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Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 17

Wells of Living Water CommentaryWells of Living Water

Verses 1-13

God Makes Choice of His Representatives

Numbers 17:1-13


1. God calls all His servants to serve Him. The Word is specific: "To every man his work." Not one of God's children is exempt.

In Luke 19:1-48 we read of how the certain nobleman went into the far country to receive a kingdom and to return. He called his ten servants and gave them each a pound and said, "Occupy till I come." On. his return he called them before him that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. The first had gained ten pounds; the second had gained five, and another said: "Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin." The lord was greatly displeased with the one who did nothing, and who gave excuses for his failure to serve.

It is no light matter when people wrap up their pounds in a napkin. A householder came upon certain ones and said; "Why stand ye here idle all the day?"

The fields are truly white unto the harvest, and the laborers are few. We need to pray that the Lord will thrust forth people into His service.

2. God calls certain servants to certain tasks. In the matter of the placing of His laborers, He has all authority. To one He says: "Go here," to another, "Go there."

With a great world lying out before our Lord, He must of necessity direct the steps of His people, that every part of His field may be occupied.

Think of nine or ten churches in one little community of a few thousand inhabitants, and then of another part of the world field where there are no churches, and none to minister in His Name.

It is for this reason that we read; "To every man his works." Jesus Christ Himself said; "I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do."

No one should assume to take somebody else's position. The world is too big. The demand is too great. The need is too varied to have any one person seeking to duplicate another person's service. We must do our task; we must go where we are sent.

3. God panoplies His servants for their work of ministering. He does not tell us to go, or to do, without giving us power to fulfill our orders. When we are sent He goes with us. He gives us the needed grace. In the loneliest part of the earth, some weary servant may think that he is separated from everyone, but he is not separated from God. The Lord will be with him to strengthen and sustain.

In the world, when men are sent out on business, they are sent out with funds to cover their expenses.

When the government sends out its soldiers to distant parts, those soldiers are backed with all the power and authority of the home base.

The Lord Jesus also puts every resource of Heaven behind His servants who go forth to do His will. He promises to provide for their need. He pledges to give them wisdom for their work. He Himself will never leave them alone. He ever goes before them.


1. A spirit of jealousy pervaded the Children of Israel. From Numbers 15:1-41 we learn how Korah and his group pressed themselves into the office of the priesthood. They were jealous because they were not chosen to serve as priests. God had already slain them, not so much because they desired a special work, but because they, in the jealousy of their spirit, sought to overthrow Moses and Aaron. They murmured against them.

2. The Children of Israel wanted to take the authority of appointing priests into their own hands. What the Lord said, or desired, mattered little to them. They insisted on appointing themselves and their followers into the place of authority.

3. God commanded the Children of Israel to take a rod according to the house of their fathers, and to write every man his name upon his rod. There were twelve tribes, and the Lord proposed that twelve rods should be laid before them. Then the Lord said that He would cause the rod of the man whom He would choose, to blossom.

Is it not true that the Lord has a perfect right to call whomsoever He will into service? Is He not sovereign in His authority? He has a right to say to this one, "Do this," and to another, "Do that" He has a right to make one vessel unto honor, and another to dishonor.

He still, says: "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you."

In the New Testament we are taught that there are diversities of gifts, and that the Spirit divideth to every man severally as He will. "To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge * *; to another faith," etc.


1. Our verse suggests that all were willing to serve. This was not to be condemned. Every man and every woman should make themselves open for service. They should bring their bodies, their all, and present them unto God. They should prostrate themselves before the Most High, and hold themselves ready to be or to do whatsoever He commands.

Each life should stand "at attention" awaiting orders.

2. Our verse suggests that all should seek service. That is the reason they placed their name upon their rod. In the Book of First Corinthians we read: "Covet earnestly the best gifts." The Lord delights in seeing us ambitious for Him.

