Thursday, May 31, 2012

Presumptuous Sin

Numbers 12:1-16

“And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.  And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.  (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)” (Numbers 12:1-3) 

People are always human and as such are subject to jealousy and pettiness.  We tend not to expect such behavior from those close to us, often denying it exists.  The closer we are the more painful it is to acknowledge the truth, so Satan frequently uses those closest to us to distract and destroy us.  The fact of their closeness gives more openings for attacks because they know things others don’t, and the closeness allows irritation to develop.

Moses had married an Ethiopian woman, almost certainly a black woman and Miriam and Aaron got upset about it, but since he had the right to marry whoever he wanted, they would appear petty and discriminatory to make it an issue.  Instead, They began to challenge his calling from God, saying, “Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?”

Frustrating as such attacks can be, we need to understand that God is aware of such attacks.  Notice the next statement, “(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)”   The word meek means literally not self centered, or self seeking.  Moses was not focused on retaining his prestige, as we saw earlier from his attitude about Eldad and Medad.  He wouldn’t fight with Aaron and Miriam about their comments, to keep his prestige intact.

“And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. 

And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.  And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.  My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.  With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:4-8)

God himself intervened on his own and Moses’ behalf, calling all three to the tabernacle, then separating Miriam and Aaron for a personal confrontation.  There he told thamn that ordinary prophets would see visions and dreams that might not be entirely clear in their meanings, often because they referred to events that had not yet happened.

The messages to Moses, on the other hand, were face to face and clear, with Moses in a position to understand and clarify any questions.  While one might question another prophet’s message, or interpretation, such a clear obvious message should not be doubted, especially as they had seen clear evidence that God spoke to him.

“And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed.  And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.” (Numbers 12:9-10)

Their rejection of the one he had chosen angered God, and he pulled back from them.  For the first time since the Tabernacle had been dedicated, the pillar of cloud departed, but that wasn’t what really caught Aaron’s attention.  Miriam’s body lost the natural pigmentation making it clear she had leprosy, an incurable disease.  While far less important, the physical effects were more noticed that the spiritual impact.

“And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.  Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb.” (Numbers 12:11-12) 

The physical disease, leprosy, convinced Aaron that he had done wrong in trying to seize authority for themselves and condemning Moses.  He asked forgiveness, and for healing for Miriam,

“And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee. 

And the LORD said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.” (Numbers 12:13-14) 

Moses prayed for God to heal Miriam, and God told him he would do so, but would suffer the same separation as any other leper for a period of seven days.  Being forgiven and healed did not immediately eliminate the consequences of her sin.  On the other hand, Just having been insulted by her father would have required just as much of an indignity, so it was comparatively a pretty light sentence for having offended God..  Even though we have been forgiven, there are always lingering natural consequences of the sin

“And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again.  And afterward the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran.” (Numbers 12:15-16)

If Moses were such an un-self centered person as described here, it is unlikely he would have written the comments about how meek he was, implying that the passage was written by a more impartial observer.

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