Read Numbers 12:1-5
Complaining is certainly contagious. Prickly people make other people prickly. Even Miriam and Aaron now get in on the action.
Anyone can become critical and snappy, even a high priest and a prophetess.
Sadly, these were Moses’ own sister and brother. Both had been a right hand to him in the deliverance of the Israelites. Micah 6:4 Now they were a stumbling block. How sad when relations can’t help each other because of animosity. The Ethiopian woman whom Moses married was probably Zipporah. There was a time when she was not with Moses but her father brought her back to him at Sinai. Miriam, his sister, had great influence upon Moses’. When his wife joined him, she probably took her role as first-lady to the organizational team.
There was clearly jealousy at work, “Has he not spoken through us also?”
Times haven’t changed. People still become jealous when their authority and prestige are threatened. The fact that Miriam got hit with the leprosy and Aaron didn’t would be because Miriam was the chief aggressor.
“And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” (Luke 17:1, ESV)
See Christ here: Even his own brothers didn’t believe him. John 7:5 The position and calling of Moses wasn’t enabled by a family dynasty or nepotism. He was individually called and enabled by God. It was blessing to him to have his brother and sister helping him, most of the time, but he was not dependent upon them. Jesus’ call was enough. And your call in Christ is enough to stand alone too, should you need to. Luke 14:26, Mark 10:30
“When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the Lordwill take care of me.” (Psalm 27:10, NKJV)
Read Numbers 12:1-6
Moses was bold as lion when it came to the Name of the Lord. But with regard to his own name and person being complained against, he didn’t resent it. We don’t see him argue for himself or fight for himself. If he had heard what was being said, and most of us do hear what others are saying about us, he didn’t address it. The text says in parenthesis: “(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth. Numbers 12:3, NKJV) His meekness made him as mild as a lamb for his own cause. Think of how hurtful it must have been for Moses to have the criticism of his own brother and sister. Hadn’t Moses come to Aaron’s aid when he was derelict of duty in watching over the people when Moses was upon Sinai? Didn’t Aaron stupidly assist the rebellious people with making a calf from their jewelry? Who interceded for Aaron when he was on the edge of judgment and death? Moses did. And now he receives evil for good from him.
“The unkindness of our friends is a greater trial for our meekness than the malice of our enemies.”
See Christ here: Christ was meek.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:29, KJV)
Peter reminds us, when he was unjustly arrested, punished and crucified, that he did not retaliate. “Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;” (1 Peter 2:23, NKJV)
Moses, like Christ, didn’t retaliate either. He trusted the Lord with his cause.
Read Numbers 12:6-8
The meekness of Moses does not answer the complaint and criticism of Aaron and Miriam. He acts as though he hasn’t heard.
The psalmist had season where his loved ones stood apart from him:
“But I, like a deaf man, do not hear; And I am like a mute who does not open his mouth. Thus I am like a man who does not hear, And in whose mouth is no response.” (Psalm 38:13–14, NKJV)
Though Moses acts as though he hasn't heard, the Lord “heard it.” Not only did the Lord hear it, he answers it!
He addresses them sternly that Moses is His man. He reminds them that he is faithful in His house. He lectures them on how He speaks plainly to Moses and then He says, “Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?”
God has promised to defend and vindicate His servants. “no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lordand their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”” (Isaiah 54:17, ESV)
We see Christ throughout this encounter. “He was like a sheep led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7 & Acts 8:32)
The more silent we are in our own cause the more God will answer for us. The accused innocent doesn’t need to say anything if the Judge of the universe is on his side.
Read Numbers 12:9-14
Aaron and Miriam were made to know that they had crossed a line. The Shekinah cloud lifts from the tabernacle and Miriam, the ringleader of complaint, is “leprous, and white as snow.” Aaron is quick to repent.
“And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned.” (Numbers 12:11, ESV)
King Uzziah, in later years, would invade the priest’s work to burn incense. He crossed a line in disrespect with God and his men. Leprosy broke out on his forehead. (2 Chronicles 26)
Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, lied to the man of God. He became leprous. (2 Kings 5:20-27)
What do they all have in common?
They crossed a line with God and God's man. The Lord's judgments upon them made it visually clear to anyone and everyone that they had sinned.
- When people complain against the servant of God in secret, they will be outed.
- When some cross lines in the things of God, outstepping their authority like Uzziah, it will be made painfully clear.
- When lies are told to cover secret sin, it won't be long until it isn't a secret any longer.
Here what Christ said:
“Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:3, ESV)
Leprosy is the outward sign of inward rebellion.
Read Numbers 12:9-15
Aaron’s immediate repentance includes a loud cry of intercession for M
“And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.”” (Numbers 12:11–12, ESV)
Moses immediately turns the request of Aaron to the Lord Himself.
“Please heal her, O God, I pray!”
It is urgent and loud. What is remarkable about this intercession is that is shows a man who was quick to forgive. He could have stood away from her and said something like, “Now your foul tongue has a foul face to match it.”
No, Moses is the first to forgive.
See Christ here: We are taught by Christ to pray for our enemies. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44, NKJV)
Christ prayed loud and urgently for his enemies from the cross, “Father, forgive them for know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
A final note on justice: We see that justice and mercy meet each other in this incident. The leprosy is for Miriam’s humbling.
Moses says, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days?”
Sin’s consequences can have a redeeming effect. She must be made sensible to her fault and become penitent. Also, the leprosy upon her, served to warn a whole community and so they too would benefit. It did have a blessed outcome. Miriam, in due time, was welcomed back into the family of God and we see no stumbling again in her.
In Christ’s mercy and forgiveness, we may be made soft and tender in such a way as to never pass that way again.
“Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; justice and peace kiss each other.” (Psalm 85:10, ESV)
Read Exodus 32:25-35
There is a bloody consequence in the aftermath of the people’s great sin. The Lord commands Moses to gather those who "are on the Lord’s side" to himself. The Levites rally to him. He commands them to strap a sword upon their side and to turn upon their brothers who have committed this rebellion. Three thousand people fell that day. And it would have been more had Moses not entered into an extraordinary intercession that is Christ-like in its essence:
“Then Moses returned to the Lordand said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”” (Exodus 32:31–32, NKJV)
This was not light request. He would, like Christ, give his own life for the atonement of his people. Paul, in Christ-like zeal prayed similarly for his Jewish brethren:
“For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,” (Romans 9:3, NKJV)
These extraordinary men sound like the extraordinary Christ, willing to trade their lives for sinners. The only difference is that Christ actually gave His life.
A footnote to us on a different topic:
Are you willing to take a stand with the Lord’s name and turn from fellowship with one who is called by the name of Christ yet lives contrary to His testimony?
The Levites distinguished themselves by siding with the Lord and against their brothers:
“And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”” (Exodus 32:29, ESV)
Some verses for consideration on this topic: