"And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, 'Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea."
Exodus 15: 20, 21
King James Version
"Miriam – Her Praise Power in Action"
"God can never receive too much praise."
Is my life filled with "praising the Lord?"
"When we wake up each morning, if praise of the Risen Christ were to fill our hearts, then in the monotony of daily life, an inner surge of vitality would reveal our hidden longing."
"The sweetest of all sounds is praise."
Yesterday evening, just before sunset, I took a walk in the warm Arizona air. It was one of those magical evenings when the setting sun painted beautiful colors on the Red Rock Mountains surrounding our small town. After walking in the quiet evening for a few minutes, I suddenly realized I wasn't alone. A chorus of my feathered friends were lifting their joyful voices in sounds of gladness. The doves were cooing. The quail family that makes its home in our yard was chattering to each other. Three large crows were gliding in the breeze letting out loud "caws." And my favorites, the little house finches, were singing a melodious tune that floated through the air. As I listened to these creatures, a gift from our heavenly Creator, I was reminded of a quotation I read this past week by one of my favorite preachers of long ago, Charles Spurgeon.
Here's how he connected the songs of birds to our topic about praise.
"Look at the very birds on earth – how they shame us. Dear little creatures, if you watch them when they are singing, you will sometimes wonder how so much sound can come out of such diminutive bodies.
How they throw their whole selves into the music, and seem to melt themselves away in song! How the wing vibrates, the throat pulsates, and every part of their body rejoices to assist the strain! This is the way in which we ought to praise God."
I just love the thought that my entire life, every fiber of my being, should be actively praising God. For the next few days, we're going to study the life of a woman who made the practice of praise a key element in her life.
In our studies, we have identified two specific qualities which Miriam exhibited when just a young girl. First, she was a woman of discernment. Even as a girl around 12 years of age, she was able to "assess" the situation with Pharaoh's daughter and "discern" the best way to help save her baby brother's life. Second, Miriam was also a woman of confidence. She wasn't fearful of presenting herself to the princess of Egypt even though some might have said, "She's just a child."
Miriam had to recognize, after being involved in saving her little brother Moses, that being a young woman proved to be NO HINDRANCE at all in doing God's will. Taught at the feet of her mother Jochebed, she knew that God had a plan to deliver His people from the bondage they suffered in Egypt.
While we often focus on the fact that God used Moses to help deliver the children of Israel from their Egyptian oppressors, let us never forget, this was a "team effort." First, God worked through Shiphrah and Puah, two God-fearing midwives who faced down the power of Pharaoh when he ordered them to kill babies. These life-protectors put their own lives on the line as they protected the baby boys that Pharaoh had condemned to death.
Next God had a compassionate-hearted princess of a foreign country come to the rescue of Moses. Then Moses own sister Miriam, with discernment and confidence, stepped up with a plan to care for Moses which included his own mother Jochebed providing for him.
But there's more, for when Moses was living in the house of Pharaoh for 40 years, being groomed to become the leader of Egypt, God had Aaron and Miriam as His leaders among the children of Israel, preparing their hearts and keeping alive the hope that the day would come when a deliverer would appear. Just like Simeon and Anna in the New Testament prayed for the promise of a deliverer to come, so Aaron and Miriam kept the candle of a promise fulfilled, lit in the hearts of the Israelites. And not just for the 40 years Moses lived in Pharaoh's palace, but also during the additional 40 years he was exiled in Midian. For 80 years, Aaron and Miriam never gave up, until that moment when God swung into action and told Aaron to go meet Moses in the desert for the "time had come."
When God's spectacular deliverance from Egypt brought freedom to His people, we find they came to the first big hurdle on their journey, when after being released from Pharaoh's tyranny, they faced the dilemma of being trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. As God showed His mighty hand of deliverance and led the people through the sea on dry ground, we get our first glimpse into the vital ministry God assigned to His gifted daughter Miriam when she led out in a "praise service" to the God of heaven.
In Exodus 15: 20, our text for today, the Bible declares that "Miriam the prophetess" led all the women in a song of "glorious triumph." Let's not overlook the fact that Miriam is the first person to be identified as a prophet in Scripture. Not Abraham. Not Joseph. Not Moses. But a woman with a message. A message of praise to God. If Moses served as CEO of this group of refugees and Aaron served as "spiritual priest," it was Miriam who served as the "Prophet of Praise." She was Israel's worship leader. Even as a child, Miriam carried the message of a promise to come. Whether saving her brother's life or confronting the princess or keeping alive the power of hope – Miriam's calling from God, a calling which God had given to her as His gift, was to be Israel's prophet of praise.
How I wish I could have heard the choir of Israel's women, being led by Miriam, singing on the banks of the Red Sea…"Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea." (Exodus 15: 21, K.J.V.). Imagine the spine tingling sound coming from God's girls, united in praise to Him for His deliverance.
Today, you may feel as though you are trapped between a violent army and a violent sea. You may feel as though the act of praise is the last thing you want to do right now. The Syriac monk, Aphrahat said, "At a time when you are in trouble, offer up a petition, and when you are well supplied with good things, you should give thanks to the Giver, and when your mind rejoices, offer up praise."
As the Christian army Chaplin Merlin Carothers so eloquently states: "The very act of praise releases the power of God into a set of circumstances and enables God to change them if this is His design."
Let us as sisters of Miriam and daughters of God, raise our voices in praise for our God has promised to cast all the impediments that block His power in our lives into the sea so the way is clear for us to fulfill His purpose in our lives.
"Sing to the Lord; for He has done glorious things: let this be known to all the world."
Isaiah 12: 5
"Let us, with a gladsome mind,
Praise the Lord, for He is kind:
For His mercies aye endure.
Ever faithful, ever sure.
Let us blaze His name abroad,
For of gods, He is the God:
He, with all-commanding might,
Filled the new-made world with light:
All things living He doth feed,
His full hand supplies their need:
He his chosen did bless
In the wasteful wilderness
Let us then with gladsome mind,
Praise the Lord, for He is Kind."
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus