Aaron’s Rod That Budded
April 6th, 1958 @ 8:15 AM
AARON’S ROD THAT BUDDED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-6-58 8:15 a.m.
You are listening to the services, the early morning services, of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor speaking. Now, we turn to the seventeenth chapter of the book of Numbers – the seventeenth chapter of the book of Numbers – and put your finger there in the Bible and hold that place in your Bible. I am going to read first from the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, but you turn to the seventeenth chapter of the book of Numbers and hold the place. Then I shall begin reading at the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews.
For these last months and months, we have given ourselves, at this early morning hour, to messages on the types in the Holy Scriptures. There has not been any study or any delivering of sermons that has meant more to me than the preparation and delivery of these sermons on the types in the Old Testament. It has opened up for me a new and altogether different and wonderful world.
For example, the tabernacle is a type of the incarnation of our Lord. God dwelt in curtains. He dwelt in a tent. He dwelt in a tabernacle in this earth. And John 1:14 says: "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." You have it translated: "dwelt among us." The Greek word is skenoō. The Greek word skene is the word for "tent" or "tabernacle," and the Greek word skenoō, the verbal form of the substantive, means "to tent, to tabernacle." John was taking a type of the Old Testament: "And the Word, God was the Word and the Word was God [from John 1:1], and the Word was made flesh and tabernacled among us" [from John 1:14] – tented among us, dwelt among us – God in the world in the flesh. And he sees the tabernacle as a type of the dwelling place of God, the incarnation of Christ.
Also, the rending of the curtain, the parting of the veil, the tearing of the tabernacle fabric was a type of the tearing of the flesh of the house Jesus dwelt in [Matthew 27:50-51]. And through the veil of His flesh, that is, through His death, we have entrance into the glory of God, into the heavenly sanctuary [Hebrews 10:19-22]. All of these things written in the Old Testament were pre-figurations, and adumbrations, and harbingers of the great and final revelation in Jesus Christ. Now, that is writ large in the ninth chapter of the book of Hebrews.
The first covenant, the Old Testament, had ordinances of divine service and a sanctuary in this world. There was a tabernacle made: the first, the Holy Place, the first part where was the candlestick and the table of showbread; then the second, beyond the veil, the Holiest of All, and there was the golden censer and the ark of the covenant, the golden censer before it [Hebrews 9:1-3]. Then in it, the ark of the covenant, overlaid round about with gold. wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the table of the covenant [Hebrews 9:4]. And over it, the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat "of which we cannot now speak particularly" [from Hebrews 9:5]. The eighth verse: "The Holy Ghost this signifying" [Hebrews 9:8] – that is, all of these things meant something, and God hath revealed them to us in the Word.
The central thought in the whole tabernacle system was in the Holy of Holies, the ark of the testimony of the covenant. That ark is a type of the Person of our Lord: made of acacia wood [Exodus 25:10], a picture of His humanity; overlaid with pure gold [Exodus 25:11], a picture of His deity; and yet, one piece – the God Man, the one Person Christ Jesus.
And these things that were in the ark of the covenant also refer to the things that are inherent in Christ Himself. There was, in the ark of the covenant, the tables of the testimony – The Ten Commandments [Exodus 25:16]. That is, in the person and life and character of our Lord, there was the fulfilling, and the authentication, and the validation of the law of God. It referred to His holy, and pure, and undefiled, and sinless life. This is the Man; this is the One; this is the kind that God was speaking of when He gave the Ten Commandments. You will find the fulfilling of that law, wholly pure and undefiled, in the person of Jesus Christ [Matthew 5:17].
A second thing in that ark was the golden pot of manna [Exodus 16:33; Hebrews 9:4]: a picture of our Savior who is the living bread from heaven [John 6:51], and upon Him we live, and feast, and gain our strength in spiritual life. Then the third thing in that ark was Aaron’s rod that budded [Hebrews 9:4]. I could not tell you the time, and time, and time that I have wanted to look into that: Aaron’s rod that budded – a picture of the resurrection and the fruitfulness of the life of our Lord.
