Aaron's Rod
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Hebrews, chapter 9:

Hebrews 9

1Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.

“The first covenant” is a reference to the Mosiac covenant, to the ordinances of divine service, and to various regulations and feasts which we will be noticing in connection with our study of the Tabernacle. “A worldly sanctuary” means a sanctuary related to this cosmos, to this earth.

Hebrews 9

2For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.
3And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
4Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;
5And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.

Paul means, “of which we cannot now speak in detail.” He says that he is simply naming the various pieces of furniture in the Tabernacle. According to that verse, we have gone through the second room, wherein were the Ark of the Covenant and the golden censer. The golden censer was carried by the priest; and when we study the high priest and his garments, we will see the significance of the golden censer.

The Ark of the Covenant was a little chest-like object in the second room of the Tabernacle. It was 27 inches wide, 27 inches high, and 45 inches long. There were rings in each corner of the Ark of the Covenant, and through those rings were passed staves which were used for the purpose of carrying it when it and the other pieces of furniture were transported from place to place as the children of Israel moved through the wilderness. The Tabernacle was not meant to be a permanent dwelling place. It was moved only as the children of Israel went from place to place.

We have been studying the contents of the Ark of the Covenant. We began our study of the Tabernacle with this piece of furniture because the book of Exodus presents the Tabernacle in this fashion. We have already noticed that within the Ark of the Covenant there were the two tables of stone upon which were written the law of God. We noticed also that there was a golden pot of manna.

The Rod That Budded

We want now to look with you at Aaron's rod that budded, which is the third item in the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was covered with the Mercy Seat, which was a separate piece of furniture, yet served as a lid to the Ark of the Covenant. Over the Mercy Seat were the cherubim which faced each other and looked down upon the Ark of the Covenant itself. If we are to understand the rod that budded which was in the Ark, we will have to know what the Bible has to say about rods.

There are four Hebrew words for “rod” in the Scriptures. There is not enough difference in those four words for us to examine them in great detail. One of the words is used of a rod that is like a dead stick. Break a dead limb off a tree, and that would be a rod. One of the words is used to describe a branch that you just break off a tree. It will have leaves on it, and you don't bother to strip it down. Another word for “rod” describes a branch broken off a tree, with the limbs very carefully cut off, all the crooked pieces cut out, and a stave made of it. The fourth word for “rod” is a rather nondescript word that has no special significance.

The reason there is no point in our examining these words in the places where they are used in the Scriptures is that they are used interchangeably. But if we were careful in our search of the Word of God, we would discover that there are approximately five kinds of rods mentioned in the Scriptures. I would like for us to notice them, because when you see the word “rod” in the Scriptures you need to know its significance if you are to receive the lesson of this section.

An Ordinary Stick

Turn, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 28, verse 23:

Isaiah 28

23Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech.
24Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground?
25When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place?
26For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.
27For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.
28Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.
29This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.

I suggest that you read this passage of Scripture carefully and meditate upon it; it is full of good things. We read it primarily that we might know why a rod is used. I want to emphasize that when we speak about the rod, we are thinking about a very ordinary stick. It is important for you to remember that.

This particular rod is what we might refer to as the “farmer's rod.” The farmer kept it on the threshing floor, and when it came time to thresh the various kinds of grain, they were threshed in the manner that is described here. Cummin was beaten out with a farmer's rod. The rod about which we are thinking could very easily have been a farmer's rod, just an ordinary stick before God blessed it.

The Shepherd's Rod

Turn in your Bibles, please, to Psalm 23, a familiar portion of the Word of God. Many of you have committed this to memory, and I suppose all of you have found in this Psalm a great blessing for your hearts.

Psalms 23

4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Here we have presented the shepherd's rod–the rod that the shepherd used consistently in his work. The purpose of the rod was to see that the sheep were counted well when they were put into the fold at night and that they did not wander in the wrong direction. The rod which Moses and Aaron had could very well have been a shepherd's rod, because Moses, you will remember, tended the flocks of Jethro on the back side of the desert long before he became the leader of the nation of Israel.

