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“Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because of the Cushite woman
he married (for he had married a Cushite woman).  They said, ‘Does the
Lord speak only through Moses? Does He not also speak through us?’ And
the Lord heard [it].  Moses was a very humble man, more so than any
man on the face of the earth.  Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron,
and Miriam, ‘You three come out to the tent of meeting.’ So the three of
them went out.  Then the Lord descended in a pillar of cloud, stood
at the entrance to the tent, and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two
of them came forward,  He said: ‘Listen to what I say: If there is a
prophet among you from the Lord, I make Myself known to him in a vision;
I speak with him in a dream.  Not so with My servant Moses; he is faithful
in all My household.  I speak with him directly, openly, and not in
riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. So why were you not afraid to speak
against My servant Moses?’  The Lord’s anger burned against them, and
He left.  As the cloud moved away from the tent, Miriam’s [skin] suddenly
became diseased, as [white] as snow. When Aaron turned toward her, he saw
that she was diseased  and said to Moses, ‘My lord, please don’t hold
against us this sin we have so foolishly committed.  Please don’t let
her be like a dead [baby] whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes
out of his mother’s womb.’  Then Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘God,
please heal her!’  The Lord answered Moses, ‘If her father had merely
spit in her face, wouldn’t she remain in disgrace for seven days? Let her
be confined outside the camp for seven days; after that she may be brought
back in.’  So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days,
and the people did not move on until Miriam was brought back in.” (HCSB)
Miriam was an important member of Moses’ ministry team.
Her ministry to Moses began when he was a small child. Moses was
born into difficult times. Not only was his family in Egyptian captivity,
but Pharaoh had issued an extermination decree against all male babies.
Moses’ mother hid him as long as she could, then placed him in a papyrus
basket and set him afloat in the portion of the Nile River where Pharaoh’s
daughter bathed. When she discovered the child, Pharaoh’s daughter
had pity on him. Miriam, Moses’ sister immediately walked up to her and
asked if she’d like for her to find one of the Hebrew women to nurse Moses
for her. Mesopotamian adoptions of abandoned children often included
a paid wet nurse who cared for them until they were weaned. (Bible
Background Commentary) Miriam assumed that Pharaoh’s daughter was
willing to adopt Moses, or perhaps she was using subtle persuasion with
her question. Regardless, Pharaoh’s daughter agreed and Miriam took
Moses to his own home where his mother cared for him during his formative
In Micah 6:4, her name is mentioned right along with Moses and
Aaron as people God sent to deliver His people. It says, “Indeed,
I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from that place
of slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam ahead of you.” (Micah 6:4 HCSB)
Miriam was a leader among the women. After God rescued the
children of Israel by opening the Red Sea, allowing them to safely reach
the Eastern Shore out of the reach of Pharaoh’s armies, Moses and the people
sang a song of praise unto the Lord. After God closed the Red Sea
upon their pursuers; Miriam led the women in a celebratory dance before
the Lord. Exodus 15:20-21 says, “Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s
sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her with
tambourines and dancing.  Miriam sang to them: Sing to the Lord, for
He is highly exalted; He has thrown the horse and its rider into the sea.”
. Undoubtedly, she was an important member of the team, but something
went horribly wrong in this text.
Aaron was Moses' right hand man; Miriam was his sister. With Moses
out of earshot, they began trashing him because they didn't approve of
his wife-she was a Cushite, and they didn't like her. I suppose it is a
sister's prerogative not to like her sister-in-law, I mean Miriam wouldn't
be the first person to disapprove of a brother's choice in a bride. But
Miriam and Aaron went too far; they asked a couple of questions they shouldn't
have asked, "Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not
spoken through us as well?" (Numbers 12:2 NASB) As they spoke, they thought
they were alone, but they weren't, God was listening. And God wasn't happy
about them trashing His leader.
He appeared to them in a cloud and told them to come to Him. In
no uncertain terms, God lectured them about the special place Moses had
in His kingdom’s work and then asked them why they weren't afraid to speak
against him? God didn't wait for their answer, when the cloud departed,
Miriam was as white as a ghost. Not because of her fear, but because God
struck her with leprosy. Aaron appealed to Moses, asking him to intervene
on her behalf with God, and Moses did as Aaron asked, pleading with God
to heal her.
Sometimes criticism is valid. But sometimes it is not.
“Children’s Books” called Alice in Wonderland “stiff,” and “overwrought.”
“Century Magazine” said A Tale of Two Cities was “a sheer dead pull from
start to finish.” And the “Saturday Review of Literature” said the author
of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, “deserves a good shaking.” (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Critics can be wrong, but forgiving them when they are is always
the right thing to do.
Like other great men, Moses was merciful. Abraham was merciful
to his nephew Lot and worked toward his deliverance (Gen 14:1-6). Joseph
showed mercy to his brothers who’d harmed him by helping to sustain their
lives (Gen 50:15-21). David was merciful to King Saul and spared
his life when God delivered Saul into his hands (I Sam 24:1-22; 26:1- 25).
And Moses showed mercy toward Miriam after her rebellion. He cried
to the Lord, “Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee" (Num 12:13).
Miriam is a name with an uncertain meaning. Some suggestions
are “bitter,” “God’s gift,” “beloved,” or “defiant.” (Holman Bible
Dictionary) I would suggest they are all reflective of who Miriam
was. At times, I’m sure Moses thought she was God’s gift to him and
that she was his beloved sister. But she also had a dark side.
She could be bitter and defiant. Moses loved her as she was.
He entered into her pain and extended mercy.
In his book Reimagining Spiritual Formation,
Doug Pagitt writes, "But when a friend tells you about a deep struggle,
and the natural response is to enter in to that person's life, whatever
the risk--then we find ourselves being transformed into the people of grace
and mercy opened for us in the Kingdom of God. At its core, hospitality
is an act of faith. It is faith in God and faith in people.
It is an open posture that views others not as threats, but as participants
in the process of one another's redemption." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Moses was merciful because God gave him the strength to be.
I know there are people in your lives that are undeserving of your forgiveness.
That’s precisely why you need God’s grace to flow through you, so you can
be gracious and merciful.
Like Moses was.
God did, but for seven days the Children of Israel stopped their
journey toward the Promised Land while Miriam lived in shame for asking
two questions. For an entire week the children of Israel stood still.
They made no progress in their journey. They didn't break down their tents
and they didn't set them up. Nobody moved. It wasn't that they had arrived
where they wanted it be, it was they couldn't move because of the disobedience
of a couple of its people.
After the week was over they sent spies into the land to bring
a report back to Moses about the land God had promised them, but for an
entire week they stood still. Nobody moved.
I wonder if Miriam had any more questions she wanted to ask?
*For more information on Reimagining Spiritual Formation,
go to http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0310256879/freshministry