Miriam the Prophetess, sister of Aaron, and a sinner
A Woman Covered in God’s rich grace and mercy from the Women of Grace Series
Miriam was an Israelite, not just any Israelite, but the sister or Aaron the priest. She, along with thousands of other Jewish people had just witnessed a great triumph as Pharaoh and his army had fallen into the sea and the waters crowded in around them; breaking apart their chariots and sending the entire army to a watery grave at the bottom of the sea.
Miriam and all Israelite’s had just been given a dry and uneventful pathway for crossing this same sea by God. They were able to stand along the shore from the other side watching as the Egyptian army fell to their sudden death to the bottom of the sea. In all this excitement and glorious display of God’s power Miriam led and the women fell in line behind her for a victory dance, complete with timbrels, celebrating this monumental triumph; a miracle from God securing their safe passage unto the other side of the sea and bringing demise to the Egyptian army. Miriam was looked up to in her role of prophetess and sister of Aaron the Priest among the Israelites on this long journey.
Miriam and the large number of Israelites continued on in this long journey across the desert towards the Promised Land. They were led by Moses hand-picked by God for his leadership role. Moses may have been selected personally by God but this long and arduous trip, filled with many perils and hazards, brought out the worst murmuring and complaining from the people against him: including Miriam and Aaron who allowed the constant disparaging of others to affect their outlook and persona as well. They began to focus upon their trials and problems rather than how miraculously God had led them through difficult situations and met their every need thus far on this harrowing trek across the desert; both Miriam and Aaron chose to speak out about murmuring against Moses even questioning his leadership. These actions were contentious and dividing rather than supportive of Moses in his God-given leadership role and the Bible tells us God took note of their poor attitude and actions.
It is common for mankind to speak out against God’s chosen leaders today rather than lend them unconditional spiritual support and help in times of trouble and tribulations. God’s Word does tell us we are responsible for every word that comes our heart and out of our mouth as well as any poor attitudes we harbor in our heart; just as Miriam and Aaron had greatly displeased God in their questioning and unsupportive attitude towards Moses. The Bible records that God dealt with both of them in His righteous anger immediately asking how or why they dared to speak out against His meek and humble servant Moses whom God communicated with and directed face to face. God was sore displeased with both Aaron and Miriam; choosing to punish Miriam.
Miriam was at the forefront of the righteous anger of God. All three; Moses, Aaron, and Miriam had been summoned to God in the tabernacle. God had chosen to chastise them all and to physically punish Miriam for speaking out against and questioning Moses while sparing Aaron any physical recourse for what he had spoken.
The Bible did not give many details of the exact words spoken against Moses other than questions from Miriam and Aaron were raised about or against his marriage and new wife. One could surmise two things; one that Miriam was perhaps the one to begin this despairing against Moses because she had already been depicted in the Bible as a quasi-leader capable of stirring people up, and secondly she was not in submission to authority starting with the leadership of both her own brother and Moses; both of which were chosen by God.
God was serious in his discipline of Miriam. God takes sin seriously and everything that comes out of the mouth of mankind; especially those who profess to serve Him. For whatever reason God deemed it necessary Miriam was the one who became leprous and unclean, not Aaron as well, and God removed Himself from the tabernacle departing away from them.
The people at once began to separate from Miriam because she had a leprous condition clearly visible about her skin. Leprosy in the Old Testament was a picture of sin. It always started out small and unnoticeable but could grow into a large outbreak rather swiftly. Anyone who became leprous was hastily banished outside the gates out of direct fellowship and communication with others until their condition improved and the sin was gone.
God knew that Miriam had a mouth problem which stemmed from a heart problem deep within her. This was likely not the first time that Miriam had spoken out in a way that was unbecoming to God and offensive to others rather than maintaining a meek and mild presence in submission to God’s will. God effected the wages of her sin upon her immediately chastising her to bring her into a more humble status through His stern judgment and rebuke placed upon her. The time she spent outside the gate of the camp was one of humble submission to God and others; her leprosy did disappear as her spiritual health improved and she was once again pleasing unto God.
