December 8, 2010

Biblical Femininity V: Power Struggle

I figure it was no small feat to be the older sister of Moses. Miriam was a woman that delivered a lot of messages. God deeply talented this woman but she needed to realize that the talent she had was to be used in the way God wanted it used not they way she wanted to use it. A stubborn bullheaded intent to see things through your way when God has other plans always, always ends in disaster. Our arms are too short to fight with God.

Although she is not called by name it is possible that it is Miriam orchestrating the discovery of Moses in the basket of bulrushes. She pretty much delivered Moses up to the Pharaoh's daughter. Moses is then raised in aristocracy and educated as such. He kills an Egyptian at 40 and then flees and lives in Midian until he is 80 tending his father-in-laws sheep. He does not reunited with his family until he is literally confronted by God in the form of a Burning Bush that was not consumed. God orders him back to Egypt much to his dismay. Withing these 80 years we see a mention of Miriam in Exodus 15 after the Song of Moses.

"Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron..." Exodus 15:20

It appears Miriam became a prophetess. A speaker and deliverer of God's truth. Being a prophetess and sister of a notable person like Aaron made her a person of prominence. At this point in time Miriam would've been more closely linked to Aaron not Moses. That would not come until later after Moses return from Midian. As we move though the story of the Exodus we reach the part where the Israelites have successfully navigated the narrow escape route through the Red Sea. Moses breaks out in song and Miriam? She whips out her tambourine and leads the women of the camp in in her own song, "“Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.” La la la....has an nice ring to it (the la la la is my addition, its not in Scripture). She is clearly energetic and full of charisma and a born leader. And perhaps this is what leads to later problems with Moses and by proxy-God.

The power and prestige of Moses ministry was extremely powerful. Probably one of the most powerful of the entire Bible as it is the institution of the Law. This apparently didn't sit well with Miriam after a while. Having been a leader once it is often hard to move back or be demoted especially if is not of your doing. Miriam's strong suit was leadership, humbleness was not. More specifically it looks like servant leadership was the issue here. She didn't seem too willing to be a servant of the servant of God which is what all Christians are called to do to some extent. Miriam appears to have nursed this irritation for a while because it doesn't come to a head until Numbers 12:1-2:

"Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the LORD heard this.

We see hints of slander here and that is a no-no in God's world. Slander is a murder of one's character is a serious sin. The real heart of the issue with Miriam's resentment of Moses position is in the words "Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?" It is the issue of a strong woman challenging a meek man. What do we read in the very next verse about Moses (which by the way is a direct quote of the Holy Spirit; it is referring to Moses as the second party in the narrative)?

Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. Numbers 12:3

The idea that the Lord does indeed only speak through Moses with the Spirit is reinforced by the previous verse which actually questions who the LORD is actually speaking through. “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?" The whole point of verse 3 is to not only countermand the previous statements by Miriam and Aaron, within the context of the Scripture it is showing that God does indeed speak through Moses. So the Bible establishes for posterity the Moses is indeed God’s mediator at the time and shows Miriam is not by afflicting her with leprosy for a week.

Lesson? Don't assume to know the mind of God in situations that clearly speak otherwise AND clearly have the mark of God's approval all over them. What are those marks of approval? They are biblical and they do not conflict with what God has already said. They are confirmed by other spiritually discerning people through prayer and supplication to the Lord.

The sad thing is Miriam and Aaron assumed this was Moses arrogance of need for the leadership roll that put them in a roll of subjugation to him. this is clearly not true. We need only look back to the fact the Moses only reluctantly returned to Egypt after Aaron agrees to speak or be the spokesman for God at first. Moses also desired death over continuing to be the sole leadership role that judged people against the Law. The Israelites (some) had become as petulant children and were driving him nutty so his power was delegated to the 70.

Well as the story goes Miriam is struck with leprosy temporarily. We see God's mercy on a woman that dare to question God through proxy via Moses. What she deserved and what any person in this situation deserved is death. Mercy and grace. She wasn;t even struck permanently ill but only for a week. Lucky woman. I guess Miriam's biggest sin was pride or a inflated self-importance. It is clear God gave her the gift of prophesy because God's purpose was to serve a prophetess, it was not her purpose to begin to meddle in and try and hinder of frustrate God's plan when it came to leadership. This had nothing to do with whether Miriam was a woman or not or whether she was capable of doing the job of leadership. Who knows, she probably could've, that's not the point. Our culture today would try to make that the point but its not the issue. Miriam's disobedience and indirect questioning of God by questioning His choices in leadership are. If we learn anything we should learn that Miriam shouldn't have done what she did and her gender had nothing to do with it. Do you suppose that God cared that Miriam was a woman sinning as opposed to a man sinning?

The next time we hear of Miriam is 40 years later and it is to highlight her death. Her roll after the questioning of God is diminished. We see what a lack of faith does to even one that is devoted to God. We really should see the question for what it was...a lack of faith. God cannot use you as much if you lack in faith. How much He can is in direct proportion to your faith. Miriam was definitely a woman of messages. In the end it was a story of mixed messages, some good and some bad. Both can serve as good examples of what to do and what not to do as a believer.

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