“Put these staffs in the Tabernacle in front of the Ark of the Covenant, where I meet with you. Buds will sprout on the staff belonging to the man I choose. Then I will finally put an end to this murmuring and complaining against you.” — Numbers 17:4-5
We love to grumble about the government, but there’s one thing worse than government—having no government at all. A state of anarchy has existed from time to time in countries like Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, and Indonesia, where law and order collapsed into fear, violence, carnage, and destruction. Although we may not like those in authority, we need them to keep some semblance of peace.
There came a time in Israel’s history when there was such a breakdown in law and order that “the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Those who resented being told what they could or could not do no doubt enjoyed the freedom to live without restrictions and enthusiastically indulge themselves in unrestrained living. This was not a new state of affairs. The Israelites had, throughout their history, shown a marked preference for the freedom to do what they wanted and a definite distaste for authority in any form. Even in the early days, after their remarkable deliverance from slavery of Egypt, when one would have thought they would be ecstatic about divine leadership and direction, they showed a constitutional aversion to God’s leadership through Moses and Aaron.
The issue was of such magnitude to God that He explained to Moses how to “put an end to their complaints against me and prevent any further deaths” (Numbers 17:10). It is important to note that the people’s complaints against Moses and Aaron were, in God’s view, complaints against Him. Moses and Aaron were not self-appointed or democratically elected; they were divinely ordained. So to question them was to question God, and to rebel against them was to rebel against the Holy One of Israel.
The Israelites were reluctant to accept God’s authority through Moses and Aaron, so God determined that a showdown was necessary. He instructed Moses to collect “wooden staffs, one from each of Israel’s ancestral tribes” (17:2). These staffs represented the leader of each tribe. Then Moses stored them in the tabernacle, per the Lord’s instructions. On returning the next morning, the staff belonging to Aaron and the tribe of Levi “had sprouted, blossomed, and produced almonds!” (17:8). Of all the leaders of Israel, when it came down to the priesthood, Aaron was God’s man—the main man. It wasn’t that Aaron’s rod was special. Aaron was special because God had appointed him—and the miraculous rod was God’s way of showing it to the people beyond doubt.
In our times, men still resent authority and much prefer the absence of restrictions. They fondly imagine that this leads to freedom and fullness of life. Granted, authority can be abused and oppression can result. But rightly understood and appropriately applied, authority is divinely delegated for man’s good. Man may not like it—but God insists on it. A man may think that doing what seems right in his own eyes is the way to go. Sadly, he doesn’t see it as the way to go downhill rapidly!
For further study: Numbers 17:1-13
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.