At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you.” (Numbers 12:4)
Miriam may have been well into her nineties when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. She and her nation had seen the miracles that God used to bring them out of their Egyptian captivity. To celebrate, she led the people of Israel in singing, dancing, and playing tambourines. God had given her the gift of prophecy---He made His will known to others through her. None of her inspired sayings, except for her celebration song, have been recorded for us, nor do we know what duties she carried out in her leadership role.
God chose to record a major sin that she committed so that we could learn from her mistake. She became proud that God spoke through her. She may have been jealous of her sister-in-law’s status in the eyes of the other Israelites. She influenced Aaron to join her in talking against Moses by putting down his choice of a foreign wife. Miriam’s envy and prejudice led her to oppose Moses who had shown by the fruit of his life that he was being led by God.
When God heard Miriam’s words, he became very angry. He sent for her and corrected her for her attitude and behavior. He gave her a skin disease and sent her to live alone outside the camp for a week to think about it. Like a parent disciplining a child, he sent her to her room--grounded her for a week. She was given time to regain her relationship with God apart from her duties; time to realize how unfair she had been to Moses; and to understand why God became so angry with her. God disciplines the children he loves so that we can become more like him in our thoughts and behavior.
Her behavior had affected the whole camp. The whole camp waited for her to rejoin them before they moved to another campsite.
Near the end of the forty years of wandering in the desert, Miriam died without ever seeing the land she had heard about as a child. Neither did her brothers, Moses and Aaron who also committed the sin of failing to honor God.
Miriam’s sin is an example of how pride,
envy, and selfish ambition leads to sinful behavior. She praised herself
instead of God. She put herself in a position of judging her brother and
his wife. She compounded her sin by trying to pit her brother Aaron against
their brother Moses. God's response teaches us that God is no respecter
of persons. Leaders who sin do not get special treatment--sin has consequences.
It also shows that leaders who sin should be publicly rebuked as a lesson
to others of what not to do just as their righteous example should have
been of what to do. It is also an example of God's grace; her punishment
only lasted a week. God restored her to health and to her place in Israel.
Later, her isolation was used as an example of how to handle contagious
diseases. But God is more interested in preventing the spread of sin throughout
the people of God. Leaders are held more accountable to God because of
the influence they have on others.
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Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study
Guide: Miriam, Leader and Prophetess -The Lord's Discipline