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A further interference of divine authority is related in this Chapter, in which the LORD is pleased to manifest thereby, that Aaron was to be the high priest to minister in holy things. The LORD condescended, by way of testifying his pleasure in this business, to settle it by the budding of Aaron's rod, while the rods of all the other heads of families are dry and withered. The event is ordered to be recorded by laying up Aaron's rod as a testimony before the LORD.
It is sweet to remark how the LORD is pleased to work, sometimes in a way of judgment as in the foregoing chapter, to punish sin: and sometimes in a way of grace, as in this chapter, to restrain from sin. It should seem by the circumstances of this chapter, that though the LORD had manifested in so awful a manner his choice of Aaron to the priesthood, there were still some disposed to dispute it. Alas! are not the LORD'S people now, under a gospel dispensation, too prone to the same presumption? and do they not forget that their offerings and prayers all need the interposition of JESUS as the only High Priest and Mediator, by whom they can alone draw nigh to GOD? John 14:6 .
Were I permitted to spiritualize this writing of the name of Aaron on the rod of Levi, I would suppose that what JESUS hath left on record in the revelations, of waiting upon each of his people who are made priests and kings by him his new name, that it had symbolic reference in this place. When we consider what Paul saith; that the gospel was preached unto our fathers in the wilderness church as well as unto us now, the allusion will not, I think, be considered farfetched. See Revelation 3:12 .
Before the testimony means before the ark, and that ark was an express type of JESUS. It is delightful to discover everything referring to our JESUS. Hence David sings, Arise, O LORD, into thy rest: thou, and the ark of thy strength. Psalms 132:8 .
Blessed promise! if GOD undertakes to make the murmurings of his people to cease it shall be done, but without this interference of grace, the most awful judgments lose their effect. Compare what passed in the former chapter where the LORD'S choice was as plainly manifested, but man's stubborn unreclaimed nature still rebelled. Numbers 16:5 .
The rod was an apt signification of the head of a family, for the word signifies tribes as well as rod. It is used so: Numbers 34:13 .
There is somewhat particularly striking in what is said of laying them up before the LORD, meaning a presentation of them; as if to say, LORD, we wait thy determination! The tabernacle of witness is also as striking: for each person of the GODHEAD is the witness, and consequently to each the tabernacle belongs. The FATHER witnessed to the whole of redemption-work at JESUS'S baptism. JESUS himself is expressly called the faithful witness. Revelation 1:5 . And it is the SPIRIT that beareth witness, because the SPIRIT is truth. These are the three that bear record in Heaven: and these three are one. 1 John 5:7 .
What could have been more decisive! A dry unpromising rod to bring forth at one and the same time, and in one night, buds, and blossoms, and fruit. But who doth not, or who will not, behold in all this JESUS, who is called in relation to one of his offices the rod of the LORD'S strength? Psalms 110:2 . He was indeed a root out of a dry ground. Isaiah 53:2 . In him and his complete salvation he doth indeed bud, and blossom, and give fruit in the several measures of his grace, and according to their seasons of need he grants suited blessings to all his people. If the Reader would see a string of the sweetest promises concerning these things, in reference to the Redeemer, he will find them, Psalms 132:11-18 .
Doth it not appear to the Reader by the manner of expression, that each man took his rod, as if it was a sullen and not a satisfied acquiescence in the divine appointment. Alas! how often may we detect our hearts in the same spirit.
Paul hath recorded this circumstance in his epistle to the Hebrews. Hebrews 9:4 . But certainly a great deal of gospel is veiled under it. It is JESUS and his perpetual presence, that takes away the greater as well as the less sins of his people. John saw JESUS many years after his ascension, and he then appeared as a lamb which had been slain: meaning, no doubt, that he exercised his priesthood still, and bore on his glorified body the marks of our redemption. Revelation 5:6 .
Whether the people expressed themselves in these words under a sense of fear or submission, or both, I will not determine. But as the LORD had graciously undertaken to take away their murmurings, it may sense to teach us how very effectual the LORD'S means are when the LORD is pleased to work. And yet still more, how great our mercies are, that we are brought under a dearer and a better dispensation, established upon better promises; and have at all times our high priest who is gone in before the mercy-seat for us that we die not, under whose advocacy and propitiation his people are secured from danger. 1 John 2:1-2 .
PAUSE, my soul, in the perusal of this chapter, and behold in how sweet a manner thy GOD and FATHER manifested to the church of old the everlasting priesthood of thy glorious intercessor! None but the rod of JESUS, nothing but his Almighty righteousness and sin-offering atonement can bring forth the blessed fruits of salvation for his people. As all our righteousness are filthy rags, so all our rods of created strength, however laid up before the testimony, will be found unfruitful, dead, and withered. But in the various manifestations of thy grace, in the buddings and blossoms and fruit-bearing excellencies of thy mercies, as our souls respectively stand in need, how graciously doth my GOD and Saviour show forth the rod of his strength, in convincing, converting, strengthening, refreshing, and establishing his people.
Dearest JESUS! may I find grace from thy HOLY SPIRIT, to rejoice in thee, as the rod of all gospel mercies laid up for me in time and to all eternity. And though thy glory was veiled from many when on earth, and thy priesthood is unacknowledged and unknown by thousands now thou art above, yet to me in all thy precious offices and characters, be thou ever blooming forth, in every suited grace, and every seasoned mercy, in all my time of need. Let murmurers now, if they dare, dispute the sovereignty of thy GODHEAD, and despise, because they know not, the preciousness of thy great salvation and priesthood; LORD, be thou to me and all thy children the never-failing almond tree of righteousness and peace, which neither drought nor storm, nor all the wintry dispensations of my heart and the powers of darkness can destroy; but by the influences of thy HOLY SPIRIT being enabled to abide in thee, may I bring forth fruit to the praise of thy holy name; and as thou hast said, because thou livest I shall live also.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Numbers 17". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30