So this week and last week, I just took me aside and set me down before the Lord and prepared this message which has meant more to me in preparation than any one I’ve prepared in many, many months, on The Rod of Aaron that Budded: placed in the ark of the covenant, a picture of the resurrection of our Lord and of the fruitfulness of His gospel ministry. So we turn back to see what God did and what God meant in the flowering and the fruiting of the rod of Aaron.
Now, in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Numbers, you have the story of the terrible rebellion of Korah and Dathan and Abiram and their families against the Aaronic priesthood. These men were competitors for the high priesthood. God had said: "Aaron is to be high priest, and his family are to be priests [from Exodus 28:1; Numbers 16:39-40], and the Levites are to be servants in the temple [from Numbers 16:8]." These men rose up – Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their cohorts – and said: "Not so, but we will be high priests. It is not that Aaron is to be the mediator between God and man and man and God, but we will interpose ourselves also. We will take unto ourselves the holy offices of the priesthood" [from Numbers 16:1-14].
So in order to designate and to place upon immovable foundations the holy priesthood of Aaron and Aaron’s house, God first wrought upon Korah and his cohorts three terrible judgments. The first one was the earth opened up and swallowed Korah, and their houses, and their families, and all their appurtenances, and closed back over them [Numbers 16:23-33]. They were taken away from the earth. The second judgment was there came out a fire from the Lord and consumed the 250 men that offered incense; their cohorts were consumed by a fire from the Lord [Numbers 16:35]. And the third thing that happened: on the morrow, when the congregation of Israel murmured, saying, "The people of the Lord have been killed," the third judgment was there came from the Lord a plague that began to destroy the people and it was only stopped at the interposition of Aaron. And the plague continued until 14,700 people had died [Numbers 16:41-50].
Brother, for a while, that stopped this competition for the high priesthood and the holy offices. The people stood in terror and in astonishment at the judgment of God upon these who sought to interpose. But God is wise, and the Lord God knew that the people, though intimidated now, when the days passed, they would forget those awful punishments and there would arise other people in the future who would arrogate to themselves these high priestly offices and seize them and take them and interpose themselves. So the Lord God in His mercy and in His goodness, lest there come heavier judgments upon the people, the Lord God prepared a sign by which He could designate who is God’s man, who is the great mediator, who is the great high priest between man and God and God and man. And the sign that God prepared and executed is told here in the seventeenth chapter of the book of Numbers. Now, let’s look at it:
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto the children of Israel, take every one of them a rod according to the house of their families, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man’s name upon his rod.
And thou shalt write Aaron’s name upon the rod of the Lord, of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers.
And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony –
at the ark of the covenant –
where I will meet with you.
And it shall come to pass, that the man’s rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom . . . –
And Moses laid up the rods before the Lord in the tabernacle of witness –
there before the ark –
And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.
And Moses brought out all the rods from before the Lord unto all the children of Israel: and they looked . . .
And there, every man’s rod was still a dry stick except Aaron’s, and it 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 [Numbers 17:8].
And the Lord said unto Moses, "Bring Aaron’s rod again before the testimony, into the ark, to be kept for a token against the rebels . . .
So the rod that budded, and blossomed, and brought forth almonds was laid in the ark of the covenant as a testimony of the choice – irrevocable and immovable – of the Lord God: this is God’s high priest.
Now, never again after this, never again was there ever any trouble in Israel about who was mediator, about who was high priest. Never again did it ever arise that there was competition for the high priesthood. This thing, this miracle, was so decisive that even the incredulous were convinced. The only exception to that is in the story of King Uzziah. King Uzziah presumptuously arrogated to himself the holy office of priest in bringing incense into the Holy Place before the Lord. And he was stricken with leprosy and died as a leper [2 Chronicles 26:14-21]. Outside of that one incident, never again did it ever arise in Israel that there was competition or doubt about who was the high priest and who ministered as mediator before God and before man, all of which is a thing that God hath done to establish the sacred office of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The book of Hebrews, out of which I read a moment ago, is so largely and so much of it a presentation of the Aaronic priesthood as a type of the mediatorship of the God-Man Christ Jesus. And the reason the Lord God was so jealous about establishing the priesthood of Aaron upon a firm and unquestioned and immovable foundation was because that Aaronic priesthood was a type of the great, holy priesthood of Jesus Christ. There is one Mediator between God and man: the Man God hath chosen, the Man Christ Jesus [1 Timothy 2:5]. There is no other, not even a woman. There is no other, not even a saint. There is no other, not even a prelate. There is one Mediator between God and man, and that is the Mediator God hath chosen, the Man Christ Jesus [1 Timothy 2:5].
