Bible Readings for May 9th
Numbers 17–18 | Psalm 55 | Isaiah 7 | James 1
In the first ten chapters of Numbers, Yahweh established multiple physical boundaries to protect his holiness. But Israel’s many rebellions—capped off by the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16—raise serious questions about whether Yahweh would allow the same protocols to continue. Since Korah had been a Kohathite, would the Kohathites retain their call to ministry? Would Yahweh elevate the other clans of Levi, or would he scrap the system altogether and start with something new? We find the people of Israel in a panic, asking Moses, “Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the LORD, shall die. Are we all to perish?” (Num. 17:13).
So, Yahweh commands that each of the twelve tribes provide a staff marked with their tribe’s name, except that Yahweh instructed the tribe of Levi to write the name Aaron on their staff (Num. 17:1–3). Then, Moses takes the staffs from each tribal chief and deposits them overnight in the tabernacle (Num. 17:6–7). To display beyond any shadow of a doubt that Yahweh had indeed chosen the sons of Aaron alone to come near to him as priests in his tabernacle, Yahweh causes Aaron’s staff—and only Aaron’s staff—to sprout with buds, blossoms, and ripe almonds (Num. 17:8).
The specific sign that Yahweh selects to demonstrate his choosing the sons of Aaron alone to be priests is fascinating. Here, we see Yahweh literally giving new life to a dead tree branch (i.e., a wooden staff) by causing it to sprout, and every other dead branch is removed from Yahweh’s presence.
This story sheds light on what Jesus meant in John 15 when he explained that he was the true vine: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:5–6).
We never approach God on our own terms; God sets the terms for the way in which we may draw near. Formerly, God called a small group of people, all descended from one man, Aaron, as those who had the unique privilege of drawing near to him. And still today, Jesus warns that any who do not abide in him will be gathered up and taken away, just like the eleven other staffs of Israel’s tribes—and more, such people will be cast into the fire and burned.
But Jesus also announces the good news of the gospel here: anyone who abides in Jesus will bear much fruit, sprouting with buds and blossoms and almonds like Aaron’s staff. Jesus came to give new, supernatural life to dead branches like you and me.
And so, little children: Abide in him.
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Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.