Saturday, July 14, 2018

Words, Women, and the World Wide Web: A Lesson from Miriam

Stooping low, the young woman adjusted her gaze.  Could it be possible?  Was it truly the king's daughter, approaching the river's edge?  

Her heart skipped a beat as she knew what she must do.  "Jehovah of Hosts, please be my Helper now," she breathed silently.  

Within moments, her baby brother began to cry from his basket as Pharaoh's daughter examined the tiny infant. 

Instinctively, boldly, and trusting God for safety, Miriam brushed away the covering of bulrushes that protected her, then bowed before the stately young princess.  "If you please, Miss, would you like me to fetch a Hebrew woman to feed the child?"  

The princess stood, beautifully sillhoutted against the setting sun, a fitting frame for Pharaoh's daughter, who worshiped the bright orb as a god.  

"I would be delighted!" exclaimed the princess delicately, mesmerized by the helpless infant in the basket before her.  Moses now sobbing, Miriam hastened to their small cottage.

Within minutes, Miriam was back, her mother in tow.  

What providence--that God should allow Miriam to be at the water's edge at the exact time Pharaoh's daughter came to bathe!  

And God was not finished using this woman in His service.

In fact, the same God that provided Miriam strength in those early years became her portion into her elderly days.  

Decades later, and now an elderly woman herself, Miriam led the Israelite women in praising God after He had miraculously spared the entire nation by splitting the Red Sea, causing dry land to appear and walls of water to mark their path on either side.  

Moses had begun the song this time, leading God's people in jubilant praise, but God had allowed her to lead the women in praising Him.  She had status among God's people and was even designated as "prophetess" in Exodus 15:20.  As Miriam constructed a chorus to Moses' song, she helped to heighten the jubilation of the moment. Lovely voices of women joined in harmonious praise to Jehovah.

Miriam seemed to love Jehovah, worship Him, and express His praise. She had been used by God to spare the man He would use later in leading Israel from Egypt.  But days spent amongst complaining Israelites seemed to take their toll upon her spirit.

"When will we have water?"

"Did Moses take us out into the wilderness to die?"

"Why didn't he let us die in Egypt? At least we had good food back there."

Little by little, the man God had chosen took the brunt of complaints. And a faithless, complaining spirit characterized this generation, so that they would later become used as warning markers against unbelief all throughout the New Testament.

God calls Moses "the meekest man," recording his faithfulness throughout the Pentateuch but also including two particular instances when this man, angered by leading such a rebellious people, illustrated his frustration.  

And, while Miriam was also used by the Lord of Hosts, a specific command about her sobers today's believers, especially Christian women.  For when God places the name "Miriam" and "remember" in an imperative sentence in His Word, it is to none of her faith-filled deeds that He refers.  Rather, it is to a blot upon her reputation and God's subsequent judgment:

"Remember what the LORD thy God did unto Miriam 
by the way, after that ye were come forth 
out of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 24:9), 

We are to remember how God judged Miriam.

Numbers 12:1-2 recounts the episode:
"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."

Were not Aaron and Miriam both spiritually minded individuals whom God had used?  Yes.  Was their perspective worth sharing?   Actually, maybe not.

At the heart of Miriam's criticism is the sense that God uses other people too--not just one man.  No doubt her perspective seemed spiritual--to her.  But her words question God's leadership by a specific man of His choosing.  While Aaron also spoke these words, it is Miriam who is judged.

What exactly happened?  For seven days, Miriam was shut out of the camp, making it impossible for the children of Israel to go anywhere, for their "prophetess" suffered the debilitating punishment of leprosy, all over her body.  She had criticized God's man and rebelled at a God that uses a specific man of His choosing.

A dreadful disease it was, eating away at the extremities of the body one by one, causing the afflicted to turn white in infected places.  Ugly.  And a fitting picture of God's view of sin.  God judged Miriam by turning her body into a ghost-like figure, plagued by leprosy.

Does that seem a harsh judgment to you, sister in Christ?

Does it seem unfair?

Certainly Moses was not a perfect leader.  

Even so, he was God's chosen man for the job. 

Why does God command us to "remember" what God did to Miriam by the way?  

Having completed a study on the word "remember" recently, I was struck by this command.  Twice on the pages of Scripture we are told to "remember" women--and neither of them is a good example.  One is Lot's wife; the other is God's judgment upon Miriam.

Have you considered why this remembering might be so important?

Aaron spoke against God's man, too--but only Miriam was openly judged.

Does that not seem to indicate that women in particular ought most carefully consider our words before we offer some "spiritual perspective" about God's man?

A cursory overview of Titus, the Timothies and Thessalonians reveals that such behavior ought have no part in the way of the women of God!  Rather, God's women are to have spirits that, far from being busy bodies, serve others, work hard, and discipline their tongues from participating in the evils of talebearing and slander.  The wives of church leaders are commanded not to be double tongued, not slanderers--a word that comes from "diabolos." Rather, the way in which God's women speak of others ought be governed by principles derived from the Bible, not from any perspective they feel to be true at the moment.

In the day of social media, when individuals can vent about dislikes and personal opinions concerning God's churches and God's leaders, let us be ever careful to guard our hearts from the destructive work of the one who seeks to pull down what God is doing and has done in a ministry.  Let us not be guilty of even "liking" a post evidencing a critical, Miriam-like spirit about a preacher of God.  Instead, let us go far from such tale-bearing and criticism.  We can run the way of God's commandments as He enlarges our heart to obey Him.

How easy the Internet makes "venting" about church authority a venue in which women can too easily indulge!  Dear sister in Christ, remember what God did to Miriam by the way before you participate in criticizing the man God has chosen to lead one of His churches.

Let us never use our tongues as tools of Satan to criticize the men God has chosen to be leaders in His work.

God's preachers are worthy of honor, not because our opinion matches theirs, but because God has chosen them for His ministry.

Thus, I beg you, sister in Christ, remember what God did to Miriam before you offer your "spiritually minded" perspective about God's man or before you chime in with your comments against those whom God has chosen to serve Him.

Please avoid the spirit of the wilderness-wandering Israelites, who offered constant complaints and criticisms about God's leadership.  When surrounded by such a spirit, you, like Miriam, may also turn from one who regularly praises God and joys in Him to one who complains about the man He has chosen.  Do not be found among those willing to criticize God's church and His leaders.

God has a way of getting the last word and judging in a profound way.

Remember what He did to Miriam by the way.

He alone is the Righteous Judge.