The Soldier's Rod

Turn, please, to the book of I Samuel, chapter 14, verse 27. This is a story about Jonathan, with whom many of you are familiar. We will not take the time to read the body of Scripture that surrounds the verse at which we wish to look. You will remember that King Saul had given orders, because of the dire circumstances, that the people were not to eat any food that day. The message had not reached Jonathan. He was very hungry, and we read in verse 27:

I Samuel 14

27But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.

This is the soldier's rod, and it is very possible that this could have been the rod that Moses had. It is a possibility because, though we think of Moses as a prophet and as a great teacher, he was one of the world's greatest military commanders.

The Tribal Rod

Now turn to Psalm 74:

Psalms 74

1O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?
2Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.

Notice the phrase, “the rod of thine inheritance.” It was a tribal rod, and here it is used symbolically. Each of the twelve tribes of Israel had a rod which was the symbol of their authority. Because the rod was the symbol of their authority, often writers of the Scriptures spoke of the tribe in connection with their rod; instead of calling it a tribe, they called it a rod. A very good illustration of that, and one in line with our study, is found in chapter 11 of the book of Isaiah. Here we have a prophetic passage of Scripture, and the subject of that prophecy is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ:

Isaiah 11

1And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
2And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
3And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
4But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

In this paragraph there are two rods mentioned. The one in the first verse refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Here the important person of the tribe is referred to as the rod and not the tribe. In verse 4, the word “rod” is used again, and here it speaks of the Word of God which the Lord Jesus Christ will utter when He returns to this earth and visits judgment upon the world.

The Sovereign's Rod

That leads us to the last use of the word “rod”. Turn, please, to Psalm 2. This is a prophetic Psalm that speaks of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to this earth to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It describes the attitude of some of the nations of the world–one which will eventually be the attitude of all the nations of the world:

Psalms 2

1Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

When you see the word “heathen” in the Scriptures, say “nation” in your own mind at least, because “heathen” did not have the meaning then that if has today. Usually we think of people in some benighted part of the world who have never heard the Gospel as being heathen. But this is the Old Testament, and everyone who was not a Jew was a heathen to the Jewish writers. It would be better to substitute the word “nations” or “Gentile nations”. We could read the verse: “Why do the nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?”

Psalms 2

2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD [that is, against Jehovah], and against his anointed [that is the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ], saying,

Then the Psalmist reports the conversation that is held among the nations of the world when they say:

Psalms 2

3Let us break their bands [the bands refer to the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father] asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

What effect do you suppose that will have on God? In verse 4 we are told. This is one of those rare instances in the Bible, and there are three of them, in which it is recorded that God laughs. This is not a jolly kind of laugh. It is not a laugh which is spontaneous with enjoyment. It is a laugh of derision:

Psalms 2

4He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD [Jehovah] shall have them in derision.

God will be tremendously amused at their efforts to break the bands of God asunder. We should remember that, because sometimes we are vitally concerned about the atheistic philosophy that seems to be sweeping the world may be successful and that the things for which we have always stood will be no more. But remember this: When the nations of the world get together and try to break the bands of God from them, God will sit in the heavens and laugh. When He has worn them out:

Psalms 2

5Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

Then He will make an announcement:

Psalms 2

6Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

Get the picture. The kings of the earth are objecting to the authority of God, and God vexes them in His sore displeasure. Then He says, “I have an announcement to make. I have set my King upon my holy hill in Zion.” The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son, interrupts and says:

Psalms 2

7I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
8Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

When was it that God said to His Son, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee”? When was it that God said to His Son, “Ask of Me and I shall give thee the nation of the earth for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession”? Well, the answer is found in the last part of verse 7: “This day have I begotten thee.”

Usually the word “begotten” is related in our minds to birth. If you assume this here, you will be in error, because the Lord Jesus Christ is not begotten in the sense that man is begotten. This is the word that is always used in connection with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. When the Lord Jesus Christ died and arose from the grave and ascended back into Heaven, God said to Him–we say this reverently–“Son, You have completed the work that I gave You to do, and I want to reward You. Ask Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for Your possession.”

