Sibling Rivalry

Sibling Rivalry

Numbers 12, the grumbling and complaining of the crowds in the people of Israel have given way to now the leadership grumbling and complaining as well. As we look to the reading of God’s Word, you would join me in prayer. Christ our God, we ask you to set our hearts on fire with love through your Word, that in its flame we may love you with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, with all of our strength, and our neighbors as ourselves, so that by keeping your commandments, we would glorify you who are the giver of every good and perfect gift. And this we pray through your name, Amen. Beginning in verse 1, Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Kushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Kushite woman. And they said, Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also? And the Lord heard it. Now, the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.

And the three of them came out. And the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud. And He stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both came forward. They said, Hear my words. If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make myself known to him in a vision. I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant, Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him, I speak mouth to mouth clearly and not in riddles. And behold, he beholds the form of the Lord. Why, then, were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? And the anger of the Lord was kindled against him, and he departed. The word of the Lord, you may please be seated. In Chapter 11, we saw how a grumbling and complaining heart can actually cause us to revision the past, our life circumstances. Former, oppressed slaves whose children were being systematically murdered by Egyptians could complain about how good they actually had it compared to the hardships they were experiencing on their way to the promised land. Well, a heart of envy does the same thing.

We can lock in on a particular thing that someone else has, and that’s all we see. We go, Wow, look at their car, their house, the college they got into. And then suddenly it’s, I hate my job. I wish I had theirs. It’s just so unfair. But in those moments, you fail to see that maybe this person is working 60 to 70 hours a week, is on call 24 7 at a high stress job with constant pressure to do more. They’re on their third spouse, their kids are a train wreck. They’re chugging liquid and acid straight from the bottle, and you see none of that. It’s just how come they get everything? My life is terrible. And that’s what that envy does to us. The dark desire of envy, it takes us to a place where we tell God that what he’s given us is really insufficient. We believe that the Lord is actually withholding something from us. The very things that we believe will bring us life and joy will make us better. And to make it worse is that I often then will think this person over there is getting those things that I want, that I need, that I must have.

That envy, it plagues us. It plagues our relationships. It certainly does in family relationships. Deep seeded resentment and bitterness because my brother, my sister always gets everything. Their life is so much better than mine. The deadly desires that we can nurse for decades can ruin those relationships. But the Lord has given us freedom of a new heart with new desires in his son, and therefore we must shake off the binding power of envy and resentment. Last week we saw how the grumbling and complaining of Israel caused them to question the Lord’s goodness to them. They were unhappy with his job performance and they wanted to go back to Egypt. Remember, they’re really close to the promised land at this point. And now we get grumbling and complaining at the very top level of leadership. Miriam and Aaron are envious of Moses. Now, it may have been after the 70 elders were appointed that Miriam and Aaron felt somehow their own authority had been diminished to a certain degree. It could have been a problem that’s been stewing for a really long time. We don’t really know. What we do know and what we see is this envy welling up, this misplaced desire.

And it begins in verse 1, Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses. It seems Miriam is the primary instigator here, which could also explain why the punishment fell on her. Miriam is first in the text. And in Hebrew, the first verb spoke is given as a feminine singular. So a literal rendition would say, Miriam and Aaron, she spoke against Moses. To be sure, Aaron is included because the beginning of verse 2 does say, They said. And if you’re keeping score, Aaron and Moses are about to be punished for their own sins as well. And none of these three enter into the promised land. In the genealogy of Moses family, it’s just these three children mentioned. Exodus 2, it speaks about Moses’ older sister watching over him as he’s floating down in the basket. And it’s generally understood that that was Miriam. We’re told also in Exodus 7 that Aaron is three years older than Moses. So we have a birth order here. Miriam, Aaron, Moses, those three. Keep in mind as well, Moses is brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter. So he had a very privileged upbringing compared to Aaron and Miriam. Now, is that a part of the mix?

