Numbers 17:8 “On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.”
So, what good is a stick, a piece of dead wood? What can we do with it? Well, we can lean on it as a staff to help us to walk. It can help protect us or others, as a shepherd with his sheep. And as my sisters and I well know, it was known as an implement of correction in the home we grew up in.
But what can God do with a dead stick? What is such a thing in HIS hands? Well, as Moses learned, God could make a snake out of one. He could make life come from a non-living thing. No big deal for God, for didn’t He make you and me from the dust. He could part the Red Sea with it – the same sea He had created with a word – and thereby save the lives of an entire nation. He could bring water from a rock with it, a life-giving flow from another dead object. Seems like a theme, don’t you think? And in the account above, God again points to life from death, as overnight he made Aaron’s staff sprout with buds, blossoms, and ripe almonds.
Perhaps in all of this our Savior was pointing to another piece of dead wood that He would use to bring salvation to the world. You see, the cross, in Roman times, was a dead thing that had but one purpose, to bring death to criminals. It, like today’s electric chair, was an implement of capital punishment. However, in God’s hands, this same piece of dead wood was used to bring life. As Jesus was crucified on the cross, God placed all of our sin upon him, and thereby “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so (was) the Son of Man . . . lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14-16).
Like the rod that touched the Red Sea and made a way of deliverance from death for the Jews, the cross of Jesus made a way through death to eternal life for all who would follow Him Who, alone, is the Way. As Jesus, the very Rock that accompanied Israel in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:4), was struck with God’s judgment on the cross, the water of life was released to everyone who would drink. And as Aaron’s dead rod, placed overnight in the tabernacle, came to life on the morning of the next day, so our crucified Lord, after having been laid in a tomb, rose on the morning of the third day with resurrection life. And as the budded rod pointed to Aaron as Israel’s one and only high priest, it was Jesus whom the resurrection demonstrated was God’s one and only Great High Priest. It was this High Priest’s sacrifice, alone, that was accepted by the Father as the satisfactory penalty for OUR sin, and the way of resurrection to eternal life for all who will believe.
So, what can God do with a dead stick? Incredible and awesome things. But isn’t that just God’s way? As we are told in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . .” And if that’s what God can do with a dead stick, just think what He can do with you and me. Again, as we’re told in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” And then there’s this from Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
What an awesome God we serve, a God Whose great power cannot be limited by the weakness of a dead stick. No wonder Paul could pray the following prayer as he yearned that we would comprehend such truth: “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:15-23).