It was going to be a money tree. My friend went to a local green-house and asked for a dead tree. They had one. She took it to church, spray-painted it white, and put tiny clothes-pins on its branches for a baby shower. That afternoon, after the party, she stashed it in a storage closet. The closet had no window for sunlight. The only light drifted in when someone opened the door. No one watered the tree. After all, it was dead.
Months later, she opened the closet, and did a double-take. There were buds on the tree. She ran to show the pastor, who made sure it was planted on the north side of the church grounds. Today the tree is seventeen years old, over fifteen feet tall, and still thriving.
Moses and Aaron were brothers and team-mates. They walked together on an impossible God-directed mission. A simple message propelled them. “Get My people out of captivity.” Yes, there were about two million captives and yes, the king would fight them tooth and toe-nail all along the way. No matter, God, Moses and Aaron would get them out together. God provided the power, Moses was His spokesman, and Aaron, his right-hand man.
My husband talks about the gift of friends who will follow us into hell with a bucket of ice water. Moses couldn’t beat the kind of friend who stood with him before a cranky heathen king, one happy to separate heads from shoulders at any given moment.
At some point Moses and Aaron realized getting the people out of slavery wasn’t the hard part. Physical location changed as they moved toward the Promised Land. Their hearts did not. A slave mentality had etched itself into generations. Its banner was passivity, setting the hearts of its victims in concrete with a perpetual, “Feed me, I’m yours.”
The Israelites missed the Promised Land with that kind of thinking. It was a tough loss. As victims, they looked for someone to blame. Where was that evil taskmaster anyway? Gone? No problem, Moses and Aaron were right there.
A bold insurrection formed, one rooted in blame and self-will. God’s people were glad to get out of slavery, as long as it didn’t require any heart adjustments. Moses and Aaron made mistakes, but their hearts didn’t waver in the passion to direct God’s people forward into His best.
Pushing and shoving each other, they still thought like angry slaves, forced to obey an unjust tyrant. But that tyrant was gone. Now they were rebelling against love Himself. Bitterness closed their eyes to the difference between an oppressor and a loving God. They ignored the lesson of the staff.
Each leader of the twelve tribes had a staff. It was a symbol of authority. In the middle of a giant mess, Moses put each one in the Tabernacle, immersed in the presence of God. The next morning eleven staffs were unchanged. Aaron’s staff, though, was full of ripe almonds. A dead branch budded, blossomed and yielded ripe almonds, an entire life cycle, in one night. The life of God Himself affirmed Aaron’s calling before the entire congregation.
Bitterness, a fruit of slave mentality, is expensive. It purchases what we don’t want. Like broken relationships and unfulfilled desires. God needs to expose its awful, stinky self. The staff is at stake. We may get put in a dark closest for a time so that the presence of God can immerse us in His light. As we embrace that light, our decision to adjust our attitudes is an investment. Its pay-off is the life of God at work within us.
This is an Aaron’s rod year. His life is not limited by our dark closets and thirsty ground. He affirms our obedience in the dark times with His life. Then we, like Aaron’s rod, dead branches without Him, bud, blossom and bear ripe fruit in ways we couldn’t anticipate. I’m game –how about you?