NUMBERS 17 and 18
As a final demonstration of power, in support of Moses’ and Aaron’s authority, the Lord turned Aaron’s dead staff into a living tree, producing fruit. Ultimately, true leadership in God’s church is confirmed by its fruitfulness and effectiveness in producing growth. Whether you are in new covenant leadership, or one of those serving under that leadership, today’s reading provides a God-given pause for thought and meditation about our loyalty, effectiveness, and love.
“I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift”, said the Lord to Aaron and his sons. As new covenant priests – which all believers are – we are therefore similarly privileged and gifted. Do we value our God-given role in serving him as a gift, or do we somehow think that he owes us something for our years of service? We need to realise that working for the King of Kings – whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light (Matthew 11:29-30) – is why we were born! The reward of experiencing his presence and his glory, as we draw close to serve, is a double blessing; the first blessing being the complete fulfilment of living our lives in the precise manner for which we were created. No-one could draw near the sanctuary of the Lord or the Most Holy Place just out of idle curiosity; they could only draw close in order to serve and to worship (which is just another form of service). The joy of being equipped by God to do this, and then of serving him in a way that pleases him, is what Isaiah means when he speaks of us “soaring on wings like eagles” (40:31); there is nothing else like it! Ask an eagle what it likes doing best!
In return, the Lord provides for the priests (then and now) by giving everything that is “devoted to the Lord” to them. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these other things will be added to you…” (Matthew 6:33). And it is much more than the supermarket ‘Basics’ range; “…the finest olive oil and the finest new wine and grain…” will be ours (Numbers 18:12). God blesses us with the first and the best of all his provision since he loves us and cares deeply for us. We don’t just give our own children any old thing; we give them the best that we can afford. And God has deep pockets! The old covenant priests and Levites had no earthly inheritance, but the Lord was their inheritance. The same applies to us; we are looking, not for an earthly city in which to settle, but for a Kingdom that cannot be destroyed, in which we will live forever.