Thursday, April 14, 2016

Miriam and her power play

In our posts this week, we've seen that Miriam had been given talents that made her a good leader, and she'd been gifted by God with opportunities to lead the women of the nation of Israel.  So, how did things change, and she and Aaron went against their brother?
Let's dive in!
Here is our passage:
Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.
(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)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. 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, 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.But this is not true of my servant Moses;    he is faithful in all my house.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?”
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—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.

Wow. Just sixteen verses in this chapter, but it packs a wallop. (Grin)
Let's put ourselves in Miriam's sandy shoes for a moment or two . . . do you think that probably Miriam had continued to feel responsible for Moses since the day that she saved his life? I've not had that honor, but it seems like it could be difficult to shake that feeling. The verses say that Moses was a humble man, and that he waited for God's guidance. Awesome. I wish some day that someone will be able to say that about me. But maybe that irked Miriam a little bit. Maybe she wanted things to move more quickly. For decisions to be made and things move forward. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you wanted to prod someone to make something happen?

Maybe she began to feel some ambition, too. It was always the three of them in leadership, but bless it, Moses always had the last word! Why weren't they equals? Maybe instead of being thankful for the influence that God had gifted her, she wanted more power and more authority. So, now that Moses is eighty-two, and Zipporah had died, Moses has taken another wife. She's a Cushite. There's nothing in the Law to forbid him from marrying this woman -- the Law said "no Canaanites" and "no Moabites" but it didn't say no to Cushites. So Moses is OK here. But Miriam and Aaron began to gossip about the new couple. To each other first, and then to the other people. The women began to talk as they gathered the manna. The men (don't forget, Aaron was in on this, too!) began to question things, too. You know how it starts in a church or group of Christians . . . questioning the judgment of someone, saying you're disappointed in something they did, etc.  Next thing you know, they're fussing about why they aren't equal with Moses.....this is jealousy and rebellion!  (James was right when he said the tongue is a fire, wasn't he?)

So the Lord summons the three of them to a meeting, and He defends Moses and says that Moses is His faithful servant. And He makes it clear that they are rebelling against Him, not just against Moses! You see, as long as our leaders, whether we call them pastors, elders, or whatever, are obedient to the Word of God, we are to support them and follow their guidance.

Rebellion is what brings judgment to Miriam here. God is swift to discipline her. When the cloud of God's presence lifted from the tent, there stood Miriam, leprous. Why wasn't Aaron stricken? I think we have to assume that she was the instigator, the catalyst of the power play.  It must have been her that started this, and God confirmed it in front of Aaron and Moses. Leprosy meant that she would have to go outside the camp -- and stay there until she was well. Miriam, who had made her power play, and wanted more power, more influence with the people, would now be outside, with no contact with people.

What did Aaron do? He acknowledged his part in the sin, and pleaded for her to be healed. He's shocked by her condition, and confesses his own rebellion. Moses cries out to the Lord, and He says she will be OK in seven days, and can come back. She would be outside, alone, with only her thoughts to keep her company. What do you think she thought about? Wonder what she felt like, when she was able to return? I bet she would feel embarrassed, not so sure of herself. I think she would not have had as much influence as she once did. The other women would not have been so prone to "put her on a pedestal," but I truly believe that she was still a leader among the women. What an example, to be able to show that yes, sin does have its consequences, but we can still be instruments for God's glory after we repent!

Miriam lived for thirty-eight more years under Moses' leadership, and it doesn't mention that she challenged his authority again. We actually don't hear of Miriam again, until they are on the border of the Promised Land, and the scripture records her death.

As Christian women, our attitudes must always be those of freedom to be all that God wants us to be, but we must be careful. We cannot be resentful of restrictions that are placed upon us -- as long as they are biblical. (We talked about this a few weeks ago.)
Miriam was very influential; she played a unique role among the women of the Hebrew nation. She lost her influence because of her power play.
We, too, are influential; we are responsible to God to use our influence for good, not for bad. Are we serving him wholeheartedly? Wherever He has placed us, are we happy that this is our calling? Or are we looking at someone else's life, thinking the "grass is greener" over there?
Whatever stage of life we are at, whether we are single or married, whether we are guiding growing children or have an empty nest, every stage of life can be rich and full of God's blessings and glory. As long as we are determined to love, serve, and obey Him, He is going to shower us with joy and peace.

                            He replied, "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and
                            obey it." (Luke 11:28)

                             You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on
                             You, because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3)


Cathy said...

I read a post on Facebook that really resonated in my soul, and speaks to what may have been a part of their rebellion.
“Self asserts itself in criticizing others. Let this thought burn itself into your memory – the more like Jesus Christ a man becomes, the less he criticizes other people. It is an infallible test. Those who are always criticizing others have drifted away from Christ. They may still be His, but have lost His Spirit of love. Beloved reader, if you have a criticizing nature, allow it to dissect yourself and never your neighbor”
-The Kneeling Christian
This stomped on all my toes and hit me soundly up the side of my head, for I am one of those with a critical spirit.

Austin Towers said...

Miriam's story is quite a story!! I had forgotten a great deal! Complaining about one's younger brother's choice of wife I guess is not in itself a bad thing, except maybe when your younger brother is the leader of your people and has been put there by God. Great study, Jacque xx

Katie Isabella said...

Yes, as Austin Towers said, it is indeed a great study and I love Austin's point too. :-)