You tell me in your family how well that would go. It isn’t nothing. Let’s just put it that way. And now these three are the power family of Israel. They’re the candidates of Israel’s leadership. Exodus 15 tells us that Miriam is a prophetess, and she led the victory singing and dancing. Once the victory of the Red Sea Crossing takes place and she’s a prominent woman of Israel, Aaron, of course, becomes the high priest. Moses is a Prophet, part of. And so these are the big three of all Israel. And this complaint comes. Why? Because of a Kushite woman whom Moses married. Kush is usually understood as a region in Africa. Moses wife, Zepora, was from Midian, which is around the Red Sea. So we don’t know. Is this talking about Zepora? Did she die? Did Moses marry someone else? We’re not given much. And I think that’s the point. The details really don’t matter because it’s just a pretext to complain. If you want to complain about something, anything will do. It doesn’t matter. So Miriam is like Moses’s wife. And the way she goes. But we get to the heart of the matter in the next verse.

They said, including Aaron, has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also? There we are. Who does Moses think He is? We’re important too. The golden child, the silver spoon in his mouth gets to tell us what to do all the time. Well, we’ve had it. Now, they’re not talking to God. They’re not talking to Moses. They’re talking to one another and probably to anybody with the sympathetic ear. But notice the immediate reaction. And the Lord heard. God heard their complaint. And putting it in immediate perspective, verse 3 tells us that Moses was very meek, or we use the word humble, more than all the people who are on the face of the face of the earth. Now, this comment, the technical word for it, is a gloss. And what that means is an early editor put this comment in after it was first written by Moses. Moses is not saying… And Moses was the most humble man upon that face of the earth. Just like when you read Deuteronomy 34 about Moses death, he didn’t write that. He didn’t describe his death and then go out and die. So this is an early editorial comment from someone who knew the life of Moses.

And this mention of Moses humility, it speaks of a disposition that he has towards the Lord. It also speaks of his character. Moses’ response, it confirms this because he doesn’t defend himself at all. Think about that for a minute. When we are accused of something, our first response is usually to defend ourselves. He said, What? Well, and away we go. Well, she’s such a tooth face, and he’s such a this. I never. And on it goes, we immediately start defending ourselves when we’re accused of something. Moses is silent. And we know how hard is it not to defend ourselves when we’re wronged or hurt by someone. A true mark of real godly humility is the ability to remain silent in those circumstances. It’s the Lord who takes up Moses’ cost. It’s the Lord who speaks to all three of them. You three come to the tent of meeting, and they came. The Lord comes down in the pillar and he says, Miriam and Aaron, come forward. I wonder what they were feeling at that moment. I’m assuming it would have been a very terrifying feeling. Now you’re being singled out for the things that you have been complaining about in secret.

And the Lord says to them, hear my words. If there’s a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make myself known to him in a vision. I speak of him in a dream. Gives us a little insight of how the Lord spoke to Prophets, how he chose to reveal himself. But verse 7, Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him, I speak mouth to mouth, face to face, clearly not in riddles. And he beholds the form of the Lord. Now, think about it. Even in Genesis, when you look at the Lord speaking to Abraham, to Hgar, to Jacob, to Joseph, it was either through an angelic visit, or a dream, or a vision. Moses has spoken face to face with the Lord. There’s a level of personal interaction that’s really unique until we get to Jesus. Outside of Jesus, no one in biblical history has this level of extended and direct communication with the Lord. When Moses comes off Mount Sinai, he put a veil over his face because he was glowing with God’s glory. It’s one of those questions you go, Well, Mary and Mary, any glowing face moments with the Lord?

When it are yourself, how do you stack up? A heart that’s gripped by envy sees a distorted view of the world. Our desires are misplaced and we put ourselves at the center. We blind ourselves then to the very good that God has given to us. Envy springs from a self righteous heart that usually wants to punish other people. We want them to finally get theirs for all the wrongs they have done to us or simply because they have the very things that we want. I’m sure you’ve seen this where a child takes a toy from somebody else and breaks it because it’s not theirs. That’s our heart. I want someone else to be punished, to have bad things happen to them because they have a life that I want to be mine. That’s where that heart takes us. Grace leads you to rejoice. When you can say in your heart, God, you owe me. Look at everything I’ve done for you. Envy will eat you alive from the inside out. It destroys us. It distorts everything that we see. Proverbs 1430 tells us a heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Well, the Lord summarizes, He says, Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? And the anger of the Lord is kindled against him and he departed. Just a side note, there are some who use this about speaking against the Lord’s anointed or like my servant Moses. And they use this expression, the Moses model of leadership, meaning God speaks to me and I speak to you. If you’re in a setting where the Moses model is being exemplified, you ought not to be in that setting. Leave it. It’s not a good thing. It hasn’t been in the Church. It’s usually one of a great actual deal of spiritual abuse. So that aside, they’re grumbling. And like grumbling of the people, the Lord is not pleased with it. He’s not pleased with their envy. Grumbling against God is telling God, you’re not doing a very good job. That’s a statement of unbelief. Envy against Moses is telling the Lord, you didn’t give me very good gifts. You’ve not provided for my desires in the way that you should have. That’s also a statement of unbelief. They are discontent with how the Lord had blessed them in their leadership roles.

