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B'Midbar/Numbers 17:17 And take from them a staff, a staff for a father's house
The vocabulary here seems confusing, since the word normally refers to a tribe (see, for example, B'Midbar 1:16) yet here it is translated 'staff'. Milgrom points out that "the staff was the official insignia of a tribal chieftain (see B'resheet 49:10)" and should take the meaning here as the term - a near synonym - is covering the meaning 'tribe' or "father's house". The dual meaning of is going to be significant through this story as the dead staff blossoms to life and represents the living tribe of Levi that G-d is going to use and bless; more, it is only that living tribe that is qualified to serve in the presence of G-d.Hirsch comments that another meaning for - branch, bough - is also in view here as the twelve tribes are branches from the stem of Ya'akov and although in many ways similar - chips off the old block - each has its own unique character and properties.
Each day in the Amidah we pray, - May You quickly cause to branch the branch of David Your servant, a clear reference to Jeremiah's words: "Behold, days are coming - the declaration of Adonai - and I will raise up for David a righteous branch - " (Jeremiah 23:5), and, "In those days, at that time, I will cause to branch for David a branch of righteousness - " (Jeremiah 33:15).HaShem promises to raise up the seed of David to restore justice and righteousness in the Land and among our people. It has been the traditional understanding of Judaism that this branch from the house of David will be none other than Messiah. But who will Messiah be? Who is this son of David? Let's go back to that stanza in the Amidah, which ends: - Blessed are You, L-rd, who causes the horn of Yeshua, salvation, to branch. Not only does this prayer hint at the name of the Messiah - Yeshua - but we pray three times every day (except Shabbat) that G-d will increase His strength, better His reputation, magnify His position and appeal, particularly among our people.
As the Son of David, Messiah will display the best characteristics of David - the man after G-d's heart, the man who interceded for his people, the man who stood between the wrath of G-d and the people, the man who fought for his people, the man who (at his best times) was faithful and obedient to his own detriment - while bringing a new and unique set of characteristics: love, compassion, teaching, authority. This is why David, speaking prophetically, could say: "The L-rd says to my L-rd: 'Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.' The L-rd will stretch forth Your strong sceptre from Zion, saying: 'Rule in the midst of Your enemies'" (Psalm 110:1-2, NASB). David recognises that although Messiah will come from his own seed, his descendants, He will nevertheless be that much above David as David was above the lowliest of his subjects - He will be L-rd! As a son of David and the Son of G-d, Messiah will be a chip off both old blocks!
In his book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard explains that the process of learning to be a disciple of Yeshua is very like the process of being an apprentice. In past days, the apprentice would study, live, eat and sleep in his master's house, learning to be exactly like his master. Success was measured by the similarity of the workmanship; if an expert could not tell the difference between a pair of gloves, shoes, a brooch or ring - whatever the trade or guild - made by the master and the apprentice then the process was complete. Dallas Willard goes on to suggest that this is how we are to be: as indistinguishable as possible from the Master Yeshua. We are learning all the time to sound like Him, to use His words, to do what He would do, to think as He would think; in every way - while retaining our own unique character - to be like Him. As the saying goes: "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck ..."; are there enough characteristics of Yeshua visible in us that everyone knows that we belong to Him?
Moshe was told to take a staff from each tribal leader, twelve in all. He was to write the name of Aharon on the staff of the tribe of Levi and the other tribe leaders were to write their own names on their staff. The staff that sprouted would designate the tribe that HaShem had chosen to serve Him in the priesthood and the service of the Tabernacle. Only the staff that G-d restored to life would be kept in G-d's presence as a memorial for future generations that the matter was G-d's choice and not Moshe, Aharon or any group of people forming a committee and voting one of themselves to be High Priest. So it is with us; it is only Yeshua's name on us that restores us to life and qualifies us to be in G-d's presence. As we blossom, bud and bring forth fruit, we declare to the world who we belong to and serve as a witness to all generations that G-d is still at work among the sons of men; that we too are chips off the Father's block.
Further Study: Jeremiah 23:5-6; Romans 12:1-2
Application: Take a good look at yourself and see where you look like Yeshua. You may find this easier to do with someone else who knows you well and you can examine each other. As you look, be open to G-d showing you things that He wants to change and areas where He is pleased with your progress. How much do you resemble Yeshua?
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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