The Christian who does not want God's best, and who does not want to be his best, and do his best for God, is not all that he should be. It behooves us as believers to lay ourselves before God, and to seek the best of all gifts, that thus we may glorify Him the more.

3. Our verse suggests waiting upon God. The rods were laid up before the Lord, abiding the moment when He should make His choice.

We must not run until we are sent. We must not undertake until He has spoken. Moses did not himself deign to make a choice, and select the rod. It was the Lord who did this. It is not for us, as men, to tell other men what they shall do, where they shall go, or how they shall serve. We must lie low before the Lord, and abide the moment when He shall speak. Then when He has spoken, we must be quick to obey.

III. THE ROD THAT BUDDED (Numbers 17:8 )

When Moses went into the Tabernacle of Witness on the morrow, we read: "Behold, the rod of Aaron for the House of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds."

1. The Lord demonstrated His power of choice. Aaron's rod budded; the others budded not. There may be some who would like to join Korah's band, and cavil against God for having chosen Aaron instead of themselves. God, however, was compelled at that time, and is compelled now, to speak with authority and finality as to the men whom He chooses, and as to the work which He assigns.

In a great army, if the soldiers are turned loose to fight when and where and how they may each select, no victory could ever be achieved. Victory in warfare depends on headship. Headship secures unity of action.

In the Church of Jesus Christ, the Lord Jesus Christ is the exalted Head. Under Him there are apostles, and prophets, and pastors, and evangelists, and teachers. They can lead the flock over which they are made overseers, not as lording it over God's heritage, but as being ensamples in obedience and in life.

2. The Lord's choice was Aaron, and the House of Levi. Only his rod budded and blossomed and yielded almonds.


We present the same verse as the one just discussed, but we are to look at it from a different angle.

1. It is God who causes our lives to be fruitful. Think you that we can bear fruit apart from Him? Our fruit is the fruit of the Spirit, and the Spirit grows the fruit. Ephraim shall say, "From me is Thy fruit found."

He who maketh the ground to bear its fruit, its corn, oil, and wine, will also cause the yielded life to bring forth fruit to His glory.

2. It is God who is honored by our fruitfulness. God blesses and multiplies the fruit of our lives, and then He is honored and glorified thereby. "Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit."

All this is true. Changing the figure He it is who decks us with the ornaments of His grace; with gold, and with silver, with bracelets, and with chains. He it is who clothes us with broidered work, shoes us with badger's skin, and covers us with silk and fine linen. Thus we are made exceeding beautiful by Him.

3. It is the people who are blessed by our buds, our blossoms, and our fruit. No life bears buds and blossoms and almonds for itself.

"I am come into my garden * *: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly."

God has come down into His garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and pomegranates budded. He wants fruit.


We believe that the reason God caused Aaron's rod to bud and to bloom and to yield almonds, was because Aaron's life was of that sort. The others had been fruitless. Therefore their rods were fruitless. There are several lessons here for us.

1. The life that bears fruit, God will choose to bear more fruit. We are members of several mission boards, and in the choice of missionaries who wish to go abroad in a new and larger service for God, we always seek to discover what fruit they have borne at home. The leafless, budless, fruitless bough at home is not the kind that will become fruitful overseas.

The one who hid his talent in the earth, had his talent taken from him. God's law is: "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."

2. The life that bears fruit God will cause to bear more fruit. If we want to be enlarged in our capacity for God, we must be very active in the place where we are. God wants us to do the small thing well, in order that He may discover our spirit, our ambition for Him, our faithfulness; then He is ready to lead us into more important service.

Let us apply all of this to Christian living. We enter service for God when we are saved. We enter with an ambition to be of more and more use for the Master, and the Master will lead us to higher things as we prove fruitful and faithful in the lower things,

3. The life that is fruitless will be rejected. The others whose rods budded not, and bloomed not, and yielded not, were lives set aside and rejected.


