May 8, 2023
This week we started reading the book of Numbers chapters 1-12. The actual name of the book is from the Greek translation and based on the census lists in chapters 1 and 26. The book documents the 40-year journey of the Israelites from Mount Sinai to the border of Caanan. This was a trip that could have taken 11 days but ended up taking almost 40 years because of the Israelites rebellion and refusal to go into the promised land when they first came upon the area (chapter 13).
Throughout the journey, the LORD spoke to Moses, who was then to deliver messages to the people. Moses’ siblings were also leaders in the tribe. In Micah 4 God says to the Israelites, “I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.”
The first time we see Miriam, she was a young girl or teenager. She was Moses’ older sister. who stood and watched as their mother put Moses in the basket and sent him down the river (Exodus 2:4). After Pharoah’s daughter found Moses in the basket, Miriam was also the one who asked in Exodus 2:7, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said yes, and Miriam retrieved their mother to nurse Moses.
Nothing is said in the Bible of Miriam as Moses is growing up, but after the Exodus through the Red Sea, we find that she was a prophetess and led the women in a celebration worship of singing and dancing. Exodus 15:20 says, “20 Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing…”
We then see Miriam in Numbers 12. She went from a leader and prophetess to a jealous gossip. Verse 1 and 2 says, “Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. Has the LORD spoke only through Moses? They asked. Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the LORD heard this.”
Commentators say that Miriam’s name is first because she was the one who started the conversation. She grumbles about Moses’ wife, but then says she and Aaron had spoken to the LORD as well. She was jealous that Moses had a better relationship with the LORD and wanted what he had.
Remember in verse 2, “The LORD heard.”
Verses 3-16 says, “3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, humbler than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
4 At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So, the three of them went out. 5 Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6 he said, “Listen to my words:
“When there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,
I speak to them in dreams.
7 But this is not true of my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
8 With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
to speak against my servant Moses?”
9 The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.
10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous[a]—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”
13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!”
14 The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.
16 After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.”
Thus, the LORD called Miriam, Aaron, and Moses together. He talked with them about the role and relationship of the prophet and how this differed from his relationship with Moses. He said that he spoke face to face to Moses because he was faithful. He did not say he spoke to Moses for any other reason, such as, “he was a good speaker.” We knew he wasn’t. It was because Moses was faithful.
The LORD’s anger burned because Miriam and Aaron did not fear talking about Moses. They spoke poorly about him, even though he was the one chosen by the LORD. This indirectly showed they did not trust God with the leader He had in place.
Because of God’s anger, he allowed Miriam to become leprous. When Aaron saw this, he pleaded with Moses to pray to the LORD. Moses could have held a grudge and not prayed, but that was not who Moses was. He immediately prayed to the LORD for healing. Then the LORD said she still had to go outside of the camp for 7 days. When she came back into the camp she was healed.
What do we learn from this story?
- No matter your position, you can still succumb to sin. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Timothy 6 says, “1 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
- Be respectful of those in authority. God gave the person this leadership position. This person may be the president or other government official, a boss, a church leader, or a husband. The LORD may not have had him/her appointed because they are great in a certain area, but because of their faith in the LORD or some other potential the LORD sees in them. Whatever the case, we must respect the leaders the LORD has placed above us. This is not because of the person in leadership, but because the position was given by God. Romans 13:1 says, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” David was a good example of this type of respect. King Saul was jealous and doing terrible things. He was even trying to kill David. David honored King Saul as “God’s anointed” in 1 Samuel 24;6.
- Stay humble. Miriam and Aaron were prideful and jealous. They wanted the relationship with the LORD that was only given to Moses. Luke 14:11 says, “11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Jesus was the ultimate example of humility. Philippians 2:3-11 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
- Watch your tongue. Remember verse 2 said, “God heard.” Miriam was only talking to Aaron, but God heard you too. She was rebelling against Moses’ leadership. James 3:3-6 says, “3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
- Realize God and people are merciful and gracious. Even though Miriam sinned, she was given forgiveness by Moses and by God. She had to pay the consequence of her sin by going outside the camp for 7 days, a rule found in Leviticus 13:5, but she was able to return to the camp afterward, but she was still forgiven. In the New Testament we have forgiveness as a free gift if we believe in Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
How are doing in this area of leading with humility? Are you happy with the gifts God has given you or do you wish God would have gifted you differently? Are you respectful of the authority God has put over you?
I know I was very convicted this week about this topic and asked God to forgive me for my pride and disrespect when thinking of those in authority over me. I pray this has helped you as well.
I will be going on vacation for 2 weeks so I will not blog until 5/29/23. You should be able to read the rest of Numbers by that point. Have a blessed 2 weeks.
Ideas taken from sermons by Jim May and Richard Tow.