Rescue and Renewal

Dec 14, 2015   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

I have heard too many stories about someone being bailed out of trouble, often multiple times, without learning from a mistake. We live in a bit of a nanny state, where people can make mistakes but still get away with it and not have to suffer consequences. Perhaps you have also experienced the phenomenon of a person told at some point in his life that he was special, and he never forgot it. Every time he does something that would render most people dealing with a fallout and picking up the pieces, he gets rescued by parents or friends, often even the society he lives in. And the cycle repeats.

I think about the Old Testament story of Numbers 12-17. In that stretch of six chapters, God’s people do some really bad things. They send 12 spies into the Promised Land. 10 of them bring back a bad report and even exaggerate the negative, while only 2 of them try to hold the people to God’s power and promise. They even want to execute God’s leaders, including the one who led them out of Egypt and through a body of water that split in two before them and drowned the most feared army of the time behind them. When consequences were doled out (that generation was to die in the wilderness), they tried to go in anyway, and wound up getting whipped. Then community leaders Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, rebelled. They were of the tribe of Reuben, the first-born of Jacob. They may have felt that they had more right to leadership because of the birth order of their ancestors. They even equated the Promised Land with Egypt, and would have executed Moses and Aaron and headed back to Egypt. Those men and everyone who followed them (even their families) were wiped out in a single day.

What if they had been bailed out of trouble? Would this nation of blessing ever have blessed anyone? Would they have become a stench, much like the spoiled child turns into an adult that no one can stand to be around?

Numbers 17 is the story of re-establishing God’s order of leadership. The tribes were told to bring a staff with their leader’s name carved into it. The staffs were taken before God in the Tabernacle. God would prove the one He chose for leadership by making a dead piece of wood, not connected to a tree or any kind of bush, show buds the next morning. Not only did He do this, but that dead piece of wood created blossoms and ripe almonds. It showed new life, matured life, and the produce of life. And the staff belonged to Aaron. From that time forward, his rod would stay in God’s Presence. Anyone who doubted leadership and was tempted to rebel just had to look at the rod and remember God’s choice and what had happened to those who rebelled just before this event occurred.

It is interesting how two rods were used in Torah. Moses’ rod became a snake, was stretched out to signal the beginnings of plagues, to signal the parting and re-closing of waters (rescue for Israel and judgment against Egypt), and to strike a rock to bring out water. Aaron’s rod, like his role, was different. It became a sign of new life, developed into mature beauty and fruitfulness. Moses was the delivering leader. Aaron was the agent of forgiveness and atonement.

What brings a person to Christian maturity? Obviously, there might be pain. The old has to be given up. A person has to “leave Egypt.” Christ came to rescue people from slavery to sin. That’s the “Moses Rod” part of what He did. He was stricken on the cross before any water flowed out that could bring life.

But He also came to atone for sin. He was sacrificed. His death and resurrection brought us atonement. He’s still in heaven before God’s throne representing us. He promised to come back. the “Aaron’s Rod” part of what Christ did brings with it new, maturing, and fruitful life from what was once dead.

Back to the original thought. What if the consequences of rebellion were not suffered? What would Israel have turned out to be? I would suggest an empty shell of what she would (for a time at least) become. Rescue without renewal–a new life!–is empty. Israel had to become a new “person,” rescued (represented by Moses) and renewed (represented by Aaron). The nation needed both.

So do we. I know it’s hard. I’ve had to deal with consequences of mistakes. No one likes it. But without trial, without learning from mistakes, we keep repeating them, and we become people no one wants to be around. We cannot be people of blessing without rescue and renewal. We need them both.

How have you experienced rescue and renewal? What lessons can you share to help others see why both are necessary? Praying that we each will know the blessing of both in our lives, and that we can see past the pain and into the blessing.

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