When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed.—Numbers 12:10-11 NIV
Have you ever committed a foolish sin? The kind you can’t hide from that leaves you “naked and vulnerable”? I have. Exposed by my sin, I can relate to what Miriam might have felt: humiliated and humbled.
Miriam’s story starts with such promise. She played a significant role in helping her baby brother, Moses, safely reach shore. She watched her mother place Moses in a basket and send him adrift in the river. Moses bobbed downstream to avoid destruction at the hand of Pharaoh. In older-sibling style, Scripture says, Miriam watched out for him. (See Exodus 2:4)
As she grew older, she served in ministry with her brothers. Miriam sang and rejoiced and even held a position of prestige and leadership. She was highly regarded and had been given the gift of prophecy. (See Exodus 15:20)
Their other sibling, Aaron, joined Moses and Miriam, and they celebrated many victories together. God accomplished much through the family trio.
A critical spirit crept upon Miriam and Aaron. They first criticized Moses’ choice in marital partners. That was really a guise, because they didn’t have the guts to say what they really thought: that they were better than Moses.
They were jealous. As older siblings, they probably felt some sort of elitism over their baby brother.
God saw it all. And He became VERY ANGRY. (See Numbers 12:9)
God determines who will be used, for what, and how. Who did Miriam and Aaron think they were? Did they think they could usurp God’s authority and anointing? Apparently.
In God’s anger, He struck Miriam with leprosy. In disbelief, Aaron pled with Moses on behalf of their sister. Remorse set in at the sight of their sister’s sin worn like a scarlet letter. No escaping the blemishes on her blighted reputation.
I was once Miriam in the corporate setting. This was long before I was a Christian, but I imagine God must have been pretty angry at my mean-spirited, sinful nature. Really, my nastiness came from a root of bitterness. Did you know one meaning of Miriam’s name is bitter?
Like taking a bite of grapefruit, my actions bring a sour expression. There was no escaping the blemishes placed upon my blighted reputation.
I worked for a large organization. Diligently, over time, I had built a strong reputation, and I was very proud of my accomplishments.
Lurking under those accomplishments was one of the most insecure women who walked the earth. You wouldn’t have guessed it by looking at her, but she didn’t believe in herself. She never thought she was good enough. After all, everyone else had their college degree. She had to overcompensate. Give 150%. That would make her good enough. She strived to earn awards and recognition, the source of much of her self esteem.
That’s what happens when we don’t have a Savior in our life (or if we do, but we don’t believe what He says about us). We possess a messed up, distorted view of who we are and how we obtain our worth and value.
So, when I went for a job promotion, I thought I was a shoe-in. I had performed much of the job scope already and had helped out that department many times. Based on my track record, I thought the interview process was merely a formality.
When I found out the job was offered to someone who worked outside our division and who had not made her sales goals, I was livid. I felt like I deserved that job. A sense of entitlement, don’t you think?
Well, I’m further embarrassed to say that’s not the worst of it. I said very unkind things about this woman whom I didn’t even know. I was completely jealous, incredulous that someone had stolen “my job”.
Eventually, word got back to management. Not just my boss, but the VP whom I respected. When he expressed he was disappointed in me, I was crushed. Like Miriam, humiliated and humbled. My sin sat out there for all to see.
In a moment of bad judgment, my reputation splotched as a leper’s. Embarrassed, I licked my wounds like a dog, tail dragging in the dirt of disappointment, mostly at myself.
It would be awhile before I learned to love others well.
But the beautiful thing is we don’t have to stay in our sin. We have a merciful God. Just as He healed Miriam from leprosy, He healed me from mine – lack of self worth and value that resulted in a lashing out toward others.
God reached in and pulled me out of that pit and flooded me with His forgiveness. As He grows our awareness of whom we are and whose we are, His Chosen, Beloved Daughters, we are less and less likely to strive for significance. After all, we’ve already been given it through Christ.
When we know we are loved and cherished, we can treasure—rather than tromp on—others.
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.—Hebrews 12:15 NLT
Have you ever been critical of someone else? Did you ever think you could do something better than them? Did you ever think you were better than someone else? Prayerfully, ask Christ to chop any bitter roots lurking beneath the surface so you can love more fully.
Note: This series of devotionals reflect on concepts and truths presented in Undaunted, a Bible study by Christine Caine. The devotionals are written by Deb Hoang, Erin Nicole Thompson and Tracy Stella, as noted.