29. FAMILY DISASTER – MIRIAM AND AARON
In our previous presentation we looked at the very sad incidence where a brother and a sister became jealous of the brother.
Numbers 12:1-3 Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for she had married an Ethiopian woman. 2 So they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. 3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)
How did he react to this painful slander? Their accusations were borne by Moses in uncomplaining silence.
It was the experience gained during the years of toil and waiting in Midian–the spirit of humility and long-suffering there developed; that prepared Moses to meet with patience the unbelief and murmuring of the people and the pride and envy of those who should have been his unswerving helpers.
Moses “was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth,” and this is why he was granted divine wisdom and guidance above all others.
Says the Scripture, “The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach His way.” Psalm 25:9. The meek are guided by the Lord, because they are teachable, willing to be instructed.
They have a sincere desire to know and to do the will of God. The Saviour’s promise is, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.” John 7:17.
And He declares by the apostle James, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5.
But His promise is only to those who are willing to follow the Lord wholly. God does not force the will of any; hence He cannot lead those who are too proud to be taught, who are bent upon having their own way. Of the double-minded man–he who seeks to follow his own will, while professing to do the will of God–it is written:
“Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” James 1:7.
God had chosen Moses, and had put His Spirit upon him; and Miriam and Aaron, by their murmurings, were guilty of
disloyalty, not only to their appointed leader, but to God Himself.
Numbers 12:4-6 Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” So the three came out. 5 Then the LORD came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. 6 Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.
God has ever revealed His will to His servants the prophets through visions and dreams, and promises to continue doing so (Joel 2:28; Amos 3:7). On the basis of Joel 2:28 it has been suggested that “visions” are generally accorded to younger men and women, and “dreams” to those who are older.
An “open vision” (1 Sam. 3:1) is a physically exhausting ordeal (see Dan. 10:8–11, 16–19). Various of the prophets speak of experiences similar to that of Daniel. Inspired dreams seem to draw far less on the physical resources of the individual to whom they are accorded.
The seditious whisperers were summoned to the tabernacle, and brought face to face with Moses. “And Jehovah came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam.” Their claim to the prophetic gift was not denied; God might have spoken to them in visions and dreams.
Verses 6-8 Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?”
The form of the Lord.
What does it mean?
Not the actual being of God but some visible form that a man could see and appreciate. The word here rendered “similitude” ”form” is sometimes translated “likeness” (Deut. 4:15, 16, 23, 25; Ps. 17:15; Isa. 40:18; cf. John 1:18 and 1 Tim. 6:16).
Speak against my servant Moses! Sad words
What can we learn from the mistake of Miriam?
The fundamental mistake of Miriam was one of disrespect for, and rebellion against, lawfully constituted authority—in this case, appointed by God Himself.
Errors in judgment upon the part of God’s leaders today provide no excuse for withholding from them one’s loyal support.
In spite of the fact that Saul sought his life, David remained loyal, in word and in deed, to him as king, saying, “The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam. 6:11).
Though condemning the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, Christ commanded His disciples to cooperate with them as the appointed leaders of the nation (Matt. 23:3).
When a person is tempted to inquire concerning some leader in the church, “What shall this man do?” the Lord replies today as He did to Peter, “What is that to thee? follow thou me” (John 21:21, 22)
Paul’s counsel is explicit. “Dearly beloved,” he says, “avenge not yourselves” (Rom. 12:19), and then quotes Scripture, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.”
Every true disciple of the Master today will be loyal to those in authority in the church, even when it may seem that they have erred in judgment (1 Tim. 5:1; Titus 3:1). What is going to happen to Aaron Miriam? Will God tell them to please do not behave so badly in future and let them go?
Verses 9,10 So the anger of the LORD was aroused against them, and He departed. 10 And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper.
Compare with Ex. 4:6; 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Chron. 26:19–21. Aaron received no physical punishment. Evidently the whole outcry was worked up by Miriam, who now received her just deserts.
The cloud disappeared from the tabernacle in token of God’s displeasure, and Miriam was smitten. She “became leprous, white as snow.” Aaron was spared, but he was severely rebuked in Miriam’s punishment. Now, their pride humbled in the dust, Aaron confessed their sin, and entreated that his sister might not be left to perish by that loathsome and deadly scourge.
Verses 11,12 So Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned. 12 Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb!”
Lay not this sin. In Zech. 14:19 the same Hebrew word is translated “punishment,” since it refers to both sin and its punishment.
As one dead.
That is, condemned to die. She was shut away from others like a criminal. What would you have done? Pray for your sister who wants to destroy you? Moses was a normal man with normal emotions. But he did not consult his sinful inclinations. Listen what he did:
Verse 13-15 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!” Then the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may be received again.” 15 So Miriam was shut out of the camp seven days, and the people did not journey till Miriam was brought in again.
Spit in her face. Among Eastern peoples spittle is supposed to have both evil and good effects (see Deut. 25:9; Job 30:10; Mark 7:33; 8:23). Among certain people even today spittle is supposed to be the means of transferring superhuman powers.