The decision Miriam made to speak out against Moses did not just affect her own standing and spiritual health but the lives of Aaron, Moses, and collectively all the Israelites. The journey to the Promised Land was put on hold and the Israelite’s did not journey forward while Miriam was unclean and residing outside the gates. The passage onward to the Promised Land resumed once Miriam was considered clean and the leprosy cleared up as her spiritual health was once again robust.
Nothing much else is recorded about Miriam in the Bible. As the Israelite’s are nearing the Promised Land and are in the home stretch of their long and grueling journey Miriam died and was buried in the outskirts of the Promised Land. One could conclude she lived out the rest of her life in submission to the will and way of God rather than standing out in enmity against God and His chosen leaders.
Perhaps Miriam’s life seemed like one of privilege and prestige according to the world’s standards. She was the sister of Aaron the priest and was from the tribe of Levi. She likely had Aaron at her beck and call who was a godly man and the priest under leadership of Moses. She certainly did not trail behind the large group as they made their journey across the hot desert but rather was upfront walking amongst leaders God had specifically chosen.
In fact, Miriam was also one of God’s chosen . She likely stood out as a “ring leader” of sorts in the midst of the women given her God given role as a prophetess . She was a woman who was able to gather ladies round about her stirring them to joyfully celebrate the crossing of the sea as well as keep them apprised of things as they made their long journey from their bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land.
However, this perceived standing towards the front of the crowd did not prevent God from seeing her sin any different than any other person’s innate sin nature. Actually God expects more from those who are in a position of leadership; whether it be a priest over the people or a prophetess. God sees sin as sin and demands a wage for it no matter who it is that chooses to sin.
The Bible tells us:
God did exact a wage for Miriam’s sin. She became leprous and was banished outside the gates of the city. The people separated from her; even the ladies who once gathered around her were now keeping a great distance from her. Sin always has repercussions and God calls His own to disconnect or move away from sinners; Miriam’s life was no different. She lost the fellowship of her family and friends. This time she spent alone in remorse for her sinful condition did bring about her spiritual healing and she was eventually restored to her former place as a prophetess and perhaps submissive leader among the ladies and accepted among the Israelite’s. Not much else besides her eventual death and burial are recorded in scripture leading to surmise she had humbled herself to a position of submission to the authority of Moses and to Aaron restored fully to life inside the camp as they journeyed forward towards the Promised Land.
Perhaps it should be pointed out Miriam wasted precious time according to the wages of her sin which stopped forward progress for the entire camp towards the land of milk and honey. She was then denied access to enter into the land she had journeyed most of her to come into because the time of her physical death came upon her just as she was nearing the end of the long journey. Not only did she waster her time but the precious time of everyone about her. What are you wasting precious time doing today? Are you busy about the things of God as you sojourn in this world? Are you sojourning in this world as a “Mary” or “Martha?” Are you busy working or worshipping at the feet of Christ or wallowing and wailing in the pig pen of this world? Nothing else but serving God will matter in the eternal realm.
Do you desire to be front and center on the stage of life as it is going on about you? Do you take any opportunities God gives you to give glory and honor to Him as well as honor and prefer servants He has placed in leadership over you? Or do you throw those in authority over you under the bus allowing them to be run over and stepped on by incessant murmuring and complaining because you know better how to lead than those God has placed in a leadership position over you. If you enter into these detrimental actions against others in leadership it equates to you knowing better than God in any given situation at hand. Servants of God are working according to His will and way bringing about godly leadership; for women this include keeping God foremost in your life, followed closely by submission to your husband as you serve and honor God with your life.
I believe Miriam learned great lessons from her ungodly heart attitude and the chastising from God moved her to greater heights in serving Him as she sojourned in this world until her physical death as the Promised Land was found looming upon the horizon for the next generation of Israelite people.
What are you leaving behind for the generation following after you as you sojourn in this world?