- Exodus 2:1 (KJV)
- Exodus 2:2 (KJV)
- Exodus 2:3 (KJV)
- Exodus 2:4 (KJV)
- Exodus 2:5 (KJV)
- Exodus 2:6 (KJV)
- Exodus 2:7 (KJV)
- Exodus 2:8 (KJV)
- Exodus 2:9 (KJV)
- Exodus 2:10 (KJV)
- Exodus 15:20 (KJV)
- Exodus 15:21 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:1 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:2 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:3 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:4 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:5 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:6 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:7 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:8 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:9 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:10 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:11 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:12 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:13 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:14 (KJV)
- Numbers 12:15 (KJV)
- Numbers 20:1 (KJV)
- Numbers 26:59 (KJV)
- Micah 6:4 (KJV)
Meaning of Name: Bitterness
Scriptures: Ex. 2:1-10, Ex.15:20,21; Num.12:1-15; 20:1; 26:59; Micah 6:4
CHARACTERISTICS: Leadership, Responsibility, Jealousy
As we are first introduced to Miriam in Exodus chapter two, we are told that she is Moses’ sister. In chapter fifteen, she appears as “Miriam, a prophetess” who was well known in Israel. When we consider women in the Bible as having a role in leadership, our minds leap automatically to ladies like Miriam or Deborah.
It is at the Red Sea that we see Miriam standing out so prominently. She was a joyful, spontaneous woman, leading the women of Israel in a dance of praise and celebration on the shores of the Red Sea. Miriam played the tambourine and sang to the glory of God. Through history, this beautiful song of Moses and Miriam has been thought to be one of the most splendid, natural, spontaneous songs that has ever been written. From a young girl, Miriam knew responsibility. The infant Moses was under her care when he was placed in the basket among the reeds of the Nile river. She was the one who quickly ran and called her mother to act as a nurse for the princess, placing her mother in the proper position with her own son. How happy she must have been to see her baby brother grow up and eventually lead the children of Israel out of Egypt in such a glorious manner.
Yet this talented leader had a serious flaw—her heart became lifted up with pride and criticism. Miriam's name signifies obstinacy and rebellion, which seems to indicate a part of her character that she did not allow God to change. Miriam, known for her prophetic ministry in praise and worship, is also known for her tongue of criticism and impure motives.
Miriam and Aaron rebelled against Moses, supposedly because of his marriage to a non-Israelitish woman, but in reality it was because they were jealous of his position. God was angry with Miriam and Aaron, but evidently Miriam was the instigator because God judged her, not Aaron, with leprosy (Num.12:1-15). God was very displeased with her verbal attack against the leader, and reminds Israel of this episode a generation later in Deuteronomy 24:9. It was only through the prayers and pleadings of her brother Moses whom she had wronged that God changed His mind and healed Miriam.
In this story we see another side of God's character—we see His righteous anger. As Christians, we know that God is a loving and caring Father who has constantly seen us through our many failures. Sometimes, however, we are tempted to think that He excuses all of our sins and shortcomings because of His lovingkindness. The lesson portrayed here in the life of Miriam teaches us otherwise, and it should cause a new anointing of the fear of God to fall upon us. God means business. There are
consequences for our sins, regardless of our degree of repentance, or shame and sorrow for them.
Even though He is a merciful God, there are certain things He will not tolerate. One sin He abhors is criticism hurled against God-ordained leadership. Miriam's criticism was like a deadly virus that could have spread throughout the camp, causing a terrible plague of discontentment, rebellion, and even insurrection. God's prompt action of judgment against Miriam stopped that deadly virus before the whole congregation was contaminated with it.
It is the same in our own lives as well. God's anger cannot be abated and there will surely be retribution when we find ourselves in a constant mode of complaining, murmuring and criticizing those who are over us. Whether it is our pastor, our boss, or our husband, the words that we speak against them will not go unnoticed by God.
Like Miriam, His face will be against us, and our lives and ministry will not be blessed. Certainly God understands that it is not always easy for women to be under authority, especially when some men are very dictatorial in their approach. Notwithstanding, rebellion and criticism is never the proper response. Therefore, we should heed the serious warnings contained in this story of Miriam.
Miriam's account in Scripture should have had a happy ending instead of a sad one. She could have responded differently and kept herself in check. She had a wonderful position as a leader. Her ministry had been blessed of God. In a good sense, Miriam walked with God and she heard from Him. She was called a prophetess, and she was used by God to speak forth His counsel.
It is in Numbers 12:1-15 that we read the account of her and Aaron’s rebellion against Moses. Through these scriptures it is plain to see that Miriam is the instigator of this rebellion, for it is Miriam that God holds responsible, not Aaron. “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses, has He not also spoken by us?” (Num.12:2). We see very clearly what Miriam’s real problem is. It is jealousy and ambition. She wanted joint leadership. She wanted to be equal. The same evil that filled Lucifer’s heart and caused him to lead an insurrection in heaven was that which had infiltrated Miriam’s heart. The good influence of leadership that she once had was now deteriorating into an evil influence. The virus was about to become a plague.
For this sin, God struck Miriam with leprosy. Are we aware of the damage we can do with our tongue? Satan divided all of heaven with his venomous tongue! Most sins we commit are with the mouth. Many of God’s people have this same problem. How often do we hear some of the unsanctified saints saying, “Who do they think they are? I can tell them a thing or two, I hear from the Lord too!”
Whenever we take this attitude, or hear it, or even think it, we must quickly go to God and ask Him to cleanse us immediately. If we fail to do so, the end result will be bitterness of soul. With Miriam, this sin of criticism was not just something that “happened.” This was a habit that had developed over a period of time. We do not just stumble into the pathway of sin all of a sudden. This criticism was a pattern. It was an attitude of heart that she had managed to keep well hidden, perhaps even from herself. One day, the meditations of her heart became loud spoken words of criticism and
bitterness. Truly, it is “out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Lk. 6:45).
Like Rachel's “hidden idols,” Miriam had been sitting upon the hidden idol of pride. Her heart was full of it, and God had to judge her harshly for it. Certainly God must have spoken many times to her, but she had not listened. Instead of falling on the Rock to be broken of her iniquity, the Rock had to fall upon her. There is an easier path. If God is speaking to us about our tongue or our motives, may we pray right now for God to rid us of these ugly sins that He hates so much. In this way, we shall escape His wrath, as we humble ourselves and walk softly before Him (see 1 Kgs. 21:27-29).
Failure came to Miriam at a time she least expected it. Through this habit of criticism and jealousy, she had labored against her mission in life. She was called to be a supportive leader with Moses, yet she rose up and fought against him. We are told that she died in the wilderness of Zin. Furthermore, after her rebellion, Scripture is silent about her ministry. As far as we know, she performed no more notable works. What a sad end for one who had been given every advantage to be great in God’s kingdom.
May her story serve to remind us of the wickedness of striving for power and position that does not belong to us, or has not been given to us by God. Happiness and fulfillment are only found when we stay in the boundaries of our divine call. We can never be blessed outside of them.
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