We want more. We deserve more. Well, when the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leperous like snow. And Aaron turned towards Miriam and behold, she was leperous. And Aaron is instantly aware of his foolishness. And he confesses it as sin. And Aaron said to Moses, verse 11, Oh, my Lord. Calling Moses Lord is an act of deference. The older brother is saying, Sir, to the younger brother. He knows he’s messed up. Do not punish us because we have done so foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb. He’s speaking of a stillborn child. He’s pleading with Moses because this is a death sentence for Mary. And now we see Moses in his heart, his character. He demonstrates his metal. And we see it’s a heart that’s been captured by grace. Verse 13, Moses cried to the Lord. Oh, God, please heal her. Please. It’s the first time Moses has said anything so far. And it’s a prayer for his sister. It’s short and to the point. And remember, life at the top has not been very ideal for Moses to this point.

He has tens of thousands of people who are complaining and whining. We saw the first thing there. In the doors of their tent, wailing. That would not be a fun experience as a leader to have the people who are following and described as wailing in the doors of their house. He’s at a very low moment. He just told the Lord, Kill me now. And of all times, his own brother and sister decide this would be the great time to speak up against him to add to his heartache. I’m sure if he could, he would have said, Take it. You want it? You want this job? Here’s the keys to the office. I’ll see you later. Have it. It had not been easy. And now those closest to him, his own brother and sister, who should have been helping to shoulder the load, are piling on hurt and misery. But when we see Moses pray for Miriam, it’s even after she’s hurt him. And in this, we’re reminded of Job. The Lord asked Job to pray for his three friends. They were convinced of Job’s wrongdoing and added to his absolute misery by wrongly telling Job, Job, you deserved everything you’ve got.

You’re in sin, confess it. And the spirit of Job’s friends alive and well across humanity and alive and well in the church. It really is. Bad things happen to people, and there’s somebody out there saying, Well, they probably sinned. It’s a very strange thing that should be the response of people who have been redeemed by grace. But what we see in Moses is a heart that has been transformed. I put this in your bulletin from Old Testament scholar, Gerald Danson. He said, Praying for someone who has wounded you displays a freedom from vengefulness, which is perhaps the irreducible, uncounterfeatable sign of participation in the covenant. You see, a heart that has been captured by God’s grace does not look for others to get theirs. It doesn’t. Even if they deserve it. A heart that’s been captured by God’s grace says, Father, have mercy on me a sinner. A heart that loves the blessings of others is a heart that knows its own sinful limits. And therefore, you have mercy to extend to someone else. In verses 14 to 16, Mary is healed, but the Lord makes her stay outside the camp for seven days as a punishment.

The people had to wait before they could take off again. Remember, they’re in really close distance to their destination. They’ve already been complaining about the tough circumstances they found themselves in. And now, because of one of their great leaders, they get an extra week to wait. I’m sure that had an impact on Miriam when she came back into camp with everybody scowling at her. Thanks for the extra week, Miriam. And how that would have had some impact to show her for the devastation of her sin affected everyone. Aaron’s sin affected everyone. They all paid the price for it. I appreciate this regarding envy from the great Christian thinker Thomas Aquinas. He gives us a good overview. He said, Love rejoices in our neighbor’s good while envy grieves over it. Love rejoices in our neighbor’s good while envy grieves over it. So the question comes to us, are you grieved over somebody else’s blessing? Miriam and Aaron are grieved and complained about what God, in his kindness, has given to Moses. And in doing so, they have failed to see the pain of the responsibility he wore from a thankless people. They failed to see God’s generosity to him.

