Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. AARON IS EQUALISED WITH THE REST. He had been equalized before in voluntary humility (Numbers 16:16, 17). Now the thing is specially commanded. Aaron is taken as a simple member of the tribe of Levi. and Levi itself is considered as but one of the tribes of Israel. Thus to any one disposed to complain of Aaron exalting himself, God, as it were, gave for answer: "Aaron does not exalt himself; he is nothing more than any of you. Let there be a rod for each of the tribes, and nothing to make his better than the rest. It shall then be made manifest that whatever his power, his holiness, his honour, they do not come from anything inherent in himself as a simple Israelite." And so in a certain sense Jesus was equalized with men (Philippians 2:6-8). He grew to manhood among the poor and lowly. He had been so like the rest of the simple Nazarenes in outward form, so unpretending, so little fitted to excite attention and wonderment, that his brethren did not believe in him. There was everything in him but sin to show his community with men. He became in all things like his brethren; and one of the results of this full, demonstrative humanity is to make clear how highly God exalted him (Philippians 2:9-11)
II. The objects taken to represent the tribes ONCE HAD LIFE IN THEM. They were not stones of the wilderness which God was about to turn into living, fruitful branches. The work was one of restoration, not of creation altogether fresh and original. But for sin, all these Israelites, Aaron included, would have been like branches, full of beautiful and fruitful life rejoicing in God's presence, instead of being, as they were, dead to him, alive to sin. These rods, were significant for their past as well as their future. The Israelites used these rods doubtless for some purpose to which dead wood could be put, and thinking nothing of the life that had once been in them. Dead wood is useful, but the state and service are low as compared with those of the living tree. So Israel was now in an utterly humiliated state, quite ignorant and careless as to the glory and joy of man's first unfallen days. These tribes were now as dead rods, but if all had gone according to the original purpose, they would have been as living, fruitful branches. It is part of the priestly office of Christ to bring back that which is lost, and to swallow up in a new and glorious creation the ruin that has befallen the old one.
III. Hence the CAPACITY OF RESTORATION is indicated to the people. Ask an Israelite if a rod, a dead, sapless, long-separated branch, shall live again, he will reply, "No." In one sense he is right, for such a thing is outside of his experience; in another sense he is wrong, as not knowing the power of God. Aaron's rod alone lived, but it is plain that the same power which revived it could have acted on the rest with a like result. When Jesus was raised from the dead, this was an indication that all dead ones might come back to life. "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19). The very descent of Aaron to an equality with the rest implied a possibility that they might ascend to an equality with him. The risen Saviour in the glory of his heavenly life is the first-born among many brethren. Aaron became different from the rest in order that by his difference he might draw the rest nearer to God. The rod budded for the benefit of the rods that remained dead.
IV. THERE IS AN ANTICIPATION OF THE SLOWER PROCESSES OF NATURE. Not only is dead wood restored to life, but the life rushes forward into fruit. In the Lord's hand the work of all seasons can be done in a night. Buds, blossoms, and fruit at the same time! What a fullness of life this indicates! By thus combining in one example three stages of plant life, God shows the power of the priest's office. There was not only promise, but performance. It would have been a work of God to show just peeping buds; but the work of God here is to show life in its fullness. It was the clamour of the people that nothing more than empty promise had been got out of Moses. They had lately learned that Aaron's office was full of worth by his protecting atonement as against the plague. Now in this budding, blossoming, fruit-bearing rod they see both promise and performance. He who makes the rod bud is thereby promising; he who makes it blossom is drawing onward in increased hope; but he who also makes it yield fruit shows that he can perform as well as promise. So may we think of Jesus. Consider the multitudes for whom and in whom his priestly work is being done. They are in different stages. With some the bud, with some the blossom, with some the ripened, fragrant fruit. It needed that all stages should be shown in the life of the typifying rod.
