Big sister to the mighty Moses, Miriam had been the one to watch his crib float down the Nile and be pulled out by Pharaoh’s daughter – she had effectively saved him. (Exodus 1) She had also been the one to lead the celebrations when they escaped from Egypt through the red sea (Exodus 15.20). Now along with Aaron (their brother – now high priest) she was a leader of the people. Wandering in the desert , the nation of Israel is reluctantly learning to trust the God who rescued them led by these three. However, all families have their tensions…
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This seems to be a harsh consequence for her actions but God clearly took Miriam’s attitude problem seriously. It must have been hard to watch her little brother getting all the glory, credit and respect for being ‘the one God chose’. Clearly his choice of wife also didn’t please her, but Miriam’s resentment and malicious gossip got God’s attention.
The fact that her actions had such serious consequences shows that God took her seriously, She wasn’t “just a woman,” as cultures of the time dictated. As far as God was concerned her sin – as a leader – had to be dealt with.
As leaders, our sin can have huge impact, not just on ourselves but on those we lead. We lead in his name so our holy God can’t and won’t let it go un-dealt with. Likewise if, as a leader, we are criticised unjustly, God will defend us. He may not strike people with disease but he does hold them accountable for the respect (or lack of it) they show their leaders. Moses didn’t defend himself, God did it. That’s worth remembering when we are criticised. In fact Moses’ cry was for his sister, not against her – that’s certainly an example for us to copy!
If people have legitimate complaints we should listen graciously and consider prayerfully, but God appoints those he wants to lead his people. Jealousy and malicious talk are never the way to go...especially for those who are leaders themselves!
© Ruth Perrin 2008. Last revised on 1 December 2008
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Cloud of Witnesses is a series of Bible studies on the men and women of scripture. You'll find everyone from Gideon and Andrew through to Tamar and Tabitha.
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Ruth Perrin, the author, is on staff at King's Church Durham and holds an MA in Theology and Ministry.
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