Staff management

Numbers 17:1-11
I’ve given cars keys to three teenagers. Before I allowed them to use those keys, I gave some form of the same speech. It was something about the responsibility of driving. This is a privilege, not a right.

Is there responsibility involved with those keys? Of course. But there’s also enjoyment. It is a fun privilege and responsibility.

In Matthew 16:19, Jesus said, ” I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Dallas Willard once shared an insight about this. He noted that having the keys to the kingdom was not a way to control access to the kingdom. That’s what many want to do with their keys–think parents and teenagers. No, Willard says, we don’t have the right to control access. We do have the right to enjoy access. He went on to offer a wonderful description of sabbath as the vehicle by which we enjoy access to God’s kingdom.

In my experience, most Christians struggle with sabbath. There’s always something to do. It goes against the grain of common sense to waste a day doing nothing. There are more practical reasons to forego sabbath. When you get them all out in the open, a reality emerges. We don’t mind the rest. We know we need it. We know we can’t connect with God if we’re too busy focusing on other things. So, what it all comes down to is control.

We need to feel in control of our lives and our time. Sure, you can disguise that as dedication or passion, but it’s still control.

In the book of Numbers, the people of God have a complaining problem. They feel Moses and Aaron have over-extended their leadership. So, they mount a rebellion and the initial result isn’t pretty. Thousands of people die. That outcome, though, didn’t tame everyone’s feelings about the two leaders.

God offers another test for their assurance.

Moses was to collect a staff from each of the twelve ancestral houses. Each leader of the house would have his name inscribed on his staff. Aaron’s name was included on the staff of Levi. Moses gathered them all and placed them in the “tent of meeting before the covenant.” God told Moses, “the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout.”

The next day Aaron’s staff had sprouted buds, blossoms and ripe almonds. God’s choice was clear.

Here’s the reflection point for us today. Each of those twelve men (and their houses) had to give up their staff for this to work. The staff was more than a walking stick, mind you. It was a sign of authority and control over his house. The text doesn’t indicate any friction, but I wonder how leery those men were giving their staff to Moses.

But it’s how God illustrated God’s will and power.

And for us to understand and live into God’s power ourselves, we need to be willing to give up control as well. We can’t experience the reality of God’s kingdom if we’re trying to control it on our terms.

Give up the staff!

Whether it’s sabbath, your prayer life or your giving patterns, stop trying to control God. What you give up is nothing compared to the blessing God will offer you in return. Enjoy the access God has given you to the kingdom that comes through giving up control and living in obedience.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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