Now, what are the signs that God hath chosen Him? There are three in this type. The first is His resurrection from the dead. This is God’s man; this is God’s chosen; this is God’s High Priest. "I have appointed Him and Him alone," says the Lord God. And His first picture, His first affirmation and acclamation, is that He raised Him from the dead. In Isaiah 11:1, Christ is referred to as a "rod out of the stem of Jesse." In Isaiah 53:2-3, that dry, dead rod is described. He is described as a root: a dead, dry root in a dry, dry ground [Isaiah 52:2]. He is described as having "no form nor comeliness." He is described as being "despised and rejected of men" [Isaiah 52:3].
My soul! If the apparent appearance of our Lord in His unfruitfulness looked like that when He was alive, think of how our Lord must have looked like a dry rod when He was dead and lay in the tomb: a rod, a stick, unfruitful, dead, dry. There He lays in the tomb – the rod, the stick, the staff, dead [Matthew 27:57-60], His enemies triumphing over Him [Luke 23:33-39], and His followers in despair that He could ever realize His pretensions [Luke 24:19-21].
Then in the night, then overnight, then in the quietness of the gloom of that sepulcher and the darkness of that tomb, there comes the quickening power of the Holy Spirit of God [Matthew 28:1-7]. And the rod – the dry rod, the dead staff, the branch broken off, the root in a dry ground – it is quickened; it is alive. It blooms, and it blossoms, and it brings forth fruit unto God. "Declared the Son of God by the power of the resurrection from the dead" [from Romans 1:4]: this is God’s man; this is the Great Mediator; He is my High Priest [Hebrews 4:14-16]. God hath raised Him from the dead [Acts 3:15]. The rod of Aaron has budded, and blossomed, and brought almonds unto the Lord.
How do you know that your faith and your religion is the real and authenticated faith and religion in the world when millions of the followers of Buddha [Gautama Buddha, c. 480 BCE – 400 BCE] say, "Gautama, the enlightened one, is the true teacher and prophet of God"? How do you know when Mohammed [c. 570-632 CE] stands up and his followers say he is the prophet and teacher and messenger of God? What are you going to do when Confucius [551-479 BCE] teaches, "These are the true revelations of the Almighty God"? How do you know? These all contend for the great priesthood, the great revelation, the great mediatorship between God and man and man and God. How do you know?
This is the sign and the proof: lay them side by side in the tomb. There did death cut down Mohammed, and he’s in the tomb. There did death cut down Buddha, and he’s in the tomb. There did death cut down Zoroaster [c. 628-551 BCE], Mahavira [599-527 BCE]; there did death cut down Laozi [c. 5th century BCE]; there did death cut down Confucius. Like dry rods, they are in the tomb. Which one is the true prophet of God? The one that shall rise from the dead. It is the unequivocal sign of the Lord God in heaven.
And Aaron’s rod budded, and blossomed, and fruited, and brought forth almonds unto God [Numbers 17:1-8]. And the Lord God said unto Jeremiah: "Jeremiah, what seest thou?" And Jeremiah said: "I see a rod of an almond tree." And the Lord God said to Jeremiah: "Thou hast well seen" [Jeremiah 1:11-12].
