Since we are learning about the women in Moses’ life, the series would not be complete without a closer look at Miriam, Moses’ sister. I honestly didn’t know much about Miriam except the basics, but as I looked closely at her life, I not only learned a lot I didn’t know, but I was deeply convicted, as well.
The first time we meet Miriam, she is standing on the banks of the Nile, waiting to see what happens to her baby brother Moses after her mother had placed him in his little basket and floated him onto the river.
According to several places that I looked, Miriam would have been between 7 to 9 years old at this time. It appears, she took it upon herself to wait there on the banks of the river to see what her baby brother’s fate was that day.
It was her own quick thinking and courage that landed Moses his own mother as his nursemaid, too. You have to admire her ability to think on her feet and her bravery. It’s not often a young slave girl has the guts to approach the king’s daughter, but Miriam didn’t appear to hesitate.
The second time we see her, it’s many years later. Moses has just led the Israelites through the Red Sea. The Egyptians are nowhere to seen as the walls of water have washed down on them with deadly intent. Miriam, described here as a prophetess, leads the women in a song of worship.
Throughout the time in the wilderness, it seems that Miriam is a spiritual leader – one of the inner circle of Moses.
Yet, in Numbers 12, a darker, uglier side of Miriam emerges. In the previous chapter, God tells Moses to pick out 70 elders to help him in the administrative aspects of leading Israel. After all, that was a lot of people for one man to deal with. God rightly advised Moses that he needed a little help from his friends. Apparently, Moses didn’t consult Miriam or Aaron in his choices and that really chapped Miriam’s hide.
In Numbers 12:1, we read, “Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman).”
When I was growing up and heard this story, I was always taught that Moses’ first wife, Zipporah had died, and Moses had married a woman from Ethiopia. But, according to several commentaries I looked at, Miriam could actually be referring to Zipporah here, too. Whoever the Cushite woman was, the real problem wasn’t this woman.
No, the real reason for Miriam’s sharp and critical tongue is found in the next verse, “and they said, Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?”
This was the real problem – Miriam felt like Moses had monopolized things long enough. Wasn’t she as good as Moses? Didn’t God speak through her and Aaron too? Just who did Moses think he was – choosing those elders without a by-your-leave?
It’s clear from Miriam’s name being first and the consequences she suffered, that she was the instigator in this. She brought this up and dragged Aaron right along with her.
I don’t know if resentment and jealousy had been simmering for a long time or if she just had PMS. After all, Miriam had watched as first Moses was brought up in the luxury of the palace. Then, despite his inability to speak without stuttering and his hesitancy, he faced down Pharaoh and led the Israelites out of Egypt. Miriam had to wait at the foot of the mountain while Moses went up to get the Ten Commandments. Yes, she was used by God, but Moses always seemed to be one step ahead and one step closer to God’s inner circle.
However long things had been building, the elders pushed Miriam over the edge. She finally gave voice to the thoughts that had been in her mind.
Verse two and three says, “And the Lord heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.)”
You’ll notice there is nothing about Miriam being humble in those verses.
God ends up calling all three – Moses, Aaron and Miriam – into the tent of meeting. He makes it very clear that while they may be used by God, Moses was the one God talked to and showed Himself to – NOT them. When His presence left, Miriam was covered with leprosy.
It’s interesting that the comparison game that had eaten away at her inside, causing resentment, jealousy and anger to bloom, had been hidden; but the leprosy, the disease that caused her outward body to be eaten away, was visible to all.
Aaron is horrified, as is Moses. Aaron begs Moses to forgive them both (my guess is Miriam might have been speechless with horror at this point), and Moses immediately begs God to heal his sister. God says He will but only after she has been shut away for seven days. It couldn’t be kept a secret – all the camp would know that Miriam had been punished by God.
The thing is, we can point our fingers all we want, but how many of us have played the comparison game in some way or other? How many of us have felt that ugly twinge of jealousy or resentment when someone, even a friend or loved one, tells us of their good fortune? How many of us have let ugly, critical words spill out about someone – maybe in the guise of a prayer request or “just being honest”?
When we compare ourselves to others, we hurt not only ourselves but our relationships, as well. You can’t truly rejoice with someone if you are secretly resentful that they got the blessing and you didn’t.
You can’t be in true community with others if your comparisons cause your insecurities to come flaring to life, making you defensive and critical of others.
Let’s face it, when we compare ourselves, our lives and our blessings with other people, it’s all too easy to start to feel jealous and resentful. That’s because we are comparing our insides with their outsides. What looks picture perfect from the outside often has a hidden story we know nothing about. This type of comparison leads us to look for the negative – because that just justifies our feelings doesn’t it?
But the only comparison God holds up to us is Jesus.
We cheat ourselves of community and fellowship when we engage in the old comparison game. Miriam reminded me that I need to be intentionally thankful for the blessings and opportunities God has given me.
It also reminded me that playing the comparison games shows a lack of trust in God’s plan for me. I don’t normally have issues with envying other people their stuff. I don’t want a bigger house because then I’d have to clean it, and the new and shiny doesn’t really hold a lot of allure for me.
BUT, I can find that little seed of envy or resentment start to poke its head up when people get opportunities or their work seems to be taking off while it feels like I’m still stuck or spinning my wheels.
This is when I need to stop looking around me and look up at God because He has a plan and that plan happens on HIS timetable – not mine.
There are not a limited number of opportunities available. If someone else gets an awesome opportunity, that doesn’t mean that that is one less for me. If someone has a great success and I still feel like I haven’t even started yet, that just means we are at different places on the path God has put us on. It means that God is working out His purpose in my life and the other person’s life.
The Bible tells us we have a storehouse of blessings God is waiting to give us. It tells us He has a plan and purpose for each of us. God has my back, so I do not need to keep looking over my shoulder at what others do and don’t have in any area of life.
Finally, and here is the rub, if I realize that God’s glory is the ultimate reason for my existence, it sort of takes the wind out of the sails of jealousy and envy. After all, those things are rooted in a selfishness that can’t share room with truly seeking after God’s glory and His name being proclaimed.
Miriam forgot that it wasn’t about her or even Moses being top dog. It was about God’s glory all along.
Are you playing the comparison game? Is there a seed of jealousy or resentment you need to root out of your life? God does have a plan for your life, but you’ll remain stuck until you stop looking around at everyone else and start looking up at God.