Humility; March 7, 2023

Numbers 12:1-2 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.

As I tell people frequently, one of the many things I love about the Bible is that it doesn’t dress people up, even the “heroes,” but presents them “warts and all,” as Cromwell famously said. One thing that jumps out to me about this passage is that the Bible isn’t against interracial marriage, but rather against interfaith marriage. Cush was in the area of modern Sudan, so the woman was obviously Black. However, she had evidently chosen to cast her lot with the Israelites and follow their God. Actually, there is only one human race, regardless of how much melanin or other physical markers we might have. Otherwise we couldn’t “cross-breed,” so to speak. Be that as it may, we are all prone to pick on unimportant details, and Miriam picked on this one to focus her jealousy against her brother, pulling Aaron into her vendetta. (Since the punishment specifically fell on Miriam, she was obviously the ringleader here.) Jealousy is a nasty thing, and it causes all sorts of damage. From this story it is evident that Miriam and Aaron did at least occasionally hear directly from the Lord, because they went to the Tent of Meeting (verse 4) and then came out to stand before the Lord (verse 5). That said, occasionally hearing isn’t the same as walking in the level of fellowship Moses practiced, as the Lord Himself made clear. However, jealousy blinded Miriam and Aaron and put them in a very dangerous place. As Paul much later commented, “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12) Jealousy and entitlement are rooted in self-centered­ness, and that never leads to anything good. The parenthetical note in verse 3 about Moses’ humility is very interesting. It seems likely that it was added by a later editor, rather than having been written by Moses himself, but it’s actually very appropriate. Moses recognized the reality that he had a special relationship with the Lord, but he didn’t let that puff him up personally. I think he was very aware of his own human failings and weaknesses, and on that basis he depended on God. That is an example we all need to emulate.

As I write frequently, I have certainly struggled with pride. However, humility doesn’t mean denying reality. It is an amusing story, but one time my parents were in a car with my grandmother, and my father, driving, was talking about his struggles with conceit. His mother chimed in with, “Why Max, there’s a difference between conceit and recognizing the truth.” My mother laughed to tell that story because she was very aware of my father’s weaknesses, but there was wisdom in what my grandmother said even so. Humility doesn’t mean we deny the gifts God has given us, it means recognizing those gifts are meaningless without the One who gave them to us, and that He has gifted everyone else too, even though their gifts are different from ours. When we look at ourselves soberly, as I quoted a few days ago Paul telling us to do, (Romans 12:3) then we will both recognize God’s gifts and apply them as He intends, for His glory.

Father, You’ve spoken a variety of things to me this morning. You have indeed blessed me incredibly. Some people have been jealous, and some have simply despised me. Help me relate to each one as You desire and intend, expressing Your grace and mercy as You have extended it to me, so that You alone may be glorified. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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