NUMBERS 12: THE MOST HUMBLE MAN ON EARTH?
While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had indeed married a Cushite woman); and they said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth. Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them came out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the entrance of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. And he said, “Hear my words:
When there are prophets among you,
I the Lord make myself known to them in visions;
I speak to them in dreams.
Not so with my servant Moses;
he is entrusted with all my house.
With him I speak face to face— clearly, not in riddles;
and he beholds the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.
When the cloud went away from over the tent, Miriam had become leprous, as white as snow. And Aaron turned towards Miriam and saw that she was leprous. Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us for a sin that we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like one stillborn, whose flesh is half consumed when it comes out of its mother’s womb.” And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her.” But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp for seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” So Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days; and the people did not set out on the march until Miriam had been brought in again. After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran (Numbers 12 NRSV).
Did you hear the question Miriam and Aaron asked? Reflect on a time when you were intensely jealous, or even mildly jealous of someone. What kind of questions rattled around in your brain and what emotions did you feel?
For pastors or people who think the Lord speaks or acts through you, how important is this to you? Do you feel as if there is only so much of God's voice to go around?
Does it strike you as a bit ironic that traditionally people say Moses wrote the Torah, including this text, and yet a humble man is calling himself the most humble man on earth? This brings up an authorship issue. The fact is we don't know exactly if Moses wrote all of the Torah. The Torah itself doesn't say he wrote all of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, it's just often called The Law of Moses, but that doesn't mean he had to have written all of it, nor does it need to pose a faith crisis for Christians or Jews if we think Moses did not write all of the Torah. Take a step of faith in God in relation to issues like this. What does that mean? It means, rather than trying to "save the Bible" or a particular view of the Bible, take a step of faith in God instead.
There's so much more here in this story. What else stands out to you? Why are Miriam and Aaron upset that Moses marries a Cushite (Egyptian)? What about the amazing things God says about the relationship between God and Moses?!
This story about Moses, Miriam, and Aaron is important because we are jealous people in good ways but envious people in bad ways. Our hearts betray us and we want to be liked, appreciated, used for good, considered smart, wise, a person God works through, approves, and others think is really spiritual. Would you show us the leprosy in our hearts and even in our outer actions that's sometimes as obvious as our skin, and put us out of leadership if we need to be out, for a week, for a month, for a year, whatever it takes to cleanse our hearts.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.