Miriam shook her head in disgust. “Look at that smug look on his face. He’s got his fancy robe and “godly” walking staff. That Moses sure thinks he’s something.”
Aaron nodded his head in agreement as he watched his brother dart from the tent of meeting. Moses had plenty of those meetings. They were one on one conversations with God. Conversations where God spoke to him. Conversations where God told Moses what he wanted the people of Israel to do.
God never did that with them.
As a group of leaders approached Moses for spiritual guidance, Miriam continued, “And why does everyone thinks he is so great! Do they realize he isn’t even married to an Israelite? He’s got a Cushite – a CUSHITE – as his wife. Not an Israelite. He doesn’t even follow the laws that God gave him.”
Aaron tensed his jaw, “What gets me is how these people seem to think that Moses is the only one God has used to lead them. Don’t they remember the story of the burning bush? Sure. God came to Moses and asked him to lead us out of slavery. But Moses was a wimp about it. He didn’t want to do the talking because he was “slow of speech and tongue.” Remember? He was too scared. I’m had to speak for him. If it wasn’t for me, this Exodus would never have taken place.”
"I hear ya,” Miriam continued, "After all, if it wasn’t for me, Moses wouldn’t even be alive. I helped mom hide him in the basket to keep him safe from the king’s murderous decree. I watched from the reeds to make sure he floated in the river. I helped the Egyptian princess find a way for her to raise him as her son. I’m just as important as Moses is!”
As Moses dismissed the men he was talking to, Aaron sneered. "I just don’t get it…What makes Moses so great!?!"
I. The Biggest Threat to Humility
Miriam and Aaron kind of have a point. Moses is the big wig in the Exodus account. Still, even today, the answer to a jeopardy question about the Exodus is almost always Moses. Charleston Heston played Moses, not Aaron in the Ten Commandments. The Bible story that kids learn isn’t called, “Miriam Keeps Moses Safe while He floats down the River in a Basket.” Generally speaking society does not place Aaron and Miriam on the same level as Moses.
Let’s try and put it into perspective. Think about your job. Imagine you’ve been working at your company for years. You always come on time. You always finish your projects by the deadline. You always make the boss’ coffee just as he likes it – three packers of sugar, two things of cream, and 1 swish of the wrist.
After all those years of hard work and dedication, how do you feel when the promotion goes to the guy who's been there six months? Do you run to give them a high five? Do you gather around the water cooler and tell all of your coworkers how that guy is the most deserving guy in the history of deserving guys? Do you put a nice Facebook post online about how “My coworker just got a promotion that I deserved lots more and I am absolutely and completely in agreement with it!” Do you get them a cake from Kroger with icing that says “Happy Promotion Day!”? Or if you connect the sprinkles underneath the icing does it read, “This promotion should have been mine, what a loser.”
If you struggle to be happy for someone else’s successes, then jealousy has affected you!
It's what happened to Aaron and Miriam. Listen to how the Bible describes it in Numbers 12:2, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?”
What's interesting in this section is how jealousy inflates pride. Aaron and Miriam feel the need to talk about how important they are to make up for the fact that they don't feel that important in reality.
When I was about five years old, my dad took my younger sister and me ice fishing. We were in a small town in Minnesota out on a small lake. My dad was probably pretty pumped up for some Father-Kid time. He got us dressed. He set up the ice shanty. He drilled a hole with the auger.
Then, somehow my sister accidentally put her foot through the hole. She lost her boot and her foot was all wet.
My dad immediately helped her up. He took her into the shanty. He dried her foot. Her gave her those little foot warmer thingies. He poured her some hot chocolate from the Thermos.
And I got jealous! I started thinking, "I'm cold too. I'm your child too. Don't I deserve some hot chocolate? Don't I deserve some attention?"
So I put my foot in the hole.
Needless to say I got attention -- just not good attention.
Isn't that the way people roll? Don't we begin to sing our own praises as soon as we feel we've been overlooked? We think there's no time to be humble; it's time to be prideful!
II. The Origins of Jealousy
Where does jealousy come from? Is it a product of unfairness in the world? In other words, if other people treated you right and gave you the respect you deserve, would you even have a problem with jealousy?
Consider Aaron and Miriam’s case. They were convinced that this was all Moses’ fault as if he were some kind of ancient, propaganda machine. Granted this was long before Tweets about how awesome it was to hang out with God and Instagram photos of him having a private meeting with the pillar of cloud, but maybe Moses accomplished this through a whisper campaign, through paying off some of the tribal chieftains to recognize him as leader.
This contradicts the very next verse in our story. 3 Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. This means we should probably cross off Moses as the reason that so many people looked up to Moses rather than the Miriam and Aaron.
…Do you know who wrote Numbers? Moses. Suddenly, verse 3 doesn’t seem to carry as much weight. Moses becomes his own character witness!
It’d be like a mom and dad going into civil court for custody of their children and starting off their time on the stand by saying, “I’m an awesome parents. I’m one of the best. Trust me your honor. The kids will be better off with me. That’s the truth. Documents? No, I didn’t bring any. Specific instances? I don’t have one. But trust me. I’m the best.”
Now it’s Moses’ word against Miriam and Aaron’s.
Then, an infallible witness makes an appearance. Scripture says, “4 At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” It’s kind of like getting called into the principal’s office – only instead of detention, you might be banished from God’s kingdom forever. "So the three of them went out. 5 Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam."
God said, “When there is a prophet among you, I the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. 7 But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” Talk about a character witness. God has Moses’ back.