You see, we are not fighting a losing battle. It has already been settled:

Psalms 2

9Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

This is the promise that is given to the Lord Jesus Christ–that someday He will hold in His hand the sovereign's rod. This is the fifth rod that is mentioned in the Bible–the sovereign's rod. The Psalmist gives advice to the nations of the world in verse 10:

Psalms 2

10Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
11Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little…

Notice in verse 12 the phrase, “Kiss the Son.” This was the sign of obeisance in the Orient. When one was conquered by another, he knelt and kissed the feet of the conquering king. The Psalmist was saying to the nations of the world, “You will have to bow your knees someday. Why not do it now? Kiss the Son, lest He be angry with you.” Then he added, “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”

Of these five rods we have mentioned, any one of them could have been the rod which belonged either to Moses or Aaron. We are interested in the two which Moses and Aaron did use. If we are to understand Aaron's rod that budded, it will be necessary for us to understand the difference between the rod of Moses and the rod of Aaron. I want to emphasize that, because you will miss the meaning of the whole lesson if you do not realize that God took an ordinary branch of a tree and made it a tremendous thing.

Moses' Rod

Turn, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 4, in which you will find the first use of a rod on the part of either Moses or Aaron. This passage of Scripture describes the use of Moses' rod:

Exodus 4

1And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.
2And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.

He gave a very natural answer. Keep in mind that Moses was saying to God, “You have asked me to go down to Egypt and lead the people of Israel out. You expect me to tell them that You appeared to me in a burning bush. They will not believe a fantastic tale like that.” God did not argue with him. He said, “What do you have in your hand?” Moses said, “The rod that I carry with me always–the shepherd's rod, the farmer's rod. There is nothing unusual about it.” God said, “Isn't there?”

Exodus 4

3And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent…

It did not wiggle like a serpent just because the earth vibrated, as some people would have you think. It became a serpent so real that Moses fled from it.

Exodus 4

4And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail…

I would like to see what an artist would do with a picture of the fear that Moses had, running as fast as he could run, and then God's telling him to take that serpent by the tail. It took a lot of courage.

Exodus 4

4…And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand:

Again, just an ordinary rod. “That is all you will ever need,” God said. “This rod, turned completely over to Me, will become a symbol of power.” We have found that it did.

You will notice in verse 17 another use of the word “rod” in this chapter:

Exodus 4

17And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.

This was the rod that had become a snake and then became a rod again. Look at verse 20:

Exodus 4

20And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took [his] rod in his hand.

Is that the way your Bible reads? Mine reads that Moses took the rod of God in his hand, because this ordinary stick that Moses had used as a shepherd's rod, as a farmer's rod, became the rod of God when God decided to use it.

Aaron's Rod for Sustenance of Life

Turn, please, to chapter 7 of the book of Exodus:

Exodus 7

19And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.

This is the first time that Aaron's rod is mentioned except for what Moses said to him in verse 9:

Exodus 7

8And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
9When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.

Moses had a rod. Aaron had a rod. You might assume that they were made for the same purpose. We do not have time to do it, but when you have the time, study the way in which Moses used his rod and Aaron used his. You will find, with the one exception that we noticed in verse 19, that Aaron used his rod only for the production or the sustenance of life. Moses' rod, on the other hand, with one exception, was used for the purpose of judgment. If we keep that in mind, we will be able to understand that God made a difference between the lawgiver's rod and the high priest's rod.

Moses' Rod for Judgment

That difference becomes very evident in the book of Numbers, chapter 20. Here we find the record of how the children of Israel in the wilderness needed water for the second time. There was a time when they needed water, and God directed Moses to a rock in the wilderness. Moses took his rod and struck the rock and water came forth. This is the only time that he used his rod for the sustenance of life. We might even question that, because when we followed the symbolism of the story, the striking of the rock was the symbol of the striking of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross in judgment.

The children of Israel had come to the place where they needed water again. We read:

Numbers 20

8Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.

Water had to be provided; and God said, “Take the rod and speak to the rock, and there will be water for the people and water for the animals.” We wonder which rod this was. Was it the rod of Moses or was it the rod of Aaron in verse 9? We anticipate ourselves a bit before the incident that is the basis for our story. It was Aaron's rod, because it was Aaron's rod in chapter 9, verse 4, of the book of Hebrews that was laid up before the Lord. We will be looking in a moment at Numbers, chapters 16 and 17, so you can see we are a little bit ahead of ourselves, but for a purpose.

