Life of Moses
Et tu, Brute?
Orig. 12/28/3; ed. 1.24.16
Introduction… Ever been jealous before? Why? Is jealousy normal? Why do people get jealous? What is at the heart of jealousy?
How long did it take for jealousy to rear its ugly, deadly, destructive head within the biblical story? Try the first murder in Gen. 4? And who was it between and what were the deadly repercussions? Try between two brothers seeking to please God. I mean, even if something noble, such as seeking to bring appropriate offerings to God, can trigger hidden jealousies, then anything can and will. We all want to be loved, and somehow, when we perceive someone is getting better than we are, suddenly what was sufficient, now becomes less than…and less than can become deadly.
On the other hand, have you experienced the painful side affects of someone else’s jealousy towards you? You were just being you, and then someone, because of your position or gifts or success, turned on you from seemingly out of nowhere, perhaps even a sibling?
It’s a weird feeling. Typically, we don’t prepare our children for this type of experience. We tend to teach our children that the world is a good place…that justice prevails, and therefore, we are to do the right thing and we will be rewarded for it, right? Wrong. We forget to tell them, that even though they should still seek to do the right thing, your success can and usually does mean someone’s jealousy. Thus also the need to teach our kids about true humility even in the midst of perceived success.
It’s not always easy being a good leader. Moses is finding this out. People, even friends, even close family members that have clearly witnessed can be very fickle, have short memories and follow the crowd versus God.
The infant nation of Israel has reached the midpoint of their second year of independence from Egypt. It has been over a year since they arrived at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19) and received their law from their rescuer, Yahweh God, through his mediator, Moses, up on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 20ff).
Having failed her faithful groom right from the onset of her marriage (via her fickle, impatient resorting to making an idolatrous golden calf to worship in place of Yahweh, as Moses had tarried too long on the mountain with Yahweh obtaining her code of laws, morals and religious ritual), Israel now continues on to her original objective—her ancestor’s Promised Lands (Ex. 32ff).
Once again, it does not take long for the new bride to stumble once again. Led by a discontented mob, Israel complains about her daily portion of manna. She cried for meat, and meat was what she got in the form of quail as far as the eye could see. But along with the meat, for her ingratitude and insolence, Israel, in the form of a minor plague also experienced the right hand of Yahweh’s discipline (Num. 11).
Chapter 12 involves a crucial leadership crisis between Moses and his siblings. All families have them. Moses’ family was no different. The very sister who saved him as an infant at the Nile River, will now incredulously challenge her brother’s divinely-inspired right to lead Israel.
Pray for insight…
Read Passage several times…(optional: if more than 12 verses, I would read only twice).
Num. 12:1 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite.
One biblical theory, has Moses having two wives, Zipporah, a Midianite priest’s daughter, as well as, another wife from the African nation of Cush.
Was she jealous? What was a Cushite wife? Was she considered a foreigner, despite being Moses’ wife? Why did Yahweh arrange it that Moses did not marry another Hebrew or Israelite? Was this the wife Moses first married (Zipporah, a shepherdess whom Moses had rescued as he fled Egypt and Pharaoh] and the daughter of the Midianite priest, Jethro [Ex. 2:15ff; 4:18ff; 18:1ff], or perhaps even another wife (from the African nation of Cush)?
Why was Aaron involved in this as well? Did Zipporah have undue or an unhealthy influence upon Moses? Were Miriam and Aaron prejudice towards her since she was NOT an Israelite by birth?
2 “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the LORD heard this.
This is so subtle? His own siblings doubting his authority after all Moses has gone through and what he has done to save this people? Is this jealousy caused by Moses’ wife?
Miriam, Moses’ sister, had faithfully watched over her younger infant brother when their mother, in order to save the infant from death, hid him in water-proofed basket among the reeds along the banks of the Red Sea (Ex. 2:1ff). Many years later, Miriam would lead the women of Israel in a musical celebration honoring their God, Yahweh, for his deliverance of Israel from Pharaoh’s chariots after Israel’s miraculous crossing of the Red Sea (Ex. 15:20ff).
3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
What a description? To be called this would truly be an honor, especially in light of Pharaoh’s extreme arrogance. How does one achieve this in spite of all the great miracles Moses was a part of, as well as having talked with God himself? Off the chart!
4 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 came out.
God is going to settle this little jealousy dispute.
5 Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward,
What is going on here? Who is in trouble?
6 he said, “Listen to my words: “When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.
Okay. What’s your point, God?
7 But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house.
8 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?”
Moses is special, brother and sister. You have messed up. In other words, you should have been afraid to speak against Moses because he is a friend of God? To speak against my servant is to speak against me.
9 The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them.
How did he leave them?
10 When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam –leprous, like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy;
Not good. Why leprosy? Leprosy like we know of it today or something else? There could be no doubt that Miriam’s affliction was connected with Yahweh’s rebuke for having challenged Moses’ right to lead.
11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed.
Now here comes the confession.
12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”
A dead child? This sounds gross. He is pleading for his sister.
13 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “O God, please heal her!”
Again the intercessor, Miriam’s little brother, comes to the rescue.
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.”
Why would her father have done this? If her father would have done this for whatever reason, and I am of much greater worth than he, then the least I can ask for is seven days?
15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.
Everyone had to wait. God was demonstrating a lesson to the entire nation here.
16 After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.
Why? (What truths do I learn about God, man, people, myself, life?)
• God will and can protect his leaders. God is loyal to his trusted humble servants.
• Attacking whom God has chosen for a special dispensation is tantamount to attacking God himself.
