On Sunday mornings, I have the privilege to take my already-small youth group and break it down to where I teach an even smaller group for Sunday School. I contemplated if I wanted to change the way I do Sunday School since the group is so small, but I like that I only have to teach the high school girls on Sunday morning. And it’s enabling us to do the Women of the Bible right now!
So I planned on doing Women of the Bible, and I planned on doing Miriam yesterday…then Sunday Morning I found out the middle school boys’ teacher was gone, so they came in with me. Oops! But this lesson STILL spoke to them! Awesome :)
Miriam was Moses’ sister. I honestly knew very little about her, even though I’m taking a Pentateuch class, even though I’ve read through Exodus, even though I’ve heard the Moses story 3974421 times AND have taught on it before. But no matter how many times I read a passage, I find that God still finds ways to teach me (just as when I taught Jonah!)
Miriam was a leader. In fact, in Micah it says that Moses, Aaron, and Miriam were the ones who lead the Israelites. God acknowledged her as important and essential. She led the women in praise after they crossed the Red Sea. She led the women to adorn the tabernacle. Not only was she a leader, but the Bible names her a prophetess, meaning that God spoke to her. This is a very special title for someone. There is no doubt about it–God was using Miriam in special ways.
But we find in chapter 15 that Miriam and Aaron got a little jealous. And I can just imagine this whole thing take place–I’m SURE that Miriam had to start this gossip, as I know how women are (and she was the one punished!). They start talking about Moses’ wife, an Egyptian woman of who God had no problem with. So why were they against this woman if God had not said Moses could not marry her? Most likely had something to do with their own prejudices against darker skin. Then one of them suggests, “Has not God spoken to us too?”
Uh oh. Pride alert! WEEEEOOOOOOOWEEEEEOOOOOWEEEEEOOOOOO! (that’s a siren sound!)
I love this part: God comes down in a pillar of smoke. Ha! Calls the three of them together into a meeting room. Then God blocks the doorway with the smoke! I can just IMAGINE being Miriam! It’s like I just hit my sibling, and I turn around and Daddy’s at the door with the paddle!
And a spanking Miriam got! She turned white with leprosy, an ironic punishment for two reasons: (1) Her prejudice against Moses’ wife had to do with her skin color, or the fact that she looked different from everyone else. Now Miriam would look different from ALL of them! (2) Miriam wanted power, she wanted to be recognized. But having Leprosy means that she would be exiled. She wouldn’t be able to be around people in order to lead them.
Aaron quickly humbled, as he turned to Moses and said, “My lord, do something!” Calling Moses “lord” showed his respect for him. Then Moses talked to God, and asked him to do something. And God stood his ground in his punishment, but compassionately let it only last 7 days.
You see, God knew what he was doing. God knew that Miriam was usable, that’s why he chose her in the first place! God could have just wiped her off the planet, struck her down, turned her to dust. But he gave her a punishment that was fitting. She needed to be humbled, and I think after this she was. I can’t imagine the “Walk of Shame” that took place as she walked back to camp. What’s amazing is, it was time for them to move on in their travels, but they waited for her. They obviously respected her a lot.
This story shows us that even God’s greatest leaders can struggle with pride. It also shows us that if a person has pride, God will knock it out of them! The punishment will be devastating, but needed.
When I was little, I got some whoopins. I grew up with boys, and they were constantly getting me in trouble. But spankings didn’t change my attitude, so my mom came up with a new punishment: essay writing. Oh, how I hated this! It lasted hours, it caused me to think about what I did, in many cases it was pretty ironic because I usually said dumb things and had to pay for them…and it was rewarding. I changed my behavior. It humbled me to think about the stupid things I did, and I learned. Great job, mom!
Our Daddy is doing the same thing when he punishes us. Encouraging, but scary. Sometimes the spanking is quicker and “painless”. ;)