Moses Disobedience

In verse 9, Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as He commanded him. so the rod that was used this second time they needed water was Aaron's rod. Think with me. The first time they got water out of the rock, it was Moses' rod. The rock had to be smitten. But when they were to get water out of the rock the second time, it was not the rod of the lawgiver, but the rod of the high priest. Notice what happened:

Numbers 20

10And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?
11And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

That is, Moses smote the rock for the second time. This does not mean that he smote the rock twice at that time. It refers the fact that this is the second time that the rock was smitten. He smote it first some years before; now he is smiting it for the second time. Someone says, “Wonderful; everything is settled.” Not quite. Look at verse 12:

Numbers 20

12And the LORD 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.

“Moses,” God said, “you never should have struck the rock. You disobeyed Me. I said, 'Speak to the rock.' You struck it!”

Symbol of Intercession

As we learned from subsequent passages of Scripture, Moses was forbidden to go into the promised land because he dared to strike the rock. Oh, why take Aaron's rod? Aaron's rod was used in order to symbolize that because of the intercession of the high priest, the rock did not need to be smitten again. This rod, and the smiting of the rock the first time, as we learned when we were studying the book of Exodus earlier, were symbolic of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ was smitten once. His blood was shed, and now for sin there is no need for him to be crucified afresh. There is only need for Him to intercede in our behalf on the basis of His shed blood. That is why Aaron's rod was placed in the Ark of the Covenant and not Moses' rod.

Aaron's, the high priest's, rod was typical of the intercessory work that is being done by the Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of the throne of God on our behalf. Not everyone wants to accept that fact. That is why the rod was placed in the Ark.

Rebellion of the Rebites

Turn, please, to chapter 16 of the book of Numbers. In this chapter, we have the story of the rebellion led by four individuals: Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi; Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab; and On, the son of Pelleth, the son of Reuben. These four men rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel–two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly. These were well known men in the nation of Israel.

Numbers 16

3And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and [notice] said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?

Do you see what happened? They came together, 250 princes, led by these individuals, and called Moses and Aaron out and said, “We want to know why you think you're so big. We want to know why you think you can stand between us and God. We are just as holy as you are.” As soon as Moses heard that, he fell on his face. The reason he fell on his face was that he realized what a serious sin they were about to commit. Moses had learned that no man could stand before God without a mediator, and that was exactly what they were trying to be. Moses said, “Tomorrow God will make the decision. I will not argue with you. I will not try to convince you of what is right. God will make the decision. Take you censers, Korah, and all his company.” Now notice verse 7:

Numbers 16

7And put fire therein, and put incense in them before the LORD to morrow: and it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy: ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.
8And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi:
9Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?
10And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?
11For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the LORD: and what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him?

Get the picture in these words. The tribe of Levi (there were twelve tribes) were set aside to be priests in ministering the worship of the Tabernacle. They had the opportunity of carrying the various pieces of furniture, the various vessels and the implements of the sacrifices. They even had the opportunity of sharing in some of the sacrifices. They were a group who officiated in the Tabernacle worship. Moses said to them, “This is a tremendous honor that God has given you. Why on earth do you want the priesthood also?” The reason he said that was that God had only one high priest. The first high priest God had was Aaron. The descendants of Aaron followed in the office until there came a time when one arose who was not of Aaron's tribe, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the last high priest that men knew, for He was able to finish the work that none of the others could do.

God Chooses His Priests

We mentioned the censer to you earlier in our discussion, and we said that Aaron took the censer when he went into the Most Holy Place once a year on the day of atonement. He took the censer, some fire from off the altar, and some incense from off the altar, and made a great cloud of smoke, When the cloud of smoke arose, he went through the veil where no one could look upon the Mercy Seat. These Levites wanted to do what Aaron did, and so Moses said, “I will not argue with you about it. Get you a censer tomorrow, all of you. Meet here and we will let God decide who are his priests and who are not.” In verse 17, Moses said:

Numbers 16

17And take every man his censer, and put incense in them, and bring ye before the LORD every man his censer, two hundred and fifty censers; thou also, and Aaron, each of you his censer.
18And they took every man his censer [a little bowl on a chain in which there is fire and incense] , and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, and stood in the door of the tabernacle of the congregation with Moses and Aaron.
19And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation.
20And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
21Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.
22And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?
23And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
24Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
25And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him.
26And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins.
27So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children.
28And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind.
29If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the LORD hath not sent me.
30But 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.

