October 19, 2016
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
There is an interesting incident recorded in Numbers 12:1 and 2 that speaks to us concerning leadership jealousy and jockeying:
Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian
woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman.
And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has
He not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it.
I see five things to consider in these two verses:
• Female leadership – There is still today the thought among some that men should be in the chief positions of leadership, not women! Yet women have achieved top positions in government and business (re: Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of England, 1979 – 1990; Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard). Notice in verse 1 that Mariam is mentioned first! This indicates that perhaps she was considered more important than Aaron in Israel’s leadership – yes, even back then, in that male-dominated culture!
• The real complaint – Often it is not the first thing voiced in a complaint that is the real issue of it! The reason for the complaint listed in verse 1 is that “…Moses…had married an Ethiopian woman.” But when Moses wrote the record down (for he authored the Pentateuch), he knew it was not that he had married an Ethiopian woman! The real reason was jealousy because of his leadership position over the Israelites due to his close relationship to the LORD! The Scripture tells us in Exodus 33:11: “…the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (See Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10). Until the time of Jesus, that kind of closeness never happened again!
What we can learn from this is that when we are dealing with complaints, don’t take the first stated reason as the real reason! Often, we have to dig deeper to find out why the complaint is being lodged!
• Rebellion against the LORD – Miriam apparently led her brother Aaron in this jealous complaint against Moses. But in reality, they were complaining against God Himself, for He had chosen Moses for the leadership position over Israel! And such rebellion is dangerous!
Miriam paid a penalty by being afflicted with leprosy! (See Numbers 12:10). When Moses interceded for her, God made the duration of her affliction only seven days! (See Numbers 12:14). Don’t be hasty in rebelling against God’s choice of leadership! As it says in Psalm 105:15, “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.”
• Racial prejudice – Moses had married outside his own people, and his sister and brother didn’t like it! But remember, Moses was raised among the royalty of Egypt (see Exodus 2:10; Acts 7:21, 22). Ethiopia was the country just south of Egypt, and many Ethiopians must have mingled among Egypt’s people. Moses was used to being around Ethiopians! While Egyptian skin shades can vary from light Caucasian to very dark, Ethiopians are generally of darker complexion. Moses must have married a dark-complexioned woman!
Now it says in Exodus 2:18 and 21 that “…Reuel [called Jethro in Exodus 3:1 and other scriptures]…gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses…” as his wife. But Reuel is called “…the priest of Midian…” in Exodus 2:16. The Midianites lived to the east of Canaan, not south of Egypt in Ethiopia. One explanation for this apparent discrepancy is that Zipporah was an Ethiopian/Midianite – a Midianite of dark skin, like the Ethiopians. Perhaps the complaint of Miriam and Aaron was not about skin color, but about nationality – Zipporah was not an Israelite!
Nevertheless, it was prejudice! And prejudice should have no place in a Christian’s world view! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). As Paul told the Athenians in Acts 17:26: “…[God] has made from one blood every nation of men for to dwell on the face of the earth….”
• “And the LORD heard it.” (Numbers 12:2). We need to remember that God hears everything – as well as He sees everything and knows everything – even our unspoken thoughts! (See Psalm 1391-4; Hebrews 4:13). And what Jesus told His listeners in Matthew 12:36 and 37 surely applies not just to words, but to thoughts also:
…I say unto you that every idle word men may speak, they will give account
of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by
your words you will be condemned.
That God knows everything about us, and hears us – even our unspoken thoughts – should be both a challenge and a great comfort to us! It is a challenge in that we need to keep ourselves clean and holy, not just in what we do and say, but in what we think also! (See Philippians 4:8). And when we live in such holiness, we have “…the comfort of the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 9:31) in our hearts. We also should have comfort when we read what Jesus said in Matthew 6:32: “…your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things…” – the things we need for living out our lives! (See Matthew 6:31).
Thank God that He knows me so well, and yet totally accepts me and provides for me in His Son! (See Epheisians 1:6; Philippians 4:19). Have you thanked Him for this lately?