To settle for ever the vexed question as to the priesthood, the Lord arranged a solemn ordeal to which none could object, and which all would admit to be decisive.
Rods were the ensigns of government, the sceptres of the rulers. To submit the sceptre of each tribe to the Lord was a symbolical presentation of all their claims to him. All the rods were alike dead and dry, and it remained with the Lord to choose which he pleased, and quicken it into life and verdure.
Owing to the destruction of Korah, the Levites were not divided as to who should be their claimant for office, but unanimous that Aaron should stand for them.
God has a right to choose his own servants, and he will do so whether we will agree therewith or not. He gives life and fruitfulness to his chosen servants, and either silences the jealousies and fault-findings of the people, or else visits the murmurers for their offence.
A miracle indeed! Here was not only life, but an instant and perfect fruitfulness, not caused by the season, but suddenly brought forth by the divine power! Surely this is the best proof of a divine call to the Lord’s work. Naturally barren, as men are, the grace of God makes his ministers fruitful unto God, through abiding in his secret presence, and thus they are known among the Lords people as the ordained servants of the Lord.
This miraculous proof was meant to prevent future disputes, lest they should provoke God beyond all bearing.
Moses was a wise man, but he did not follow his own opinion. His wisdom lay in complete obedience to God.
Numbers 17:12, 13
Not long could they be without some wicked complaint or another. This time they make light of their sin, and cry out against the severity with which their insolence had been repressed. It was time they had found fault with themselves rather than with the just judgments of God; but, indeed, it is very hard to bring Israel, or any of us, to true repentance.
From this whole passage let us learn that Jesus, our great High Priest, has life in himself, and brings forth soul-saving fruit, which neither the law nor the prophets could do—hence he is proved to be the true priest of God. If we also would have life and fruit, we must be vitally united to him, for apart from him we are withered branches only fit for the fire.
Jesus, we own thee priest alone,
Thou only canst for sin atone;
Thy sacred rod ends all the strife
Thou only hast eternal life.
Nor life nor fruit elsewhere is found,
Death sways his barren sceptre round;
But thou hast come new life to give,
And, joined to thee, our spirits live.