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Unrighteous Rhetoric

Numbers 12:1-2
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, ‘Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it.

Some biblical scholars interpret from Numbers 12:1-2 that Moses has married a second wife along the way, but I see this as a vague reference to Zipporah, who Moses married back in Exodus 2. Regardless, it’s clear from the phrase, “for he married a Cushite woman,” that Miriam’s ire has nothing to do with polygamy and everything to do with ethnic pride. To her, the fact that the God of Israel would use a Gentile-marrying brother to lead His people is clearly a bone of contention.

You get the sense that Miriam has been brooding over this for years, flashing judgmental glances toward Zipporah across the dinner table—the sort that Sarah would make at Hagar in the olden days—trying to feign a smile that always has a condescending smirk about it. Deep down, the fact that her little brother grew up in a palace with Egyptian elites, never feeling the sting of the oppressor’s whip on his back, and then followed up his non-kosher upbringing by marrying some Gentile he met in the wilderness, has produced a vine of bitterness around her spirit that is squeezing the life right out of it.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Questioning the integrity of our pastors and parents and ministry partners? We’re quick to find those things that give us a sense of spiritual superiority over them. We don’t drink and eat that; we don’t drive that sort of car; we don’t wear that sort of clothing; our kids don’t go to that kind of school; we don’t listen to that kind of music; we don’t worship in that denomination; we aren’t wasting time in that political pursuit; whatever. No one ever had to teach us how to belittle our brothers—in fact, my kids are fighting downstairs even as I write this! Bickering comes easy. Deference—that’s difficult. That takes practice and perseverance and fervent prayer.

Friend, I recommend you hand over your own quiet, hidden complaints to the LORD right now and let Him cut those bitter cords before they become a noose for yourself and others.