Spare the Rod, Spoil the Nation
This is not a sermon about corporal punishment. So hang tight. There is no need to lunge for the doors. And this is not a sermon about how to raise children. So all of you parents do not have to worry about me giving you a large load of guilt. You will have enough regrets in life without my adding to them.
A common theme found in the three Biblical passages we are studying this week is that God appoints leaders. We see that theme in the text in 1 Samuel, the passage in Romans, and the study selection in Numbers.
In the passage in 1 Samuel, we see God’s active work in selecting Saul as Israel’s first king. 1 Samuel 11:14-15 (King James Version) Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there. 15And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
In the epistle reading, we see an important principle. We are not to fight against those God appoints. We may actively oppose governmental injustice, but we are still subject to the government. Romans 13:1 (King James Version) Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
From the books of Moses, we see how God confirmed Aaron’s spiritual leadership, when Aaron’s leadership was under attack. The passage in Numbers also helps us see how God affirms Christ’s ministry.
Numbers 17:6-9 (King James Version) And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, and every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for each prince one, according to their fathers' houses, even twelve rods: and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. 7And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness. 8And 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. 9And Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD unto all the children of Israel: and they looked, and took every man his rod.
At times God quietly confirms spiritual leadership. Sometimes, God’s affirmation is so bold it leaves no doubt. This time, there was absolutely no doubt when God was done confirming leadership.
You may have heard the saying “spare the rod and spoil the child.” In Numbers Chatper 17, the saying is more like “spare the rod and spoil the children of Israel.” God uses a rod to send a message. The rod was not used to beat intelligence into the people. God did not use the road to beat them until they had the gift of spiritual discernment. The rod was used as a sign.
The rod or scepter budding meant a lot to the ancients. Adam Clarker notes examples from ancient secular history of people swearing on their scepters. In the oath, they would state that the scepter would never bud.1
This is miraculous. Rods are dead. A wooden rod has no source of life. All of the bark is removed. There is no root system and there are no leaves. In fact, these rods may have been dead a long, long time - possibly months, years. We are not told. Each rod was in a dry place. Over night, Aaron’s rod demonstrated life!2
But Aaron’s rod did not just show any form of life. His rod is ripe, ripe for the eating! It shows mature life. The rod had buds, blossoms and almonds!
Aaron’s rod comes to life. A piece of dead wood comes to life. Aaron’s priesthood is confirmed by the resurrection of a piece of wood.3
Jesus’ priesthood is also confirmed by a resurrection. The gospels record three examples of Jesus raising the dead. He raised Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son at Nain, and Lazarus.4 Jesus’ priesthood is ultimately confirmed by Jesus’ own resurrection.5
But there is even better news. Jesus’ priesthood is confirmed every day. The power of the resurrected Jesus is confirmed regularly for non-believers and Believers alike. A few years ago, it was confirmed when a dead piece of wood - the chip on my shoulders - was given life. Jesus’ priesthood has been confirmed in the lives of many people who are here today. Because God touched your heart and changed your life, people are able to understand that Jesus is the Messiah, that there is something different about Christianity and about Christians. When Christians see the ripe fruit of faith, love and obedience, in your life, they understand that you are a servant of God.
The existence of God’s queer trip is confirmed regularly too. Every time a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans-identified person steps through the doors of a church and worships God, the reality that God has queer servants is confirmed. Whenever queer Christians reach out in love, and serve God and humanity from a perspective of love, their rightful place as servants of God is confirmed. And the times when queer Christians return love for hate, love for homophobia, love for biphobia, and love for transphobia, the world sees a confirmation your ministry.
But the greatest miracle, the miracle that is provides the most proof of God’s living ministry in you is when your dead heart, a heart deadened by verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse, a heart deadened by self hate, starts to live. Every time queer Christians finds God’s love and are able to start to love themselves, people see dead hearts, hearts that might have been dead for years, blossom and bloom. And they know only one thing could be responsible for the miracle of self-love and life - God! So for God’s sake, love yourself.