1. The people thought that God's choice was arbitrary. They rebelled because Aaron was chosen and they were not. Korah and Abiram and Dathan wanted to sit in Aaron's seat. They wanted to rule, and they wanted their friends to rule with them. The Lord God destroyed them. Now He would give them the reason for His action.

He had not chosen Aaron merely because, as God, He had the right to be arbitrary in His sovereignty. He had chosen Aaron, as He demonstrated Aaron's rod budded, and bloomed, and yielded almonds. God is arbitrary in His choice, but He is also just and honorable. He chooses the man who has the heart for service, who will be faithful to his trust, who will fulfill his mission.

If any of those who are taking up these studies feel set aside by the Almighty, let them inquire for the "why." Perhaps they have not proved themselves worthy of the Divine commission.

2. God showed that His choice was based upon man's preparedness and fruitfulness. It was true then, it is true now, that God is looking for men to serve Him, who are serving Him. It is not merely a matter of gifts, for God has often taken the man who seemed to have no special gifts for His service. In First Corinthians we read these words: "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." Thus we see that God does not pick out merely men who are recognized as wise after the flesh, or mighty, or noble after the flesh. What God wants is a life that is yielded, that is faithful and active in fruit bearing.

He wants to take that life, although it does not humanly appeal, and He wants to make it wise with the wisdom that cometh down from above. He wants to clothe its weakness with His strength, its nothingness with His almightiness.


God said unto Moses, "Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from Me that they die not."

As we study these words, we see several vital things:

1. We see that God immortalizes a fruitful life. Aaron's rod was placed in the Ark of the Covenant. It was retained, not merely to give honor to the man who had served God faithfully, but also to carry down through the ages, and even into eternity, the basis upon which God had honored His servant.

To us it is exceedingly wonderful and fitting that on the gates of the City of the New Jerusalem there will be emblazoned the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. It is also fitting that in the foundations of the City there will be put, in bold relief, the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.

The saints who attend the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, will be arrayed in the white robes of their own righteous acts. In other words, God carries out of. this life, and into the next one, the record of the fruitfulness and of the service of His saints.

What we sow now, we shall reap then. What is done even in the darkness, shall be displayed in the light. Our Lord has said: "I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be."

2. We see that God immortalizes the justness of His decisions and His choice. If in Heaven we see Moses, or Aaron, or Abraham, or Peter, or Paul, or any other saint honored above others, we will have before our very eyes the reason why they are so honored.

There is a remarkable verse in Hebrews 9:1-28 , which speaks of the earthly tabernacle, saying, "For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which was called the Holiest of all; which 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."

All these, according to Hebrews 9:1-28 , were figures of the true.

Somehow we cannot but feel that the Ark of the Covenant, along with those things that are placed therein are reserved in Heaven. They are certainly patterns of things in Heaven. Taking the Bible as a whole we cannot but feel that a great many things which have been precious in the sight of God during the earthly sojourning of saints, will be immortalized in the glory.

We, ourselves, build monuments to immortalize the names of our heroes. We believe that God does the same.


As servants of the Living God, let us make our lives count for Heaven and eternity, and not for the passing things of earth, "Agassiz says that he has stood at one place in the Alpine Mountains in Switzerland where he could throw a chip into the water in one direction, and it would roll on into the German Ocean; or he could throw a chip into the water in another direction, and it would reach the Black Sea by the Danube; or he could throw a chip in another direction, and it would enter the Mediterranean by the Rhine. How far apart the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea, and the German Ocean! Standing today on these Alps of gospel privilege, you can yield to the impulse of the Spirit, accept the Saviour's invitation (Matthew 11:28 ), and enter the golden gate of Glory, or you can refuse Him that speaketh from Heaven (Hebrews 12:25 ), reject the Lord Jesus Christ, and reach the Lake of Fire. How slight the division to begin with! How wide the 'gulf to end with!"

Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Numbers 17". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lwc/numbers-17.html.
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