On a number of occasions I have been tempted to grumble about a leader and the Lord has warned me in my spirit to not do grumble against the Lord’s anointed. It has actually happened so many times that I have wondered if the Lord warns anyone of ever grumbling against me?
Whatever happened to Moses’ first wife we don’t know. Zipporah may have left, they may have divorced, this may be a polygamous situation as that was common, but Moses decided to get married again. Only this time it was a Cushite which was modern day Ethiopia/Sudan area.
We don’t know if the problem was that she black, or that they thought he should marry only a fellow Hebrew or what. We don’t know. We do know that Miriam and Aaron disapproved and weren’t afraid to speak out about it. They used the familiar, “we hear the Lord, too” argument and therefore Moses should listen to them also.
Then the Lord summoned all three of them to a meeting, and the Lord descended in a pillar of cloud (Num 12:4-8).
“When there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,
I speak to them in dreams.
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?”
The LORD was angry and struck Miriam with leprousy. Aaron pleaded with Moses to do something so Moses cried to the Lord for healing. The Lord said she would need to deal with things like everyone else, that she must go outside the camp for seven days and then she would be healed. The whole Israelite community waited for her to be healed and then they proceeded on their journey.
For whatever reason we often want our moral questions answered of a text before we tend to want to face our own moral deficiencies. In this case, did you or did you now think to yourself, “Why was it that only Miriam was punished when both were complaining?”
First we see that Miriam seems to be the leader and instigator of the discontentment with the choice of Moses’ wife. Her name is mentioned first (v. 1) and the word “criticized” is a feminine singular word, almost implying an emphasis on Miriam. Additionally as we’ve already seen before, Aaron was rather pliable as we saw in the incident with the golden calf (Ex 32).
Secondly Aaron was the high priest. It was his responsibility to deal with those who had leprousy. But he recognized in his weakness that in this situation he wasn’t able to, so he plead with Moses to do something. Perhaps the Lord spared him as he was the high priest. Or maybe it was because he showed a degree of humility acknowledging his weakness. We actually don’t know. The text has “more to the story” than perhaps we are told.
Don’t Lose the Point
But we must be careful to not get so caught up in accusing God of moral shortcomings (not being fair) and so forget to look at our own (which is hypocrisy). So many read this and are caught up in why both weren’t punished accordingly, and yet forget the point–God takes seriously how we speak and act towards our leaders.
“But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless?”
(1 Sam 26:9)
“Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” (1 Tim 5:9)
“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” (1 Tim 5:17)
The Lord’s anointed comes with it a significant responsibility before the Lord. And the Lord asks the people who are under that leadership to bring honor, respect and be very wise before bringing any kind of accusation or complaint.
Of course we are going to see things we don’t like. Of course we are going to want to do things different. But at the end of the day, they are the Lord’s anointed. It doesn’t mean we venerate them and that there’s never a need to confront them. In fact, if there is immorality or abuse, we must do so.
But at the same time we must not be casual with our words and accusations. God takes this seriously. Just because he may show us grace doesn’t mean it still isn’t an offense to Him.