• Leadership is crucial to God and his plans and decrees. Leadership is required to carry out those plans. Someone to hold the group or the common man accountable. Above and beyond the call of daily living. Sacrifice. Responsibility. Rejection. Jealousy. Questioning. Passive-aggressive attacks. People, families, churches, nations, businesses, schools, organizations need leadership, but leadership has its price.
• People are and can be fickle, jealous and short-term in their memory. People can be weak, even when least expected–even those closest to us. Even family…who should Know better. Why? Jealousy. Questioning. Insult. Discount. It’s only natural to second guess, and to think that we could it better. But the real question is whom does God want to lead, not whom do we deem best? What is God’s will? Not ours.
• Jealousy is strong, especially among family members and especially siblings. Even jealousy within Christian families, churches or organizations.
• God is not afraid to teach a lesson to the entire group or nation—the entire nation had to wait seven days for Miriam’s return. Yahweh’s message was clear. Moses is my guy. I am not afraid to afflict his sister to prove my point. The point to this is, if leadership is constantly questioned, then who will want to lead, and secondly, if leadership is constantly questioned and changing, society descends into chaos. Perfect or not, stability in some form of leadership is essential.
• Although Miriam had been questioning and attacking of her brother, it was he who prayed for her delivery and whom God answered his prayer.
2016 Thanksgiving and Application…
Update: It’s hard to think that the Duedes have been gone for 12 years. Before that, they were a part of Fellowship for almost 18 years. We did say good-bye to the Duedes and their, no doubt, valuable influence. They continue to have an amazing ministry in one of the largest churches of North America—praise God. At the same time, it was a stretch, but Fellowship worship found its rhythm and only continued to improve as a worship team, especially with lay leadership expanding among the team. Even Tag Grisham, who wasn’t but a little tike beating his bongos as Steve was leading worship many years ago, has developed into quite the worship planner. Amazing. Family. Spiritual family, and the passing on of Spiritual legacy.
As far as ministry planning, growth and change, well, that has certainly been an odyssey in and of itself. Suffice it to say, we have weathered our storms, are still alive and are still asking the same ongoing questions of how do we fulfill our ministry stewardship as a body of Christ? What has been the most telling revelation for me is the ongoing escaping of what I thought “church” was supposed to look like as compared to what a Spirit-inspired and led “church” really looks like within the passages of NT Scripture. I only thought I was shedding tradition thirty years ago. Looking back, though well-intended, we were only in Spiritual infancy of what “Spiritual church” really looks like. There was still way too much flesh, image and culture masquerading as church. But at least, we are still alive to be able to look back and make those comparisons. And what makes those comparisons challenging is that culture continues to change. Thus reaching out to and adapting to that changing culture while at the same time, attempting to remain true to, as well as, still trying to understand or even untangle a church’s biblical objective from that changing culture, well…to say this is a challenge…is an understatement. But we press on…seeking to understand our biblical mandate, while at the same time, not being insidiously shaped by culture, but instead changing culture.
Thanksgiving…Rest, time off with my wife while she is out of school due to icy road conditions, a nice visit at home church tonight, a wood fire going in our fireplace insert, Tom the cat snuggled in a blanket out of the wind, in the corner next to our front door and Cogburn the rooster, asleep, roosting on the wood pile. For the moment, life is peaceful at the Cross household.
Struggle…The tyranny of what seems urgent, or perhaps in the moment, more important, robbing me from focusing on my writing assignments.
Truth… Everyone is human, and under the right conditions, even those whom you assume are loyal can lose Spiritual focus and grumble, whine, become discontented and even jealous. Whether we like it or not, people have or develop perceptions. And sometimes, such as Moses’ siblings jealousy of his wife, it doesn’t take much to tip the balance. What we all need to remember is that despite human insecurity, jealousy and even passive aggressive grumbling to others, God is still in control. The threats will come. That is not an option, but how we handle those threats is a choice of trust. Will God defend his servant in the end? Absolutely. Could suffering be a part of this delayed defense for a greater glory? Absolutely. We either stand firm in God’s call or we doubt. Now, this does not justify immorality. Immorality is indefensible and should be confronted and righteously dealt with. But when immorality is not the issue, and jealousy is, then we trust God’s ultimate defense.
La Morte di Cesare di Vincenzo Camuccini (1804-05) depicts the assassination of Julius Caesar by Cassius, the “honorable” Brutus and many members of the Roman Senate in 44 BC.
Application…Outside the minor stuff, in thirty years of ministry, I have faced two major “backdoor” assaults, and somehow, by God’s grace, survived them both. In the midst of the assault, I indeed felt threatened and misjudged. All the great communication stuff you have been teaching your flock can go out the window in a fleeting second under the right conditions. That’s probably the greatest disappointment. If you would use what you have been taught, the truth will be revealed and we will weather this, but when there is ulterior motive, it would seem all bets are off, along with fairness, hearing both sides of an issue, prayer, seeking the Lord, etc. All one has at that point is to take the blows, weather the storm and wait for the day the storm has passed. And they always do. Eventually the truth will come out. One can only hide or distort the truth for so long. As Christians, it is a prerequisite in hybrid good and evil world, that we must learn to endure injustice even by those whom most trust and love. It will happen. Our Lord righteously endured it, and if we are to follow him, not only must we expect it, it is a prerequisite it. In the end, we entrust ourselves to a much higher, greater and more righteous judge than the court of momentary, biased public opinion. Truth in time (1 Peter 2). And in so doing, this is how we get noticed, as well as, tested in the world. How do we handle or manage the difficult moments is the real strength of our Christian character, not the easy moments. The world can do that. The world wants to know how to come through injustice unscathed. That is true power, and that is the Holy Spirit of God protecting and empowering the believer in his moment of trial.
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.