Scripture: And the LORD said to Moses, “Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.” Thus did Moses; as the LORD commanded him, so he did. Numbers 17:10-11 ESV
Observation: To put an exclamation mark on who is God’s chosen priest to represent the nation before him and to put an end to the grumbling against Moses and Aaron, Yahweh instructs Moses to command each chief of the eleven tribes, plus Aaron (representing the Levites), to shape a staff and bring it to him. Each clan leader is to write his name on his staff and submit it to Moses, who will place them before the “testimony” (the ark of the Holy of Holies) in the tent of meeting. There, the Lord will cause the staff of the one he chooses to sprout (17:1-5). So Moses communicates the Lord’s instructions before the congregation, and the clan leaders oblige. The next day, Moses gathers the twelve staffs and presents them to the people, and they witness that Aaron’s alone has not only sprouted but blossomed and borne ripe almonds (17-6-9).
Lastly, Yahweh commands Moses to return Aaron’s staff before the testimony as a warning sign for any rebels and a reminder that those who continue to grumble against the Lord will die. So Moses faithfully follows instructions (above verses). And the people respond with a rightful sense of dread (knowing that they are prone to grumbling) and cry out to Moses, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone. Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the LORD, shall die. Are we all to perish?” (17:12-13 ESV).
Takeaway: The placement of Aaron’s staff in the Holy of Holies meant that just Aaron would see it. While future generations would hear of Aaron’s staff and its backstory through oral tradition, only the succession of high priests would see the evidence of this miracle. But the Lord, who dwells in the Holy of Holies, would forever be reminded of his chosen one. Twelve hundred years later, the Chosen One, ever before the Father, would dwell among his people and end the strife by standing in place of us grumblers, suffering the death we deserve. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV).
Hallelujah! We may confidently enter “the holy places” by the blood of our Savior (Hebrews 10:19). And we need not fear being undone or perishing when we lapse into grumbling. Why? Because our Great High Priest has opened the curtain to God’s throne of grace, cleansing our hearts from our evil consciences and washing our sin-marred bodies clean (Hebrews 10:20-22). Thus, we can confidently approach his throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help us resist grumbling (Hebrews 4:16).
Prayer: Father God, thank you for reversing the curse through the gift of your Chosen One, who suffered the death sentence we all deserve, that we might draw near to you in confidence that we will not perish but have everlasting life. Would you please help us remember this priceless gift and, with the help of your Holy Spirit, resist grumbling when life does not go our way? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling