In the Deep South, although the first day of spring is still officially a few weeks away, the plants and trees around my neighborhood are beginning to show signs of re-birth. Winter is slipping away. Shoots and blossoms, while mostly dormant at present, will soon burst forth with glorious expression.
Shoots and blossoms also appear in an interesting story in Numbers 17. Aaron’s rod that budded and that was later placed in the Ark of the Covenant, may be something of a metaphor of the resurrection of our Lord and of the fruitfulness of His gospel ministry. Like a “root from dry ground” and the “the stump of Jesse,” He became that “shoot” that grew up and that “branch” that sprouted (Is. 53:2, 11:1).
Moses placed the staffs before the Lord in the meeting tent. The next day Moses entered the covenant tent, and Aaron’s staff of Levi’s household had sprouted. It grew shoots, produced blossoms, and bore almonds (Numbers 17:7-8).
From the context, this was God’s way of revealing the family and person He had selected to be priest. God’s lesson to this rebellious element of His people is that no one could take the honor of priesthood or service upon himself. The priest was to be chosen and appointed by God. As W. A. Criswell said many years ago, Aaron’s rod “had been quickened and made alive in the night, in the tomb, in the dark; and it had buds and blossoms and fruit upon it.”
In similar fashion, God has shown the world that only His Christ, His Son, would be the firstborn from the dead, and that no person on earth is capable of such powerful demonstration. God’s Son, Jesus Christ became the firstfruits of all who would rise from the dead. He would blossom, bloom, and produce almonds, (fruitfulness), because He was God’s choice for man’s redemption.
What strikes me about this story in Numbers is that something happened—during the night, in the darkness. As we are now on a journey, the journey we call the Lenten season, we enter a time when we remember the passion of our Lord. This is a season wherein we seek to identify with Christ’s renunciation of self; a time, so to speak, of darkness, a dark period, a dark night, one in which we contemplate our Savior’s loneliness, rejection by men, and denial of himself. Embracing our cross as He fully embraced His, spending some time in solitude, alone, recalling his rejection and suffering, may enable us to bud with the Spirit’s fruitfulness. Oh, that we might blossom with shoots of grace and like Christ Himself, burst forth with glorious expression!
Gary Brady (D.Min. ‘12) is pastor of Newberry United Methodist Church in Newberry, Fla.