The LORD said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” Moses did just as the LORD commanded him.
The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD will die. Are we all going to die?”
Numbers 17:10-14, NIV*
Do you ever think about how irritating it is for God to put up with us?
Yes, He loves us. He wants to rescue us from the mess we’ve dug ourselves into—even at the cost of His own Son’s life—but so many times we just don’t get it.
I’ve been reading the account of Moses, how God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt to bring them into the promised land: a place of peace and safety where they won’t be slaves anymore.
All they do is grumble and complain and wish they were back under Pharaoh’s thumb. The context of today’s passage is that some of the people accused Moses and Aaron of taking too much authority, of elevating themselves as better than the rest.
God settled it in dramatic fashion, destroying the usurpers. The people hurled more accusations, and God sent a plague. You can read the whole account in Numbers 16.
So God told Moses to get a staff from each of the tribal leaders, including Aaron. “The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.” (Numbers 17:5, NIV*)
Next day, when Moses collected the staffs, Aaron’s “had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds.” (Numbers 17:8, NIV*) The others remained inert sticks of wood.
All this to give the people an enduring sign of approved leadership, so they’d quit complaining and would not die. And what do they immediately do?
God’s trying to protect them and they yell, “We’re all gonna die!” And they exaggerate: “We can’t even go near the tabernacle now!”
What if they’d trusted and obeyed?
What if we trusted and obeyed, instead of misunderstanding and overreacting?
Holy and patient God, how simple life would be if we’d just let You shepherd us, instead of trying to be in charge of our own lives. You tell us to trust You and not rely on our own understanding. But like sheep we’ve all gone astray. Teach us to seek You first, to trust You. To stop ascribing frightening motives to You and instead remember You are the only trustworthy one. Help us believe You instead of trusting our own fallible understanding.
Todd Agnew’s song, “Shepherd,” speaks to where we too often find ourselves.
*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.