“And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married….And they said, ‘Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath he not spoken also by us?’ And the Lord heard it.”
Numbers 12: 1, 2
King James Version
“Miriam – Her Power Misused”
“I believe sympathy is one of the most helpful helps one can bestow upon one’s fellow creatures; and it seems a great pity that so many people feel it is their duty to criticize rather than sympathize.”
Hannah Whitall Smith
How does the spirit of criticism undermine the spirit of praise?”
“Our souls may lose their peace and even disturb other people’s, if we are always criticizing trivial actions – which often are not real defects at all, but we construe them wrongly through our ignorance of their motives.”
Teresa of Avila
“This world is a sad, sad place I know;
And what living soul can doubt it.
But it will not lessen the want and woe,
To be always singing about it.”
When I was growing up, one of my favorite movies was “Pollyanna” starring Hayley Mills. As an orphan, she was sent to live with her very stern and intimidating Aunt Polly in a town filled with feuding and fighting. Much of the unharmonious behavior in town was caused by simple misunderstandings and subsequent hurt feelings.
When Pollyanna came to town however, she brought the precious gift of happiness as demonstrated in the “Glad Game” which she shared with anyone who would listen and even some who at first didn’t believe that a positive, happy attitude could change lives.
Of course, the movie has a wonderful, happy-ever-after ending brought about by the unquenchable joy of one little girl.
I wish life in your world and mine always had a happily ever after, too. But sometimes, in fact many times, very bad things happen to very wonderful people. As I prayed this morning for the people in Myanmar, I thought about how many innocent victims – hundreds of thousands – have had their lives turned upside down and shattered by a devastating cyclone.
While this is a catastrophe that has occurred on a massive scale, everyday catastrophes hit unsuspecting victims. A friend is diagnosed with cancer. A husband leaves his wife of 26 years – shocked and alone to support 4 children. A mother is informed her 2 ½ year-old daughter has a brain tumor. A husband loses his job without warning. A tornado sweeps through town collapsing a church.
These aren’t make believe tragedies. These are a list of a couple of the prayer requests that have come to Transformation Garden in the last few months. Unfortunately, for most people, life isn’t a “Glad Game” especially when there is so much sadness all around.
Considering the terrible conditions the children of Israel faced when enslaved in Egypt, it is no wonder God raised up a “Praise Prophet” – Miriam – who was gifted in bringing hope into the hearts of God’s children.
Miriam’s calling by God was to be a tonic of positive encouragement. God knew His children, traveling from the land of bondage, Egypt, to the land of promise, Canaan, needed all the positive motivation possible. This is why He called Miriam to be a prophet of praise.
Let me give you a statistical fact to prove my point. Over 23 times in Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy the words murmur, murmured, murmurers, and murmurings are used. Nowhere else in the Bible do we find this word used so often to describe the behavior of a group of individuals. We are told that the people “murmured against Moses.” They murmured too “against the Lord.” The Hebrew dictionary uses the word “grumble” to describe this behavior.
When my nieces were little and they were being grumpy I’d sing a song to them called: The Grumblers. The chorus went like this: “Grumble on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, grumble on Thursday, too. Grumble on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, grumble the whole week through.” Of course, this song put a smile on their faces. But the same can’t be said for the children of Israel. Their murmuring went on and on.
However, this is why God had a team working with Moses. When the people became grumpy and started griping, Moses had Aaron, the priest, and Miriam, the prophet of praise to fill him with positive encouragement.
But one day, Moses’ helpers, Aaron and Miriam, instead of providing a spirit of hope for Moses, joined in by criticizing Moses’ wife. WOW! What a way to bring discouragement into someone’s life. In a family sense – talking against a brother or sister’s spouse isn’t the way to win friends.
What we have is the prophet of praise becoming a prophet of grumbling. This wasn’t in God’s plan for Miriam at all. Instead of having a spirit of encouragement, Miriam became what God had gifted her to cure.
Some people take the story of Miriam talking against her brother and try to turn it into some “gender” lesson. A woman shouldn’t talk against a man.
Let me say this, to limit this event to some power struggle between the sexes is to miss the entire point of the story. For God’s lesson to you and me is much bigger than a clash between male and female.
Numbers 12: 4-10 (K.J.V.) tells of God’s intervention in this story in a most direct manner. God, we are told in verse 4, “spake suddenly unto Moses.” God asked for a meeting with Moses, Aaron and Miriam at the tabernacle. It’s as though God called the pastor and leaders at your church and said, “Meet me immediately at the church.”
Then God informed Miriam and Aaron that Moses had his responsibilities and they had theirs. What’s more, God told them they should not speak against Moses! To underscore, Numbers 12: 9 says, “The anger of the Lord was kindled against them.”
When God left and the cloud of His presence lifted, “behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow.”
I remember my parents reading this story from a children’s Bible Story book when I was young. I’ll never forget seeing a picture of Miriam with white spots on her and thinking, “God is a big meanie. If you do something He doesn’t like, He’ll give you leprosy!” Pretty frightening for a young girl.
Tomorrow, when we study about the way Miriam was restored, we’ll look into just what leprosy does to the body and we will see what, a negative, praiseless life does to our hearts and what leprosy does to the body. God knew this and so in the life of the first person called a prophet – the prophet of praise, no less, God showed us what happens when we blunt His power in our lives by harboring a hurtful and negative spirit.
Friedrich von Hǖgel stated, “Nothing ousts the sense of God’s presence so thoroughly as the soul’s dialogues with itself – when these are grumblings and grievances.”
May we learn from Miriam that when God puts His praise in our mouth, it is a gift we must never treat lightly or disparage. While some folk complain because there are thorns on roses, we can praise God for the roses He has given us.
“Avoid destructive thinking. Improper negative thoughts sink people. A ship can sail around the world many, many times, but just let enough water get into the ship and it will sink! Just so with the human mind. Let enough negative thoughts or improper thoughts get into the human mind and the person sinks just like a ship.”
Alfred A. Montapert
“The Divine Spark”
“Help us, Lord, please,
To love you and to love one another.
Please, Holy God,
Add to each of us a “Divine Spark.”
That our Lights may shine with more joy, hope,
peace, wisdom, patience, trust and love.
Please help us and bless us with Your strength
to obey as Jesus.
Let us shine with Your love, Lord,
Let us wait with Your patience.
Let us feel Your peace and smile with Your joy.
Let us go forth in Your wisdom and guidance.
Let us love with Your love.
Thank you for Your many blessings.
We ask in Christ’s name.
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy Valcarcel has a 25-year career working with charitable organizations worldwide. Her experiences have taken her into ghettos, orphanages, domestic abuse shelters and food kitchens. The insight she gained, along with her own personal struggle to overcome challenging disabilities sustained in a life-threatening accident, are the catalyst for Transformation Garden - a website designed to encourage women in their walk with Jesus. Dorothy is the author of the soon to be released book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, published by Revell.