After that. The words of v. 14, that Miriam might return a week from the time leprosy struck her, imply that she was healed immediately (see v. 13), and began the ritual of purification immediately (see Lev. 13:4).
In answer to the prayers of Moses the leprosy was cleansed. Miriam was, however, shut out of the camp for seven days.
Not until she was banished from the encampment did the symbol of God’s favor again rest upon the tabernacle. In respect for her high position, and in grief at the blow that had fallen upon her, the whole company abode in Hazeroth, awaiting her return. This manifestation of the Lord’s displeasure was designed to be a warning to all Israel, to check the growing spirit of discontent and insubordination.
If Miriam’s envy and dissatisfaction had not been signally rebuked, it would have resulted in great evil. Envy is one of the most satanic traits that can exist in the human heart, and it is one of the most baleful in its effects.
Says the wise man, “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?” Proverbs 27:4. It was envy that first caused discord in heaven, and its indulgence has wrought untold evil among men.
“Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” James 3:16.
It should not be regarded as a light thing to speak evil of others or to make ourselves judges of their motives or actions.
“He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.” James 4:11.
There is but one judge He “who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.” 1 Corinthians 4:5.
And whoever takes it upon himself to judge and condemn his fellow men is usurping the prerogative of the Creator. The Bible specially teaches us to beware of lightly bringing accusation against those whom God has called to act as His ambassadors.
The apostle Peter, describing a class who are abandoned sinners, says, “Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.” 2 Peter 2:10, 11.
And Paul, in his instruction for those who are placed over the church, says, “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” 1 Timothy 5:19.
He who has placed upon men the heavy responsibility of leaders and teachers of His people will hold the people accountable for the manner in which they treat His servants. We are to honor those whom God has honored.
The judgment visited upon Miriam should be a rebuke to all who yield to jealousy, and murmur against those upon whom God lays the burden of His work.
Verse 16 And afterward the people moved from Hazeroth and camped in the Wilderness of Paran.
ROAD UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Have you discovered that the road to our heavenly Canaan is continually under construction?
This life is a preparation for the next and God wants us to develop characters fit for heaven. The method He uses are the unpleasant constructions along the road.
THE 12 SPIES
Before entering Cana, the Lord wanted the people to get an idea of what His gift to them looked like. How did He go about doing it?
Numbers 13:1-3 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, everyone a leader among them.” 3 So Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the children of Israel.
Eleven days after leaving Mount Horeb the Hebrew host encamped at Kadesh, in the wilderness of Paran, which was not far from the borders of the Promised Land.
Here it was proposed by the people that spies be sent up to survey the country. The matter was presented before the Lord by Moses, and permission was granted, with the direction that one of the rulers of each tribe should be selected for this purpose.
The men were chosen as had been directed, and Moses bade them go and see the country, what it was, its situation and natural advantages; and the people that dwelt therein, whether they were strong or weak, few or many; also to observe the nature of the soil and its productiveness and to bring of the fruit of the land.
They went, and surveyed the whole land, entering at the southern border and proceeding to the northern extremity. They returned after an absence of forty days.
The people of Israel were cherishing high hopes and were waiting in eager expectancy. The news of the spies’ return was carried from tribe to tribe and was hailed with rejoicing.
The people rushed out to meet the messengers, who had safely escaped the dangers of their perilous undertaking. The spies brought specimens of the fruit, showing the fertility of the soil.
It was in the time of ripe grapes, and they brought a cluster of grapes so large that it was carried between two men. They also brought of the figs and pomegranates which grew there in abundance.
The people rejoiced that they were to come into possession of so goodly a land, and they listened intently as the report was brought to Moses, that not a word should escape them.
Verses 26,27 Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, a Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with and honey, and this is its fruit.
The people were enthusiastic; they would eagerly obey the voice of the Lord, and go up at once to possess the land.
But after describing the beauty and fertility of the land, all but two of the spies enlarged upon the difficulties and dangers that lay before the Israelites should they undertake the conquest of Canaan.
They enumerated the powerful nations located in various parts of the country, and said that the cities were walled and very great, and the people who dwelt therein were strong, and it would be impossible to conquer them.
They also stated that they had seen giants, the sons of Anak, there, and it was useless to think of possessing the land.
Now the scene changed. Hope and courage gave place to cowardly despair, as the spies uttered the sentiments of their unbelieving hearts, which were filled with discouragement prompted by Satan.
Their unbelief cast a gloomy shadow over the congregation, and the mighty power of God, so often manifested in behalf of the chosen nation, was forgotten.
The people did not wait to reflect; they did not reason that He who had brought them thus far would certainly give them the land; they did not call to mind how wonderfully God had delivered them from their oppressors, cutting a path through the sea and destroying the pursuing hosts of Pharaoh.
They left God out of the question, and acted as though they must depend solely on the power of arms.
In their unbelief they limited the power of God and distrusted the hand that had hitherto safely guided them. And they repeated their former error of murmuring against Moses and Aaron.
After the break we will continue with the story of sinful man and a patient God.
Are you going through a very hard time right now? Are you despairing? Next time we are going to learn from mistakes made by Israel. May it help us to be overcomers through Him which strengthens us.