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Vol.  9  No. 11 November 2007  Page 13
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Priscilla's Page By Marilyn LaStrape *Editor's Note*

Miriam—A Faltering, Faithful Servant

Bonnie RushmoreBy Bonnie Rushmore

Character Study

Exodus 2:

    A few hundred years passed since Jacob and his family joined Joseph in Egypt. The extended family of seventy individuals multiplied greatly (Exodus 1:5). Joseph and Jacob died and a new Pharaoh who knew not Joseph reigned over Egypt (Exodus 1:8). Out of fear that the Israelites would continue to multiply and side with his enemies during battle, Pharaoh forced the Israelites into slavery. God continued to bless the Israelites, and they continued to multiply. So Pharaoh commanded all male children be killed upon birth (Exodus 1:22). Exodus Chapter Two begins with the life of Moses, the great lawgiver of the Old Testament.

    Moses’ mother hid him for the first three months of his life. Fearing she could no longer hide him, she placed him in a basket sealed with tar and placed the basket among the reeds along the edge of the river. Though not named in Exodus Chapter Two, big sister Miriam kept watch over the baby as he lay in the basket. When Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby, Miriam volunteered to get a Hebrew woman to nurse the child. Pharaoh’s daughter hired Moses’ mother to care for the child until she weaned him.

    Fausset’s Bible Dictionary states that Miriam was the “Sister of Aaron and Moses, oldest child of Amram and Jochebed. At least 12 or 13 at Moses’ birth, for she is called (Ex 2:8) ‘the maid,’ ha`almah, implying one of marriageable age.” Other sources list her age between nine and fourteen. Miriam bore a mighty responsibility as she watched nearby to see what would happen to her baby brother, who later became the great lawgiver of the Old Testament. It is evident that she dutifully fulfilled this responsibility as she immediately stepped forward and volunteered to find a nurse when Pharaoh’s daughter found baby Moses.

Exodus 15:20-21

    The next biblical reference to Miriam has her on the banks of the Red Sea. Years later, God miraculously parted the Red Sea allowing the Israelite nation to cross on dry land. As Pharaoh’s army tried to follow, the walls of water crashed upon them. Pharaoh’s mighty army drowned in the Red Sea. The once fearful Israelites then rejoiced in their newfound freedom, singing songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. Moses led the men in the chorus of the song as Miriam led the women in the refrain. Men and women blended their voices together in praise to God.

    Verse 20 calls Miriam a prophetess. Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines a prophetess as “a female prophet.” A prophet is “A person who spoke for God and who communicated God’s message courageously to God’s Chosen People-the nation of Israel” (Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary). Primarily, prophetesses “possessed a poetical inspiration; and inspired (especially sacred) poetry was always deemed of supernatural and divine origin” (McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia). Numbers 12:2 further acknowledges that God spoke to Miriam, thus confirming she was a prophetess. Micah reminded the Israelites that Moses, Aaron and Miriam led the Israelites out of Egypt (Micah 6:4). These three biblical references prove that Miriam was one of God’s chosen leaders for his people.

Numbers 12

    The previous biblical references to Miriam portray her to be a godly servant. Unfortunately, like many of us today, Miriam had her faults as well as her good qualities. Numbers chapter 12 shows the ungodly side of Miriam.

    Although chapter 12 begins with Miriam and Aaron complaining about Moses’ choice for a wife, the true meaning for their complaint was jealousy and a desire for greater authority and power. The placement of Miriam’s name before Aaron’s, the use of the feminine form of the verb spake and the harsh punishment God inflicted upon Miriam indicate that she was the instigator in the rebellion against Moses.

    God called Moses, Aaron and Miriam to come out to the Tabernacle. God then appeared in a pillar of cloud in the door of the Tabernacle. God called Aaron and Miriam to come closer. God explained to Aaron and Miriam that he chooses to whom and how he will speak to his servants. He speaks to prophets by dreams and visions, but to Moses he chose to speak directly, not through visions. God was angry with Miriam and Aaron for their rebellion against him and his chosen leader, Moses. After rebuking Miriam and Aaron, the cloud departed from the tabernacle. As soon as the cloud departed God’s punishment was evident. Miriam’s skin was white as snow with leprosy. Aaron acknowledged their sin and asked Moses to forgive them. Moses immediately begged God to heal Miriam. God accepted the repentance of Aaron and Miriam. However, Miriam suffered the consequences of her actions. As with all cases of leprosy, she was removed from the camp and isolated from other individuals. This punishment lasted for seven days.

Numbers 20:1

    Miriam’s rebellion against Moses was prior to the Israelites first approach to the promised land. After 38 years of wandering in the wilderness for their unbelief, the Bible records the death of Miriam. “Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there” (Numbers 20:1). The fact that the Bible records Miriam’s death and place of burial attributes to the important place Miriam held in the history of the Israelite nation.