Get the picture in your minds. These four men, led by Korah and the 250 priests, gathered at the Tabernacle. Aaron had his censer in his hand, too. Suddenly the glory of the Lord appeared over the Mercy Seat in this part of the Tabernacle; and as soon as it appeared, a voice came from the cloud saying to Moses and Aaron, “Step back, Moses and Aaron. I am going to destroy this people.” Aaron, the intercessor, fell on his face and said, “God, are you going to destroy the whole congregation because of the sin of one man?” Immediately they sent word to all the congregation of Israel to separate themselves from Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.

You understand that the tents of Israel were all around the Tabernacle. It was the center. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram had their tents, and these people were gathered with them after the glory of the Lord appeared; they had all stepped back into their tents. As soon as the people separated themselves, going back to their own tents, Moses, seeing Dathan and Abiram and Korah in their tents, said, “If these men die natural deaths, then you do not have to listen to anything I say.” You remember the rest of the story. Moses said, “If the ground opens up and swallows you, you will know whom God has chosen.” Well, in the rest of the chapter, the ground did open up and swallow them, and they perished–every single one of them.

Continued Rebellion

You would think that would convince the people of God's choice, but the tendency of the human heart toward rebellion against God never ceases to amaze me. Certainly that is the case here, because these people, instead of saying, “Moses, we believe you now; we know what has happened,” they got mad at Moses and said, “You have killed the people of the Lord. You are responsible for the deaths of these people.” God was so angry that He said, “Now I will destroy them.” A plague started in the midst of them, and what happened? Aaron, the high priest, the intercessor, the man who stood between the multitude and God, took a censer and went out into the midst of the congregation where the people were suffering from the plague; he stood between the people who were already afflicted and the people who were about to be afflicted, and as he stood there as a high priest of God and as an intercessor, the plague was stopped. The people were spared.

God's Appointment of Aaron

One final sign had to be given to convince the people that you do not appoint yourself a high priest, nor do you approach God in any manner that you deem wise. You approach God according to His appointed channel. So in chapter 17 of the book of Numbers, Moses said:

Numbers 17

2Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man's name upon his rod.
3And thou shalt write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers.
4And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you.
5And it shall come to pass, that the man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you.

Moses conveyed this message to the tribes of Israel. Twelve rods were then laid in the second room of the Tabernacle, one for each tribe, including Aaron's. The name of the leader of each tribe was written upon his rod. All of it was done open and above board, so that everyone would know what was happening. God said, “The rod that I cause to bud belongs to the man that I have chosen to intercede in behalf of the people.” Notice verse 7:

Numbers 17

7And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness.
8And 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.
9And Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD unto all the children of Israel: and they looked, and took every man his rod.
10And the LORD said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony [that is, before the ark] , to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not.
11And Moses did so: as the LORD commanded him, so did he.
12And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish.
13Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?

The question demands a negative answer because Aaron, the high priest, whose rod was in the Ark of the Covenant, could stand between them and the wrath of God.

Significance of Rod That Budded

Keep in mind that the rod that budded and blossomed and bore the fruit of almonds was a dead stick when it was placed in the Most Holy Place before the Tabernacle. God vindicated his man by letting his rod bud, blossom, and bear fruit. Does this sound strange? It should seem strange to you, because usually the branch gives the bud, and the bud gives way to the blossom; when the blossom dies, the fruit is produced. You cannot have one without the other. But on this rod, to which God gave life, they all existed at the same time. The bud is representative of life; the blossom is representative of beauty, and the almond is representative of life.

