The Ark and Its Contents: Aaron's Rod

Hebrews 9:4  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 15
“Wherein was...Aaron's rod that budded". We have seen that the manna was God's special provision for a wilderness people and, in view of the time when it should be no longer necessary, God ordained that the memorial of it should be laid up within the ark, so that when the people of God were happy and prosperous they might recall to their minds the particular care and providence of Jehovah in thus nourishing them and providing for their every need during their passage through a great and terrible wilderness, wherein was nothing to minister to their necessities save what came down from heaven; or, if found upon earth, as water from the smitten rock, was made to flow in a divinely ordered channel according to their daily need. But real blessing involves much more than the constant supply of food and drink. These things are quite sufficient for the creature, but man in his moral nature looks outside himself for light and guidance. Israel had been brought as a nation into conditions of special relationship to the God who had redeemed them from Egypt, and had undertaken their safe conduct through the desert to the promised inheritance. They had not merely been preserved from the sword of divine justice in Egypt (Jer. 31:22Thus saith the Lord, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. (Jeremiah 31:2)), but they had been brought near to Jehovah, so that He might enter into covenant relationship with them, and that they might be to Him “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In view of this new relationship thus formed between Jehovah and themselves, fresh wants came into existence; for even had they (as most probably they would have) been content to have gone on indifferent to, and in ignorance of, their obligations to God under the covenant of Mount Sinai, God would not leave them without a properly qualified and duly ordained witness of His authority over them. Moreoever the effect of leaving them to the action of law pure and simple would have been bondage and death. Gal. 4 shows that for Jerusalem and her children the result was bondage, and if the Galatian saints did not recover themselves and return to the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, they would have been in a more hopeless bondage than the Jews, because of having known and rejected the grace of the gospel. Again, the effect of the application of the law to the old nature is death, “when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Rom. 7:99For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. (Romans 7:9)).
But surely this was not the realization of God's purposes concerning His people. On the contrary, He established the priesthood amongst, and over, them, and His covenant with Levi was “of life and peace” (Mal. 2:55My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. (Malachi 2:5)), in complete contrast to the death and bondage of the law. God in a merciful way took knowledge of human infirmity and weakness, and established the priesthood in Israel that His people might be instructed in all the ordinances and commandments pertaining to the Levitical economy and might also have an ever-present resource in times of difficulty and need. The priesthood, for its efficacy, depended upon two principles—authority, which must be that of God Himself, and therefore unquestionable, and sacrifice, such as He had appointed, and therefore acceptable to Him. The law in itself had no blessing for Israel, for it could not recognize a partial obedience; its curse, strictly applied, would have reached to every man in the nation, for “cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:1010For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (Galatians 3:10)). The sentence and curse of the law were, however, arrested in their exercise by the sin offering which the repentant sinner brought to the priest; and when all was carried out according to divine instructions, defilement being removed from the camp, cleansed ones restored to their privilege, vows fulfilled etc., then the full priestly blessing was sanctioned and made good by Jehovah Himself (Num. 6:22-2722And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 23Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, 24The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: 25The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. 27And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them. (Numbers 6:22‑27)). What value there was in the priestly benediction, and the regard which any faithful Israelite would have for it, are shown in the case of Hannah (1 Sam. 1:17, 1817Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him. 18And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad. (1 Samuel 1:17‑18)). The principles of law and grace which entered into God's government of His earthly people were prevented from appearing antagonistic by the sacrifice offered by the priests.
It being thus scripturally established that the priesthood was really a gracious provision whereby God would bring blessing to Israel, we may be able to perceive the real significance of the rod of Aaron that “budded and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds” (Num. 17:88And 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 17:8)). The previous chapter sets before us in great detail that serious rebellion against Moses and Aaron (king and priest,) which undoubtedly prefigures the last great development of evil and self-will against God's Christ who as King and Priest shall be established in Zion, and reign a Priest upon His throne. The character of the sin and its unique judgment bespeak this. Compare Num. 16:30-3530But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord. 31And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: 32And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. 33They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. 34And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also. 35And there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense. (Numbers 16:30‑35) with Rev. 19:20, 2120And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:20‑21) and Jude 1111Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. (Jude 11). When the people on the next day showed how readily the lie of the devil is accepted and the plague had begun, it was made manifest that the only hope of salvation from death was in priestly intercession. Christ, in all His own excellency and value of His finished work, was prefigured by Aaron with the censer (as also in the holy place, compare Lev. 16:12, 1312And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: 13And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: (Leviticus 16:12‑13)) now standing between the living and the dead, making atonement for the rebels. It points in a way to the mediatorial intervention in perfect grace of the “one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” This is what is witnessed by the preaching of the gospel, and what alone stays the hand of God in judgment. So too, David was permitted to occupy this place of mediatorship in 1 Chron. 21:26, 2726And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the Lord; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering. 27And the Lord commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof. (1 Chronicles 21:26‑27). The difference between the daily supply of manna and the golden pot that had the manna has been already noticed, and we may trace the same difference between the daily ministrations of Aaron on ordinary occasions and the unusual and extraordinary intervention between the living and the dead at this time. Such a crisis had not been anticipated in the divine instructions to the priests, but Aaron was no doubt led to act upon divine instincts and the special guidance of God's Spirit in such a way as was effectual for arresting the execution of wrath, and serving for the illustration of the real value of the priesthood in blessing and fruitfulness for man. “Aaron's rod that budded” was, then, a constant witness in the immediate presence of God, and for those who had access there, of the priestly grace of Him who glorified not Himself to be made priest but was called of God; and God will surely vindicate the power and authority in which He acts in grace now, so that “He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him”; as He will overcome the rebels gathered together against Him, when He appears the second time, seeing that He is King of kings, and Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14; 19:1614These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. (Revelation 17:14)
16And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:16)
(Continued from p. 154)
(To be continued)