On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. (Numbers 17:8)
The account of Aaron's stalf blossoming is a great illustration of God's validation of the men through whom he chooses to delegate his authority. God shows no favoritism, and loves all alike, but the people of Israel were mistaken on more than one occasion when they thought that this meant that all carried the same measure of delegated authority before the Lord and towards the people. To truly exercise authority we must be under authority and we cannot claim to be submitted to God unless we also submit to those whom he has chosen to exercise his delegated authority. We may not need priests to come before God on our behalf, but we certainly still need those men of double account who keep watch over us.
I saw something new in this passage though. I don't know if you ask questions of the Bible when you read it? I do all the time. This is very different from questioning the Bible, by the way — something I never do! When I read this verse, I thought, "Why Almonds?" It may seem like an irrelevant and trivial detail to most, which adds nothing to the main thrust of the message; nevertheless since all the Word is inspired by God and profitable, I'm of the opinion that it all communicates something, even if it is just a little shard of extra light in an already dazzling scene. These details intrigue me!
The best place to look for such answers is the Bible itself. It is its own best commentary. So I used a concordance (my most frequently used study tool) to look up almonds. Immediately I was struck by a possible connection.
And on the lampstand itself there shall be four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers (Ex 25:34)
The lampstand with its main trunk and three branches either side which all ended in carved almond blossoms must have looked much like Aaron's stalf, or rather Aaron's stalf must have reminded Moses and the people of the lampstand before the presence of God!
This in turn speaks to me about Christ and the church — it's all about him after all. The branch that sprouts from the root and produces fruit is a prophetic picture of Christ.
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. (Isa 11:1)
And the lampstand is a New Testament prophetic picture of the Church.
The seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Rev 1:20)
What is more both Aaron and almonds can represent Christ. Aaron was the high priest, the anointed one (Messiah). Almonds are the first to blossom in the year (January) and coming after the winter are the first signs of the new life of spring. Jesus is our high priest and the fist-born from among the dead. Jesus is the light of the world, just as the light on the lampstands shone from the almonds.
Being stirred, as I am lately, on the need for both Word and Spirit in the Church. I also spotted a connection here too. It's not unreasonable to think that the seven lampstands in Revelation that represent the church are like the seven pointed lampstand that stood before the presence in the tabernacle. This shone with light from the branches of almond blossoms.
We know from Revelation that the lamp on the lampstand corresponds to the Spirit of God (Rev 4:5), but we can also see in the prophetic writings of the Old Testament that branches of almond blossom represents the Word of God.
And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.” (Jer 1:11-12)
Thus Aaron's stalf that produced almonds communicates to us volumes about the nature of the Church. It is founded, joined and grows from Christ. It must be based on the ministries who carry God's delegated authority. It is to be a light to the world, and it does so by demonstrating the reality of the Word of God by a life led in the Spirit of God.
...not bad for an insignificant detail!