Have you seen it? Have you? All of these others have been cut down like our Lord was cut down. In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah: "And He was cut off from the land of the living" [Isaiah 53:8]. That is, He was cut down out of the land of the living. They all are severed from the natural root, cut down. How do they fare when death seizes them and cuts them down? In the tomb of Mohammed, he still is a victim of the grave; he is still held by the tomb. In the grave of Buddha, he still is a captive, held down by the power of death. But the sepulcher of Joseph in the garden where our Lord was incarcerated, where He was buried in the tomb [Matthew 27:57-60], He arose! It is empty! [Matthew 28:1-10]. And the dry rod has budded, and bloomed, and brought forth fruit unto God. First sign, first type: He is raised from the dead [Romans 1:4]. He is quickened and alive.
The second type: "Bring Aaron’s rod again and lay it up in the covenant of the Lord, in the holy ark of the testimony" [from Numbers 17:10] and so our Savior. Aaron’s rod that budded, and bloomed, and blossomed, and brought forth almonds, Jesus Christ was laid up in the holy tabernacle of witness in glory: He ascended into heaven [Acts 1:9], and there is He in this day and at this hour [Romans 8:34]. He is there to be able, by the atonement that He made for His people [Hebrews 10:14], to save to the uttermost them who by faith in God come to a living salvation in His name [Hebrews 7:24-25]. And He is there some day as a witness against the rebels, as a token against the rebels – some day, through the wrath of His anger and the uplifting of the rod of His judgment, to destroy His enemies [2 Thessalonians 1:7-9] and to create, in His ableness and power, a New Heaven and a New Earth wherein dwelleth righteousness [Revelation 21:1-22:21]. And only they who have rejoiced in the Lamb and have found salvation in Him shall live and reign and live and have a part [Revelation 22:3-5]. He is in heaven in the presence of the testimony of Almighty God.
And the third great sign: it is the sign of the fruitfulness of that dry and barren rod. It is the sign of the marvelous, miraculous, fruitfulness of the Gospel message and ministry of Jesus Christ, our dead and now our risen Lord. Who would ever have thought that the message preached by those unlettered and untaught Galileans [Acts 4:13] would someday be the message of hope for the whole world? Who would ever have thought this dry rod would bring forth almonds, fruit, unto God?
I can understand the propagation of the message of Mohammed by the sword, by the sword – they swept over the civilized world – and second, by taking into their faith the sinfulness and passions of men. I have watched it in Africa. A heathen can be polygamous. He can turn from his heathenism to be a Mohammedan and still live in his lust and his polygamy. Not so the preaching of the Gospel of the Son of God; not so the preaching of the cross of Jesus Christ. In Him, if a man comes by faith, he is a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. There is a transformation in the life, in the government, in the civilization, in the home, in the soul, in the heart of all men to whom comes the preached Word and power of the Gospel of the Son of God. That dry rod budding and blossoming and bringing fruit unto God: a picture of the glorious, incomparable, and miraculous gospel message of Christ our Lord in its power to transform men, and life, and government, and civilization, and, some of these days in the glorious appearing from heaven, of this entire world.
I must stop. Did not I say one of the great meaningful types of the whole Bible is this one, the resurrection type: Aaron’s dry rod that was quickened in the night, in the dark, in the tomb, hidden away, and was brought forth bearing blossoms, and buds, and almond fruit unto God?
Now, for just this moment, nobody leave. We’ll have our benediction in a moment and we go to our Sunday school departments and classes. In just this moment, we sing a song of appeal: somebody you, give his heart to the Lord. Somebody you, put his life in the church. Somebody you, a family you, on the first note of the first stanza – we sing one stanza – on the first note of the first stanza, in the great balcony around or on the lower floor, if, in faith, you come giving your heart to the Lord, or, having been saved, put your life with us in the church, however God shall say the word and open the door, would you come? Would you make it now while we stand and while we sing?
AARON’S ROD THAT BUDDED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. What God did to confirm the Aaronic priesthood
1. Aaron’s rod was the only one that budded
2. Kept in the ark as a testimony
II. What God has done to confirm the priesthood of Jesus
1. Resurrection of Christ
2. Christ’s ascension into heaven
3. Spread of the gospel