Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Miriam and her power play
I'm sure that Miriam watched and was happy that her brother was doing well in the Pharaoh's palace. . . . since she had been vitally important in how God saved Moses' life, she probably took a real interest in how things went for him. Her family wondered if he might be the one to rescue the children of Israel from the Egyptian taskmasters.
One day, though, all of her hopes were dashed. Moses, who had become very powerful (a general) in Egypt, attempted to rescue an Israelite from being harshly beaten by an Egyptian, and in doing so, he killed the taskmaster. At the age of forty, he was fleeing for his life into the wilderness of Midian. (I'm guessing that Miriam was about fifty then.) Her hopes for her brother being the deliverer were crushed. And it was forty more years before he returned.
I'm not sure what Miriam and the family thought of him. Let's see, he was a fugitive, running from the "law," and had stayed forty years in Midian, caring for sheep. Not exactly the high position that he'd held before. In fact, the sheep he cared for didn't even belong to him -- they belonged to his father in law. (He'd married and he had two sons of his own, now.) But that was the man that God spoke to from the burning bush, and he's the man that came back to Egypt to convince the Pharaoh to loose the children of Israel from slavery.
Now, Miriam saw her "little" brother, Moses, and Aaron, his spokesman, fearlessly approaching the Pharaoh and speaking the words of God. And she is seeing God confirm their messages, by the great miracles that are taking place. First one plague and then another, coming to devastate the Egyptians. Their priests were humiliated because they could do nothing to stop Miriam's brothers and their God. This went on for six months! I expect that as she watched them proudly proclaim God's words, she wanted to help. They were reminding the Pharaoh (and the Israelite men) of God's promises, so I wonder if she did the same for the women? I picture her in my mind, in a place of leadership; she would rally them and encourage them to prepare for departure, for it would happen! The abilities that we saw in the little girl would be utilized by God again in the grown woman -- the leadership qualities of courage, quick-wittedness, and resourcefulness. God had truly equipped her to be a leader of women.
Then the fateful night came, when Israel left the land of Egypt, with the cries of grieving Egyptian parents ringing in their ears. God had kept his promises! Miriam was in the group when they came to the seemingly impassable Red Sea. She was there as they looked behind and saw the dust clouds that signaled the chariots of the Pharaoh were following. And she walked with all the others on dry ground, between the two walls of water to the other side of the sea. Then Miriam and the others watched as the sea closed on the men, the horses, and the chariots . . .
They were free! Moses taught them a song, and we can read the words in Exodus 15:
I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted. The horse and its
rider He has hurled into the sea. (v 1-2)
I hope you will read the rest of the song; it's a moving and inspiring way to glorify our Father.
Look what happens next -- we read this when we discussed the godly work of women in church settings: Miriam the prophetess, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her in singing and dancing and praising the Lord. She is a leader of the women again, outside of Egypt. They follow her, and she utilizes her musical ability to praise the Lord -- she has a godly influence.
Miriam was a gift from God to the people of Israel. Look at Micah 6:4:
I brought you up out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you
from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron
and Miriam. (v4)
As the children of Israel journeyed to the Promised Land, Miriam was involved and a leader. She heard the complaining when the water ran out, and she saw God provide water. I'm sure that she tried to encourage the women as they traveled, camped, cooked, and washed, and she heard the complaints about the food, too. Then the manna came. She listened with the rest as the thunder rolled from Mount Sinai, and Moses brought the Law to them.
Then the excitement of building a tabernacle - God would dwell with them in the camp! Everyone did their part; men who were artisans with metals and wood worked tirelessly. Women brought their jewelry, fabrics, and yarns, and they worked at weaving and sewing the coverings and curtains for the dwelling place of God. Exodus 35 tells us that Miriam was leading and encouraging those efforts, too.
But something happened to Miriam . . . she changed from being Moses' protective sister and the prophetess who led the women and supported her brothers, into being Moses' rival! What happened here? Did she become jealous? Did she become puffed up with pride because all of the women looked up to her?
We'll conclude our study of Miriam next time....