The Rod of Moses and the Rod of Aaron

Exodus 17;Numbers 20  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
(Ex. 17).
the Rod of Aaron.
(Num. 20)
What an eventful journey lies between these two chapters, between the day that the rock was smitten by the rod of Moses at Rephidim, and the day that the rock gives forth its refreshing stream at Kadesh at the desert of Zin Jehovah had brought out a people from Egypt, and they had sung the song of Moses in Ex. 15, with all the freshness of joy that the sense of perfect and eternal deliverance and redemption gives. On the shores of the Red Sea they had passed the barrier which eternally separated them from the land of slavery; and which effectually shut off the pursuit of every foe. Here they begin their journey onwards to the promised land, a journey in which they are to learn the deep and precious lessons only to be learned in the wilderness. Here they have to learn that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to attract the eye, nothing to supply their need; but that God alone must be their resource. And in learning this, they are to learn too, the pride and unbelief of their own hearts, and the grace of the heart of God who had redeemed them. " Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldst keep his commandments or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna (which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know) that he might make thee to know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord cloth man live." (Deut. 8:2, 32And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. 3And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. (Deuteronomy 8:2‑3).) In Ex. 17 they have to learn what it is to thirst, as in chapter xvi. they had learned what it was to hunger; and the resources of God to meet this need. The lawgiver's rod had to smite the rock once, and forever, and the refreshing stream flowed forth to quench the thirst of the hosts of Israel. Blessed stream! Blessed source! " They drank of that spiritual rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ;" type of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, the promised Comforter, after the true Rock was smitten for us. What food was theirs, what drink! Bread from heaven, and water from the smitten Rock! Happy people whose God is the Lord!
He was even taking care of their clothes. " Thy garment waxed not old upon thee." How naturally we should expect in a journey, with such a God, to hear of a people wholly given to Him, fully alive to the grace that was theirs as having Him in their midst. But when we turn to Num. 20, what a sad tale of unfaithfulness on their part and faithfulness on Jehovah's marked the way during that long, weary journey of forty years, to traverse that which was but a journey of eleven days! (Dent. i. 2.) They had seen the cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, going before them instead of eyes, to search out a resting-place for them-Jehovah charging Himself to do what man had no heart to do for them. (Num. 10) Yet, in spite of all this grace, we find them, in chapter xi., murmuring in heart and loathing " this manna," their portion from heaven by the way, and turning back in heart to Egypt, longing for the leeks and the onions and the garlic and the flesh-pots of Egypt, though nothing but bondage was there. Again, we find them sending up the spies to search the land, and, on their return, eating the grapes of Esheol and hearing the report of the spies. " We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it." But the word was not mixed with faith in them that heard it, and they think of the Anakims and themselves, and forget their God, except to say, " Would God we had died in the wilderness." He granted their cry, and sent them back again that the murmurers might have their desire, " Would God we had died," &c. They had seen the excellent glory go back and become a wanderer with them, while dealing thus with their sin in His wondrous grace. Again, He would, in chapter xv., refresh their ears by detailing their services for Him, which He would have them observe " when they would be come into the land of their habitation, which I give unto you." He would bring them in for His own, name's sake. But we would fain draw a curtain over the scene that follows here,- were it not that such lessons are so necessary for our souls. They have been recorded by our God for our learning, and for ensamples for us upon whom the ends of the world are come. (I speak of chap. 16.)
How unbelief leads to hardness of heart by the deceitfulness of sin! This we find fully exemplified in the rebellion of Korah and his company. The people had begun by forgetting that God was among them, and had measured their enemies with themselves. Then they had charged the Lord with bringing them up to die by the sword. And now we find them attempting to approach the presence of God in their own way, rebelling against His servants, Moses and Aaron, who represented Him. They sought the priesthood also. Where is it that unbelief will not lead, when it commences its insidious attacks upon our souls! Jehovah had one provision more, when rebellion was at its height, that He might not consume them al together for their rebellious heart. This was the rod of priestly grace, Aaron's rod that budded. The dry stick " budded and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds." Living and victorious over death, the rod of priesthood was instituted as that alone which could now lead them into the land. Now at last we find the people abiding at Kadesh, on the borders of the promised land, a long journey passed, a wearisome way, in which they bad learned their own hearts much, but they had learned the heart of God more. Yet, blessed as these lessons had been, deep and precious, we hear the voice of rebellion here as rife as ever. " And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates, neither is there any water to drink." Had the thirsty hosts forgotten the day of Rephidim? Was the wilderness more full; or the Lord less able to supply them now than then? No. But now there was no need for the Rock to be smitten. That had once been done, once and forever. The Lawgiver's Rod had stricken one blow on. that Rock, never to be repeated. From what source then was the supply to come? " And the Lord spake unto Moses saying, Take the rod" (the rod of priesthood living and victorious over death which had brought forth fruit in resurrection power, that a blow would only injure and bruise) " and gather thou the assembly together, thou and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye to the rock before their eyes, and it shall give forth his water." No smiting is needed now; that had once been done by the rod of the lawgiver. Nothing now is required but to show the sign of priesthood, of grace, and to speak to the Rock, and all the wants of the people would be supplied. Alas! the " meekest man," indignant at the conduct of the people, forgets himself; and thinks of the injured honor of Jehovah, and of the chiding of the congregation. He rises not up to God's thoughts, who can be above the evil in grace; and he sanctified not Jehovah before their eyes. He took " his rod," and " lifted up his hand and smote the rock twice." The Lord, ever gracious, rises above His servant in this too, and yields the supply to refresh the hosts of Israel, " And the congregation drank and their beasts also."
But Moses had exalted himself, and he who does so must be abased. " He spake unto Moses and Aaron, because ye believed me not to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them." And yet in His infinite grace He can take His servant, Moses, up to the heights of Pisgah, and show him the land of promise, and permit him to survey in His presence " all the land of Gilead unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar." (Deut. 34.) He permits him to step from thence to the mount of transfiguration and see His glory there, and talk with Elias of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem; but He could not permit the lawgiver to bring them in to the land. Nothing but priesthood founded on grace and triumphant in resurrection, could give to drink the water to the thirsty hosts, or lead them into the land. Priesthood founded on redemption, "ever living," " saving completely," from the beginning to the end of their journey could alone do this.
How beautifully we have its perpetuity shadowed to us in this chapter. (Num. 20:22-2922And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor. 23And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying, 24Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah. 25Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor: 26And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there. 27And Moses did as the Lord commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. 28And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount. 29And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel. (Numbers 20:22‑29).) Aaron clad in his high priestly garments going up to the top of mount Her to give up his priesthood there, and Eleazer, his son, coming down clad in those robes of glory and beauty, in the sight of all the congregation of Israel. No break is in the chain, not a link wanting; a living priest, clad for service, goes up before them, and a living priest comes down, clad for service too. Precious figure of Him who is not made after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the Power of an endless life. (Heb. 7)
F. G. P.