V. THE USUAL AIDS OF NATURE, THE AIDS COMMONLY COUNTED NECESSARY, ARE DISPENSED WITH. There is no planting of the rods in the soil, no exposure to the sunshine and the rain. God, who usually works through many combined ministries, and shows man the blessed fellow-worker with himself, finds it fitting here, for his glory, and for the full manifestation of the truth, to set all customary ministries on one side. If usually there are all these aids, it is because of what is fitting, not of what is indispensably needed. Nothing is needed but to lay the rods in the tabernacle, before the testimony. Thus we see how far from any human choice, contrivance, or control was the budding of this rod. The result was from God's secret power, and that alone. Thereby he invested Aaron and the ark and every priestly function with fresh importance. Henceforth we look upon Aaron not only as one who keeps back death from the living, but who has to do with the giving back of life to the dead. When this rod was formerly on the tree it did not live after this glorious fashion. There was life, but not in such exaltation and abundance. This rod was known henceforth not after its first life, but its second. So now we know Christ not after the flesh, but after the spirit; not according to those first works, in curing the sick, assuaging temporal sorrows, or even bringing back Lazarus to continue awhile longer his mortal life, but according to those second works by which he, the chosen and only mediatorial channel of them, saves, sanctifies, and perfects those who come to God through him. If this marvelous rod so glorified Aaron, and stopped the murmurings of the people, should it not have stone effect, rightly and repeatedly considered, in glorifying Jesus, and bringing us closer to him in humble acceptance and faith. The murmuring of the Israelites was a great evil, but our neglect of that gracious Intercessor whom God has appointed is not one whit better. - Y.
I. As A MIRACLE. It was an unmistakable sign of God's interposition (such a natural impossibility the occasion of an oath among the heathen: Homer's 'Iliad,' 1:233, and Virgil's 'AEneid,' 15:206), as every miracle is, - on behalf of his servant Aaron, "disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God," - and in condemnation of "the rebels." Even if regarded as an arbitrary sign, it was none the less sufficient. God required that the miracles of Moses per se should be accepted both by the sympathetic Israelites and the reluctant Pharaoh (Exodus 4:1-8). So too did our Lord (John 14:11; John 15:24). This miracle permanent so long as the rod existed. And all miracles, though transitory, of permanent value as proofs of the interposition of God (Exodus 3:14).
II. As A SYMBOL.
1. "The almond tree, as that which most quickly brings forth blossoms and beautiful fruit, is an emblem of the mighty power of the word of God, which is ever fresh and unfailing in its fulfillment" (Jeremiah 1:11, 12).
2. A sign of the permanent vitality of God's appointed priesthood as "an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations" (Exodus 40:15).
3. A type of the miraculous attestation of the unchangeable priesthood of Christ. God, who "fulfils himself in many ways," about, hereafter, to replace the priesthood of Aaron by a Priest chosen by himself, after the order of Melchizedec. This priesthood attested by a resurrection (Acts 13:33; Hebrews 5:9, 10), of which the resurrection of this dead tree was a type. And now that the risen Christ is in the holiest place, in the presence of God, his resurrection and reign in glory are signs to all murmurers of his appointment as the one High Priest and King, who "shall send forth the rod of his strength," and reign till all enemies are placed beneath his feet. - P.
I. The rod of Moses, a shepherd's staff, a commonplace instrument, changed by God's power into "the rod of God" (Exodus 4:17), "the rod of his strength."
(1) For the conviction of Moses himself (Exodus 4:1-5);
(2) for the punishment of the rebellious (Exodus 7:20, &c.);
(3) for the deliverance of God's servants from imminent danger (Exodus 14:16, 26);
(4) for the supply of their most urgent wants (Exodus 17:5, 6);
(5) for the conquest of their foes (Exodus 17:9-12). Thus God makes the weakest commonest things of the world "mighty through God" (1 Corinthians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 10:4). The rod of the lowly Jesus is "a rod of strength," or" of iron" (Psalm 2:9; Psalm 110:2; Isaiah 11:4).
II. The rod of Aaron, a tribal scepter, a symbol of power, as the shepherd's staff was not. This symbol of authority used for remedial and spiritual purposes.
(1) For the confutation of presumptuous upstarts;
(2) for the preservation of the tempted from further sin and consequent destruction (verse 10):
(3) for a type of the fruitfulness of every institution ordained and sustained by God. See further under verse 8. Thus God makes his mightiest power the means of attaining spiritual ends for the we]fare even of sinners. "Christ the power of God" is "the power of God unto salvation." The "Prince" is also the "Saviour" (Acts 5:31). - P.