What do you do when you reach the end of your tether? Personally, I tend to rant and rave and collapse in a heap! How do you show it when you have really had enough?
We don’t know the timescale of these chapters – days, months, years – but we know the grumbling was constant (v 5). I imagine Moses had had enough: the people were too busy grumbling to listen. Yesterday we saw God respond to the grumbling with signs of judgement; today he offers a sign of election, not by democratic vote, but by divine appointment (v 5).
But why almonds (v 8)? Whether or not you like marzipan, it seems an odd detail but it’s a powerful image. Almond blossom is white, pure as snow; also, almonds were expensive and highly prized. When sending his sons to Pharaoh, Jacob counted them among the ‘best products of the land’ (Genesis 43:11). Then, in Hebrew, ‘almond tree’ sounds like ‘watching’ (Jeremiah 1:11,12).
The almond-budded staff was therefore a sign of the person God chose and their role: to be an example of purity and holiness, to be valued, to keep watch over God’s people. Sadly, it was a sign God’s people needed then, and in perpetuity (v 10).
The priestly mediator role, standing between us and God, is fulfilled by Jesus. But there is still a place for leadership and authority within the church. Ask God to show you how you can affirm and encourage those who lead you in your faith.