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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Numbers 17



Verse 5


‘The man’s rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom.’

Numbers 17:5

I. The controversy about the Priesthood demanded a final and authoritative settlement.—For the removal of all doubts and the silencing of all objections, a notable miracle was wrought in the budding of Aaron’s rod. There was no room left for man: he was put out of the way, and only God appeared.

II. The rod of Aaron was probably that which had been used by Moses, in working so many miracles. Such rods were dry staves, or wands of office, usually transmitted from father to son. And surely, besides serving their immediate purpose, they were apt figures of Israel’s condition, and indeed of the condition of every-one of us by nature—without sap, or life, or power.

III. The miracle was very remarkable, and a beautiful illustration of what grace can effect in each of us. And after all there is no test of true discipleship, or of a call to the ministry, which can be compared to fruitfulness. This is God’s seal of acceptance and designation to His work. We need to be grafted into Christ; so only can we bear fruit (John 15:4-5 : Hosea 14:8).

IV. The complaint of Israel was indicative of a sad want of simple trust and love. It seemed to be entirely forgotten that they had brought all their sufferings on themselves. How many of our own sorrows are self-originated!


(1) ‘“The man whom I shall choose, his rod shall bud.” This is an eternal principle. There is an indissoluble bond of union between God’s election and our fruitfulness. “I have chosen you and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit.” He who lives near God must be fruitful, and the fruitful soul is welcome to the secret place of the Most High. But how can dry rods like us ever bear blossom or fruit? There is no other way than by being grafted into the rod of the stem of Jesse, which seemed to be too dry and unlikely to bear fruit again, but which in that wondrous scion, our blessed Lord, has borne blossom and fruit, filling the world with its produce. Hear Him saying to all who are grafted into Him by a living faith, “From Me is thy fruit found.” Oh, think of that wondrous cross, made of what was once a young fresh sapling! It was dry enough when He hung there to die, but it has become the tree of life, which bears twelve manner of fruits, of which the overcomers eat, whilst its leaves are for the healing of the nations.’

(2) ‘The stick was fruitless, and it follows that it was worthless too. It was only a brand fit for the burning, and that is all you and I are before Christ finds us. It does not matter what your outward circumstances or advantages may be. We hear of silver sticks and gold sticks at earthly courts, but neither silver nor gold will avail us at the Court of the Heavenly King. Whatever our pretensions, if the life of Christ be not ours, we shall be counted but as fuel for the fire—as worthless sticks.’

(3) ‘The manner of the change was secret, sovereign, sudden. The mystery of life came to the stick from the Hand of God. Let us remember God keeps that secret in His own Hand; we cannot penetrate it. Don’t turn away from the thought of spiritual life because it is mysterious. All life is a mystery. Vegetable, animal life is a mystery; how much more must spiritual life be! There is a line beyond which man’s keenest vision cannot pierce, the subtlest intellect cannot penetrate; it is the boundary line between life and death. I say the manner of the change, the mighty change which converts the dead stick into the living branch, is a secret known to God alone.’


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Numbers 17:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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