In the Steps of Moses…

If you hear the word “leprosy” you might think of stories of Jesus healing leprous individuals in the gospels. You would be right, but there are several other interesting stories of leprosy in scripture, including one in Numbers 12. If we read carefully, these fifteen verses are fascinating, humorous, and challenging. Let’s dig in:

Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite (12:1).

Hardly a day goes by without our nation needing to face questions and challenges of racism and prejudice. Sadly, we live in a society which too quickly categorizes and labels individuals simply because of their ethnicity, race, gender or socioeconomic status. No one is immune, and simply calling ourselves “colorblind” contributes to, rather than addresses, the problem by glossing over realities of systemic inequalities. As soon as we say “we” don’t experience any problems, we close ourselves off to hearing others’ perspectives and viewpoints to the contrary. In Miriam and Aaron’s case, their prejudice created anger in their hearts which resulted in the Lord being angry with them. May this interaction, and the Lord’s reaction to it, guide our own thinking and acting.

Moving on, verse three is a bit humorous. Set off in parenthesis, the author – traditionally considered to be Moses – notes, “(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)” I love how Moses himself tells us, the reader, just how humble Moses was! I think we’ve all been there, haven’t we? When challenged with a situation, we’re quick to point out others’ faults and ever quicker to elevate ourselves as innocent and humble. It’s a bit humorous to see Moses doing this, but it isn’t quite so humorous when we realize how often we’re prone to do the same. Lord, teach us your ways. May we humble ourselves before you and sincerely pray, “Search my heart O God.”converge_04 by [carlo cravero]

In verses 4-9, God vindicates Moses against Miriam and Aaron’s critique. I can imagine Moses stood a little taller as God became his  cheerleader and supporter. Have you ever been there? Needing a pick-me-up and longing for One who will be for you – and not against you? I think we all have at some point. In Romans 8:31 Paul writes, What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” When we’re walking in God’s plans and following His ways, we can declare the same. Perhaps the biggest challenge is making sure our lives align with God – and not expecting God to align with us!

Most of us would love to end this interaction with verse 9. Moses is vindicated and Aaron and Miriam are reprimanded for their sinful ways. But the story continues. God exits the meeting, and immediately Aaron and Moses see that Miriam has been infected with leprosy. And in this moment, when Aaron turns to Moses with concern and pleads with him that their sin not be held against them, Moses shows his true character. He puts aside the pain and anger he certainly was feeling after enduring their harsh words. He puts aside his potentially self-righteous emotions after God came to his rescue. And he prays. He cries out to the Lord for his sister’s healing, “Please, God, heal her!”

I can imagine that was a difficult prayer to pray. Surely Moses was worried for his sister. But just as surely, he was still reeling from their hatred toward him. How many of us would have been able to do the same? To put aside our own pain and hurt, and to go to our knees on their behalf. That lines up well with a recent Sunday sermon about how to respond when our heroes fall – we lift them to the throne of grace. Here we see Moses doing just that.

Lots of great things to think about in this short interaction in scripture. May God impress upon your heart what he wishes for you learn, understand and implement!