Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Leper

In Numbers 12 we read the account of Miriam and Aaron, the siblings of Moses and how they spoke against Moses because he had married an Ethiopian woman. They were angry and for some reason they didn't like the fact that Moses had married an Ethiopian. It could have been the color of her skin or it could have been where she was from, either way she couldn't change it. The reason why they were critical is not important, the fact is they were still being critical of Moses' choice in a wife. It doesn't say anywhere that Moses' wife defended herself and for that matter it doesn't even say that Moses defended his choice. They left it up to God to be their Defender. 

Miriam makes an accusation against Moses in verse 2 basically saying 'Moses isn't that special. God speaks through us too.' Immediately God called all three of them, Moses, Miriam and Aaron, and told them to come to the tabernacle. I imagine that Miriam and Aaron probably thought that God was going to tune Moses up. Critical people rarely, if ever, think they are the ones in the wrong. They usually focus on the perceived faults of others. God wasn't going to let their critical spirits go unchecked. When we are wrongly accused and criticized God will come to our defense. 

God came before the three of them in a cloud. He could have spoken to their hearts but He chose to give them a visual to remember. He told them that Moses was indeed special. 

Numbers 12 5-9 Then the Lord descended in the pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the Tabernacle. “Aaron and Miriam!” he called, and they stepped forward.  And the Lord said to them, “Now listen to what I say:“If there were prophets among you, I, the Lord, would reveal myself in visions. I would speak to them in dreams. But not with my servant Moses. Of all my house, he is the one I trust. I speak to him face to face, clearly, and not in riddles!  He sees the Lord as he is. So why were you not afraid  to criticize my servant Moses?”The Lord was very angry with them, and he departed.

I love that line "so why were you not afraid to criticize my servant?" The Lord is amazed that they would be so.... dare I say it, stupid? Why would you criticize the person God is working through? That seems to be the question for the ages. We're so careless with our tongues sometimes that we glibly criticize those in leadership. We don't understand why they made this decision or that, so we, like Miriam and Aaron, throw our poisoned opinion around freely. 

Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord's work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. 1 Thessalonians 5:12

We must realize, though, that if we do criticize those pastors and teachers whom the Lord has placed spiritually over us God will not take it lightly. In verse 10 we read that when the cloud departed Aaron looked at Miriam and saw that she was covered in leprosy! I always wondered why it was only Miriam who was stricken with leprosy and not Aaron. God called them both out. They were both speaking critically of Moses, so why only Miriam? I believe it was because God knew that Miriam had started it. She was the instigator. Note her name is mentioned first. 

Ladies, this is something we must guard our hearts against. We never want to be found with a gossiping tongue or a critical spirit. Its easy to fall in with the crowd if the crowd has a mob mentality and their goal is to tear down the leadership. If it seems that 'everyone' is saying the same thing, whether it is true or not, its easy to jump on the bandwagon and find fault. We must be careful not to become a 'Miriam'. 

When Moses saw what had happened to his sister, the one who had criticized him, the one who had torn him down, he immediately prayed she would be healed. This act, alone, shows the character of Moses. He allowed God to deal with his accusers and he did what was right. When we are criticized we immediately want to defend ourselves but the Lord has shown us a better way: "Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. Luke 6:28"

Miriam had to live with the evidence of her sin, her leprosy, for seven days. She had to live outside of the camp in shame. The entire nation of Israel knew what she had done. God used her as a reminder that He will not take lightly the criticism of His servants. Moses could have moved the camp along on their journey and let Miriam catch up on her own after she was healed, but he showed mercy and allowed her to be restored. The entire nation, the whole camp, waited for the seven days. When one church member is found in sin, it affects the whole congregation in one way or another. 

I don't know of anyone who has been plagued with leprosy by the Lord because of a critical spirit but I wonder how many troubles we have in our lives because of the trouble our tongues can get us into. Its like the Lord, Himself, said to Miriam and Aaron "weren't you afraid to speak against My servant?" I firmly believe that if we honor God and honor those He has place in spiritual authority over us with not only loyalty in our actions but in our speech as well, God will honor us and reward us for our faithfulness. But just as firmly as I believe that, I also believe that God will not bless us if we are not. I believe we bring 'leprosy' upon ourselves when we are not living the way God wants us to live. 

James says in Chapter 1 verse 26:
 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

We all can give ourselves a check up from time to time and ask ourselves if we are being wise with our words. James tells us in Chapter 3 that true wisdom comes from God. Just like King Solomon we need to ask for wisdom from the Lord and He will be faithful and give it to us. 

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

Ask the Lord to search your heart today and reveal to you if there is a critical spirit there. If there is, repent and allow the Lord to give you the wisdom you need to season your words with grace and kindness, lest any 'leprosy' come into your life. God bless you. 

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