But this isn’t so much about God boasting about Moses. Look closely at his words, “My servant Moses” as in, “I chose him to be that servant.” “I speak to him face to face,” as in, “I chose to speak to him.” “I let him see my form,” as in, “I allowed him this privilege.”
Miriam and Aaron didn’t have a problem with Moses. They had a problem with God.
WRITE THIS DOWN: The heart of jealousy is discontent with God. Essentially, subconsciously, Miriam and Aaron were saying, “God you’ve got it wrong! How dare you choose Moses for this honor instead of me!?!”
Essentially, subconsciously, when we are jealous of others, we too are discontent with God.
· “I can’t believe how much money that person has – you are a fool for giving it to them God.”
· “I am angry that woman has children and I don’t – it’s not fair God.”
· “That guy got the promotion and not me? God what’s your deal?”
· “That person is in an authority position at church – God you must not to spread the Gospel as much as you say…”
Look at what happens next. "9 The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them. 10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow.”
Leprosy is nothing to scoff at. It eats away at your skin. It is highly contagious. It’s incurable.
This isn’t a coincidence. This wasn’t the result of Miriam getting too close to the leper colony that was located outside the camp. No. Not with how quickly the change happened. This was God. This was his judgment.
God’s message is clear. He hates jealousy!
III. Humility Solves Jealousy
Miriam’s sneer had turned into a look of shock. She shook with fright. Aaron was just as shaken up. He had fed into the jealousy. He was just as guilty. Miriam’s disease – her impending death was a result of his jealousy, his pride, his sin!
Aaron thought for a moment. He fought back tears. He did the only thing he could do.
He got down on his knees.
“Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”
In other words – “Forgive us and save us.”
Notice Aaron doesn’t even go directly to God. He isn’t that presumptuous and jealous anymore. He doesn’t think he’s earned special treatment. He can only plead through mercy through the man he was once jealous of.
A change underwent Aaron. His heart was no longer jealous, but humble. God’s Word this morning urges you to do the same. If you struggle with jealousy, take a note from Aaron. Humble yourself!!! Admit your struggle. Confess your sins to God.
That’s how we start our service. Open your bulletin and back up with me. Look at that section called “Confession of Sins.” We say together, Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth. In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child. Talk about humility! We read that together, think about what’s happening!?!
· Longtime “holy looking” church members are called to confess , “I am sinful from birth.”
· People who spend hours making sure their Social Media profile presents them as the “perfect mom” or the “Christian man” are recalling “the countless ways I’ve sinned against you.”
· Self-made entrepreneurs who demand they get what they deserve are telling God, “I don’t deserve this.”
· People who take pride in standing on their own; get down on their knees and ask “God help us!”
Here’s why humility is more valuable than jealousy. Jealousy sees blindly and incurs God’s wrath. But humility sees clearly and receives God’s forgiveness.
James 4:6 says this, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
This is true in Aaron and Miriam’s case. Look at what happens next. Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!”
And God? He wasn’t prideful. God didn’t insist on doing harm. God didn’t make Miriam grovel on the ground for awhile until He was satisfied – though HE CERTAINLY COULD HAVE.
God was humble. God forgave. God healed. But this wasn’t even the most humble God ever was.
Hundreds of years later Jesus – who lived in a beautiful, divine, heavenly mansion of gold, left it for the humble abode of earth. Then, He lived a life perfectly. A life worthy of a statue being built. A perfect life worthy of being boasted about.
But he didn’t. Instead, He humbled himself. He went to the cross. He looked up at our Heavenly Father and said, “God – do you see that guy in row three of Gethsemane Church? His sins? I did that. Punish me.” "And do you see that woman over their who’s listening to the sermon online? Her sins? Those are mine, too. Punish me.” "In fact, do you see all those sins in the world – sins that would make someone scum beneath even the most devilish of people’s toes? – Those are mine too." Talk about humility.
He did it in the worst way. Philippians 2 tells us, “Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but… he gave himself up to death – even death on a cross!”
Death on a cross was humbling. It was a terrible capital punishment. It was reserved for the worst of criminals. It was observed by thousands who would flock to see the punishment and ridicule the punished.
But Jesus underwent this because his humility would conquer our jealousy.
It’s because of this that our Confession of Sins doesn’t just end with confession. It continues, “God, our heavenly Father, has forgiven all your sins.” Your sins of jealousy. Your sins of pride. They are forgiven. “By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, he has removed your guilt forever.” The guilt for sinning against God– has been removed. You are his own dear child – though you don’t deserve it, you are!
It’s about humility NOT jealousy!
Here’s the thing. As deeply humiliating as that was for Jesus, it resulted in glory. Because in spite of the humiliation of false accusations, false blame for sins he didn’t do, and a horrifying death -- was – he defeated it. Three days later, he came out of the grave, alive and well. Free from accusation. He humiliated sin. He humiliated death. He humiliated the devil!
He promises that through faith in him – so will you!
This past week – a tragedy happened in Oregon. Maybe you’ve seen the news. A gunman went into a community college and shot students and teachers.
Accounts from those who survived have been leaked. Did you hear about them? The gunmen approached students. He aimed the gun at their head. He mockingly said, “Are you a Christian? If so, you’ll see God in a minute?”
She said, “Yes.” The gunman shot her. I’m sure he smirked. In his own twisted mind, he thought he had brought Christians down a peg or two.
But it didn’t end as the gunman thought. Because these young men and women weren’t humbled. Their end was not lying on the ground in a pool of blood.
They are in heaven. Through faith in their Savior, God exalted them to his right hand as forgiven, loved, children of God!
Brothers and sister, may God grant us deep humility! A vibrant, believing faith in Him. Amen.