They could not see the good and the humility in the heart of their brother. And our misplaced desires, our envy, it robs us of the Lord’s peace. It steals our joy in him. And even as we see this immediately, again, it continues to point us forward. It continues not only to show us our hearts the same in the Old Testament they are now. Nothing new under the sun. But this person of Moses is anticipating someone greater. Jesus surpassed the humility of Moses. While Moses could pray to God to forgive his own brother and sister, Jesus prayed for his enemies. Jesus lay down his life for them who were cursing him, who were abusing him. He was silent before his jealous accusers, so much so that it astounded Pilot. Why? Because we defend ourselves and people accuse us. He said nothing. And Pilot knew it’s envy that’s driving much of this. And these were people who were speaking against him falsely. And he remained silent to bear that approach for us. Now, to each of us, the Lord has given our own unique set of circumstances, our health or lack of it, our wealth or lack of it, our families or lack of it, our jobs or lack of it.

And in that, the Lord says, Friend, have I treated you so poorly that you envy what I’ve given to others? For when you do so, you’re telling me that I’m not very good to you. And that’s what is taking place. We’re telling God, You haven’t done right by me. And I think to that, the Father says in so many words, Child, see that cross where I hung my son? See the ground where I let his water and blood get soaked into the dirt. Now, please don’t complain to me about how I have failed to give you what you deserve, how I’ve failed to fulfill your desires, because that’s the cost of my love for you. And brothers and sisters, in that we must let Jesus capture our hearts afresh with his grace and his mercy. Because these circumstances do make our hearts go sideways. We do see someone else’s blessing, and there’s a part of us that can be grieved by it. We see long standing relationships and families that struggle with these very issues, and it’s wounding to us. One of the last things we should ever ask for, God, give me what I deserve.

You probably don’t want those words coming out of your mouth at any time. I really don’t want what I deserve. Therefore, because of the grace and mercy that we have received, we can look at somebody else and say, God, give them your mercy and your grace, not what they deserve. The judge of all the Earth will do right, and you and I are not he. And this is such a message of the hope of the gospel. All times, all places deal with envy. We live in a particular time when so much of this is on steroids. Think about it. We’re such a consumeristic market driven society. What drives and fuels that comparison? Making you want things you didn’t even know existed until you saw the ad. And suddenly I’m discontented with my life. You add Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, whatever your social media of choice, and everybody’s smiling and having a great time and their life is fulfilled. And look at all the fun things they’re doing that I’m not. And that comparison immediately comes like, it’s unfair. And we feel that he’s just showing this people actually are more depressed through these things because of the feeling they’re being left out.

They’re getting less. We are swimming in this swirl of comparison and greed and envy. And the good news is that Jesus sets us free from that. We have not only our hearts, but the community and people around us. They need to be set free because this stuff is life and soul crushing. It ruins you. You see the world through a distorted and terrible lens with you at the center, unable then to appreciate the Majesty and the glory of God’s kindness and mercy. And Jesus comes into the midst of that and lifts us up to see. And even as Christians, it’s so easy to fall back down. And we need, by his grace and mercy, to pick us back up. And then we take that good news and we tell people. And part of the telling of that is when people are grieved and in families, your brothers and sisters, people grieved at you, you can just simply love them in return and pray for their good. That is a supernatural work of God. We are supernatural. We believe that the Holy Spirit can cause us to pray for the good of people who are despising us because we are the recipients of the mercy of Jesus.

Pray with me. Father, indeed, we are so grateful that you have set us free. And Lord, we do confess our envy. We do confess our jealousies and ask Lord that you would forgive us, that you would open our eyes to see. Lord, the lavishness of your grace. Father, you have such a magnanimous heart. It is so large. You give to us overflowing. And Lord, sometimes we struggle to see that. Open our eyes in our eyes, Father. Help us to rejoice in the blessings you give to those around us. Help us to rejoice in what we have received. Father, in the midst of this, we ask that you would not only set us free, but, Lord, that you would use us in the lives of others to bring forth the good news of Jesus to them. Father, there’s many who need to be set free and may you be pleased to use us to that end. And this we pray and ask all through Christ our Risen Lord. Amen. You please stand.

Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription