by connecting us to the Vine. This gospel in a box might be a bit of a stretch, but it occurred to me as I read this passage and I thought I would jot it down for further consideration.
The application of this boils down to this: God chooses, people respond. We can respond by accepting God’s choice or by rejecting it. Acceptance results in life and fruitfulness and blessing. Rejection results in malcontent and complaining and, ultimately, death. Let me accept God’s choice — both when He chooses me for a work and when He chooses someone I would not. Both are equally unlikely choices.
Thank You, Father, for choosing me at all. Thank You for bringing me to life when I was dead. Thank You for making me fruitful when I was incapable of bearing fruit for You. Please keep me mindful that it is You and You choice and Your power that make that life and fruitfulness possible both in me and in anyone else You choose to accomplish Your work.