In the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom this rod speaks, we find all these things. There is life. Paul said in his letter to the Hebrews, “He ever liveth to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25). He is beautiful. When he was on the earth, Isaiah said there was no beauty that we should desire him (Isaiah 53:2). But the Psalmist sees Him at the right hand of the throne of God as our Intercessor, pleading for us, and He said that someday we shall see the King and his beauty face to face. The fruit which is signified by the almond is the fruit that is born in your life and mine as we submit and yield our lives to Him.

Intercessor for the Earthly High Priest

Notice upon what the fruitfulness depends–the intercessory work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn with me to the book of Zechariah, chapter 4, for one of the best illustrations of the intercessory work of Christ that I believe you will find in the Word of God. Zechariah, chapter 3, turns back the curtain in Heaven and gives us a scene enacted in Heaven one day when an individual stood in the presence of God. These are visions which God gave to Zechariah:

Zechariah 3

1And he shewed me Joshua the high priest…

Joshua was a successor to Aaron; many years later he filled the office of the high priest. You would think a high priest would be perfect, wouldn't you? But this was not the case. There was only one perfect High Priest, spotless and undefiled; and that was the Lord Jesus Christ. This was an earthly high priest, and the earthly high priest needed an intercessor just as you and I do.

Zechariah 3

1And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD [whenever you see the phrase, ”the angel of the Lord,” in the Old Testament, it is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ of the New Testament] , and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.

Do you get the picture? Here we are in Heaven. Joshua, the high priest is standing there, and the Lord Jesus Christ is standing there also. Who is that other individual standing at the right hand of Joshua? Zechariah looks more closely and sees that it is the Devil. Why is he there? He is there for the purpose of accusing Joshua. The Lord Jesus Christ knows he is there, so we read:

Zechariah 3

2And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?

Jehovah said unto Satan, “Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan.” You are never told anywhere in the Word of God to rebuke the Devil. I hope you don't go about doing it. You have no right to do it. He is not the least bit afraid of you. You have every right in the world to resist him with the blood of Christ as you plead with the Lord Jesus Christ to rebuke the Devil. That is exactly what happened here. The Lord Jesus Christ, anticipating the accusation that the Devil was going to level at Joshua, said to him, “Don't you know that Joshua is a brand plucked out of the burning?”

Intercession By Our Great High Priest

The picture is of a man who is ready to be consumed by fire, and someone rescues him. He is an individual who has been rescued. In verse 3, Zechariah says to himself, “Well, he doesn't look much like anyone who has been rescued.”

Zechariah 3

3Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.

Maybe the Devil did have something to accuse him of. Maybe the Devil did have something to point his finger at. As Zechariah looked at him in his filthy garments, he thought so, but notice verse 4:

Zechariah 3

4And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.

My, these are beautiful words. Joshua was standing there in his own strength, realizing that his garments were filthy, and realizing that the Devil could tell so much on him if he wanted to tell it, trembling from head to toe; and the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Take those dirty garments away. They don't belong to him.” Then in a word of reassurance to Joshua He said, “I caused your iniquity to pass from you. Don't worry; I will give you a change of raiment.” In verse 5, He said:

Zechariah 3

5And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head [that is the headpiece of the high priest] . So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.
6And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying,
7Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.
8Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH [this is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ when He comes to the earth the first time] .
9For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
10In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree.

This is a vision related to that future day when the nation of Israel will be cleansed from all her sin and testifies of the Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of the throne of God in our behalf. Don't be confused and think that this refers to what some people tell you will occur when you die–that you will stand in the presence of God and tremble from head to foot and wonder if you will be accepted or turned away. It does not refer to the fable that some people repeat that you go up to the gates of Heaven and knock on the door, and Peter leaves you standing out in the cold while he goes to see whether or not you are accepted. If it is not settled before you get there, it is too late to settle it then.

What this refers to is what is happening at the present time at the throne of God; the Devil is accusing every believer at the throne of God, and he has a lot to accuse us of. You know that. If the veil were pulled back from your life and mine, a lot of sin would be revealed. But the Lord Jesus Christ stands there when the accusations come and says to God, “Rebuke Satan, Father; I gave My life. This is a brand plucked from the burning.” The Devil has no answer for that.


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