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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gods Priesthood

Honestly enough, I'm excited. I missed my reading time this morning, and I was determined to have one tonight before I went to bed. After putting the kids I was babysitting to bed I picked up my bible and started into numbers 17, as that's where I am on my way through the old testament (for those of you keeping track, yes I did make it through Leviticus). At first it seemed like another historical record of God giving order to the Israelites in the desert, and in many ways it is, but what has me excited is how through his passage I'm freshly reminded of how gracious God is to give signs that assure us of his presence and plans. I had been feeling a bit rough lately and had been praying today that god would really meet me.

The story of numbers 17 isn't as widely known as most, but I do clearly remember it in my picture bible when I was a child. The story is of how God had the twelve princes of the tribes of Israel bring rods to the tabernacle and overnight God caused Aaron's rod to sprout, thus signifying the tribe of Levi as the priesthood designated by God.

In terms of background, God had already set the tribe of Levi as his priests and although it's not written here, one could presume that there must have been some dissension or challenge for this position among the tribes. This presumption comes from two observations. The first is that this sort of test was performed at all, and the second is the lack of questions from the princes of the tribes. We have no record of anyone saying "wait, I thought Levi was the priesthood, why are we bringing rods?". Apparently each one thought themselves at least worthy of the contention.

Before we pass judgement on the other princes though, lets remember what had just happened in the past few years. First we had two priests of Levi sacrifice using an unclean fire of some sort, and then, in chapter 16 (remember we're in 17 so current news), we have Korah lead a rebellion of 250 Israelites whom God then opens up the earth to swallow. Korah was from what tribe? You guessed it, Levi. All in all, it's been a rough time for Levi and it's understandable that the other princes are questioning whether God's original proclamation stands.

Understandable, yes, but still wrong. God causes Aaron's rod to bud, blossom, and bear fruit, thus reaffirming that the tribe of Levi will be his priests. Here's the first part that excited me. So often I read a passage like this and completely miss something extremely significant, and it happened today. Note that the rod buds, blossoms, AND bears fruit. This is happening at the same time! You've got buds, flowers, and fruit on the same staff, which was supposed to be dead anyway. That doesn't happen even with live branches! Talk about reassuring! God makes sure his miracle is obvious. There is no question of anyone swapping out a live branch for the dead rod, or of some sort of weird horticultural trick to give a certain tribe preference, this was definitely God.

The second thing that excites me about this passage was the sign used, a dead rod given life again and bearing fruit. A foreshadowing of the death and resurrection to be experienced by the final priest who would make atonement for all our sins by the final sacrifice. Christ's death and resurrection symbolically foretold thousands of years before their occurrence. And what's even greater? It's the symbol by which the Israelites were to have confidence that this was the priesthood God had established and their sacrifices were acceptable. The rod was kept in the tabernacle, as a sign to people that the priesthood stood established by God to provide sacrifices for atonement. In the same way, Christ was resurrected and stands glorified as our assurance that his sacrifice was accepted by God as our ransom, and that his priesthood stands forevermore. Praise God!

Jeremy Peggins, Building Bookcases Writer

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