Case: The older siblings vs the youngest.
Plaintiffs: Aaron and Miriam
Background: v. 1
Moses married a Cushite woman. Cush was the oldest son of Ham – the son of Noah. Cushite is Ethiopian in today’s context. The older siblings were against their younger brother for marrying a foreigner.
Complaint: v. 2
“Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” (We’re older, we know better!)
hmmmm.. it sounds like the green-eyed monsters speaking beneath righteous condemnation.
And the Lord heard what they said.
Commentary: v. 3
(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) This verse was an editorial comment. For sure Moses did not write this. Why the comment? Because Moses did not make a sound to defend himself or to complain to God.
The hearing: v. 4-5
So immediately (NLT)/suddenly (NASB), the Lord (appearing in a cloud at the doorway of the tent) called: Hey, you 3 come out to the tent of meeting.
The complainants were called to come forward… not for them to file their complaint but for them to listen to the defense. God himself defended Moses:
The Defense: v. 6-8 (here’s my favourite part of the story)
“Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream.
(Remember that the complaint was that Moses was not the only messenger/prophet of God. So God said yes, you two prophets I make myself known to u in vision or in a dream.)
7 “Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household;
(As for Moses, he’s not only my prophet, he’s my servant; the faithful one of all the other servants I have in my household.)
8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, Even openly, and not in dark sayings, And he beholds the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant, against Moses?”
(With Moses, I speak clearly – not in vision or dream. He hears my voice and he sees my face! How dare you speak against My servant, Moses?)
The judge angrily left the plaintiffs. They became the accused! v. 9
Sentence: v.10 Leprosy for Miriam
Appeal: v. 11 Aaron begged Moses for help.
v. 13: O God, heal her I pray. (Moses’ only words all the while was to ask God to waive the punishment of his accuser!)
v.14-15: Appeal not granted. God defended Moses and stood by His decision to punish Miriam. (7 days in isolation for her to think about her sin. Maybe so that she will remember not to do it again.! 🙂 )
1) Beware of pride: How often do people cover their envy beneath self-righteousness and judgment on others? Miriam and Aaron were critical of Moses’ marriage and they spoke against him – being God’s prophet. They questioned his authority and position. Beneath all these condemning attitude is their pride – they were envious of their younger brother being God’s spokesperson.
2) Embrace humility: When people speak out against me, do I have the same humility and peace of mind to stay quiet? No need to defend myself… Is it not natural tendency that I need or want to justify myself – to cry foul! I do not deserve this. I did no wrong.
3) God lifts up the humble: The Lord hears. He sees. In His time, in His way, He defends. He stands behind the faithful servant.
4) True test of humility is love… active love through active forgiving. More than staying quiet, true test of humility comes in the words: O God, heal her I pray! To be passively forgiving is easier than active forgiveness. To pray for people speaking against you is to love your enemy. But Miriam is not an enemy, you say. She’s his sister. Is it not much more difficult and painful to have your blood or your friend turn against you? Moses actively forgave when he prayed for Miriam to be spared from punishment.
5) There is restoration after judgment. God punished Miriam. But He was gracious in restoring Miriam back into the community. I doubt Moses felt good that Miriam was outside the camp in isolation. He had to record the event and twice it was said ‘for her to be received again’. v.14-15. The sinner has to face the consequence for sin. But God is gracious. He receives the sinner back in his mercy.