Applicable Principles

Miriam was Responsible

    At a young age (between the ages of nine and fourteen), Miriam’s mother asked her to watch over her baby brother. She willingly accepted her task and diligently fulfilled her responsibility. Miriam’s quick thinking allowed Moses’ mother to raise him until he was weaned.

    Christians need to be responsible. We need to diligently complete our tasks whether at the work place (Romans 12:11), in the home (Titus 2:5) or as part of the church (Titus 2:14; Ecclesiastes 9:10). Paul instructed servants to obey their masters “…as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:6). That rule applies today as workers to bosses, as members to elders and as Christians to Christ. The elders need to know we are dependable, that we will do what we are asked within the given timeframe. Furthermore, Jesus taught the importance of accepting our responsibilities when he said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work (John 9:4).

    Just as Jochobed taught Miriam to be responsible, we need to teach our children to be responsible. This teaching needs to begin at a very young age. Our children need to be held accountable for their misdeeds. We need to teach them to follow through with their promises. We need to teach them by the words from our mouths and by our actions. They need to see us being dependable and responsible.

    Are you a Miriam? Are you responsible? Can your boss count on you to complete your task even if he is not watching? Can the elders depend on you to teach a class, prepare communion, clean the building, etc. or do they need to have a back-up plan because you frequently fail to follow through?

Miriam was a Leader

    Miriam was one of God’s chosen leaders as the Israelites left Egypt and journeyed toward Canaan. She used her ability to lead the women in song after they crossed the Red Sea. She was a prophetess to whom God spoke on occasion.

    The church today needs leaders functioning within their God-given roles. There is much work women can, and should do, that does not usurp the authority of men. There is much work men can, and should do, that does not usurp the authority of the elders. God created each individual different; thus, making each Christian unique with different abilities. Each woman needs to evaluate her abilities, improve upon those abilities and use those abilities to further the cause of Christ.

    Are you a Miriam? Are you using your God-given talents to lead young children to Christ by teaching Bible Classes? Are you using your God-given talents to lead other women to a stronger faith and service to God? Are you using your abilities to lead singing or prayers during Ladies’ Classes or Ladies’ Inspiration Days? Are you using your artistic abilities to teach through visual aids or bulletin boards? Are you using your homemaking skills to show hospitality to those in need or to visiting preachers and missionaries?

    The work and leadership opportunities for Christian women are unending. I encourage each of you to be a Miriam. Use your abilities to serve God to the fullest.

Miriam was Jealous

    Miriam was jealous and envious of the leadership and power of Moses. Since Miriam and Aaron also had revelation from God, she assumed they should be equal in leadership as well. She failed to realize God chose Moses as the leader of the Israelite nation.

    Jealousy and envy go hand in hand and are condemned in the Old and New testaments (Psalm 37:1; Proverbs 6:34; Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:1, etc.). James said, “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:14-17).

    Envy and jealously point to an “I” problem. When we are consumed with the “I” syndrome, we want what we think is best for us and fail to consider others. This mentality is normal for infants, but as one matures, we should outgrow the “I” syndrome. Jesus said to the father, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). We should put God first, family second, mankind third and ourselves last (1 Peter 5:5). Only when we learn to put the thoughts and feelings of others first will we be able to overcome the sin of envy and jealously.

    Are you a Miriam? Do you want what others have? Do you have an “I” problem?

Miriam was Rebellious

    Miriam’s jealousy of Moses’ authority allowed her to rebel against God. God chose Moses as the leader of his people, the Israelites. When Miriam spoke against Moses, she was speaking against God who gave Moses that authority.

    Frequently, rebellion and jealousy link together. When one is jealous of the authority of an individual and feels that he or she can do a better job, it becomes easy to question and criticize those in authority. God condemned Miriam for criticizing Moses, and he condemns us when we criticize and rebel against those in authority (Proverbs 17:11; Hebrews 13:17).

    Are you like Miriam? Are you rebellious of those in authority? Do you criticize the elders who watch for your soul?

Miriam was Repentant

    When God struck Miriam with leprosy, “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” (Numbers 12:11). Although the Scriptures do not record Miriam saying, “I have sinned” or “Please forgive me,” we know that she repented because God healed her.

    Likewise, God will forgive us when we turn away from sin and turn back to God. Jesus taught “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). Peter told the Jews on the day of Pentecost “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).

    God will forgive those who repent. However, repentance does not remove the consequences of our actions. Just as Miriam suffered with leprosy for seven days, sometimes we must suffer because of our sins. When a thief repents to God for stealing, he still faces the legal system of our nation and may be sentenced to jail time for his ungodly actions.

    Are you a Miriam? Do you repent of your sins when someone teaches you that an action is sinful? Or, do you become angry with the teacher and accuse the individual of being unkind, unloving and a meddler?

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