Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Miriam - Sisterly Support

My closeness to Moses began when I was just a girl. He was a tiny, helpless babe, and I was his big sister, charged with the task of watching over him as he lay in his basket in the reeds along the Nile. I didn't know what would happen... after all, Hebrew baby boys had been ordered by Pharaoh to be killed. It was a miracle that Moses had survived this far. I'll never forget my mother's face as she left him lying there; "Watch over him, Miriam," she charged me. "Protect him..." she managed, before stumbling away with tears streaming down her cheek.

So I watched and I waited, not knowing what would happen. I only knew that I had to watch over my baby brother. Somehow, this gave me the courage to speak to Pharaoh's daughter after she found Moses, and suggest my mother as the baby's nurse. I didn't know how it was going to end; I had no idea who Moses would grow up to become. All I knew was that I had to watch out for him, because he was my brother.

Miriam. Daughter of Jochebed, living during the slavery in Egypt and the Pharaoh's reign of terror against Hebrew baby boys, yet somehow managing to remain strong through it all. As is the case with most women in the Bible, not much is said specifically about Miriam. In every reference to her however, she is talked about as a sister, the sister of Moses and Aaron, two men called to lead God's chosen people. We're never told if she is married and we have no mention of her being a mother. All we know is that she was a sister, a loyal, caring sister to these two great men.

Jochebed had only three known children - Miriam, Aaron, and Moses. As her mother's only daughter, Miriam probably was, as we might expect, her mother's right hand. To her Jochebed gave the task of watching over her precious son, and Miriam was faithful in carrying out the task. We also learn that she wasn't a shy girl, too timid to do anything but watch. No, she seized the opportunity God sent her way and upon Pharaoh's discovery of her brother, dared to approach this princess of Egypt and ask if she had need of a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby. Because of her boldness, Miriam was able to enjoy her little brother for a few years before having to give him up for him to become an Egyptian prince. During these few early years, Moses probably found a special place in his sister's heart. She got to see his first smiles and coos, and watch him as he jabbered his first words and took his first toddling steps. Then, she had to watch him go, probably wondering if she'd ever see her darling brother again; ever be able to tell him that she was his sister.

As we all know, she was finally able to see and reconnect with brother - after almost eighty long years. We can imagine that Miriam took every opportunity to hear news of the Egyptian prince as he grew. she probably listened with a sinking heart to the recount of how Moses killed an Egyptian foreman and fled into the dessert. She probably thought that she wouldn't ever see him for sure after that. Yet, God had bigger plans for Moses, and at last Miriam saw him return - the eighty-year-old deliverer of his people.

Who knows how much she saw and talked with him at that time? She lived through the Hebrew's doubts and groans after Pharaoh's retaliation to Moses' demands. She lived through the awful plagues and probably helped prepare the first Passover meal. And finally, she lived to see her dreams fulfilled and the deliverance of her people from the land of Egypt.

As Moses and Aaron's sister, Miriam probably had quite a bit of influence. Indeed, we're told that she helped lead the people, with Micah 6:4b saying, "I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam." We're told she was also a prophetess (Exodus 15:20), and instrument of God.

I'm sure she was unsure and wondered like every other Hebrew how they'd ever escape Pharaoh's wrath after leaving Egypt. With great excitement, she saw the Red Sea part and walked across and dry land. After Moses' song of thanksgiving, Miriam led the women in a song of her own. Exodus 15:20-21 relates:

"Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them: 'Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted. the horse and rider He has hurled into the sea.'"

She was indeed instrumental in leading God's people, especially among the women.

So life went on, and Miriam lived through all the travels through the wilderness. She was there as each time the Israelites would turn away from the LORD and oppose moses, then go back and beg for His mercy through hunger, thirst, and disease. She was there as god gave His commands. She saw the tabernacle built, and watched (probably with a measure of pride) as her brother Aaron was installed as high priest. She saw again and again how God provided for His people, and how he used her brother Moses as His spokesman.

Yet, through it all and after all she witnessed, Miriam wasn't perfect. Right before God led them to explore Canaan, Miriam and Aaron began to oppose Moses, apparently because of His Cushite wife (Numbers 12:1).

"'Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?' they asked. 'Hasn't He also spoken through us?' And the LORD heard this." (Numbers 12:2)

Miriam and Aaron were stricken with a case of jealousy. Not content to be prophetess and high priest, two instrumental leaders among Israel, they envied Moses and his position. So, the LORD called them all to account. He led them to the Tent of Meeting, and summoned Miriam and Aaron to stand before Him. He defended Moses (Numbers 12:6-8) and His anger burned against them for daring to oppose His humble servant. When the cloud of God lifted from the tent, Miriam, the great sister of two important men, was left stricken with leprosy. Her brothers loved her, and interceded for her, first Aaron, then Moses. God could have healed her right away, but instead He had Miriam confined outside the camp for seven days, likening her leprosy to a father spitting in his daughter's face. I'm sure that Miriam had a lot of time to think during that week, repenting of her pride and envy.

At last she was brought back inside the camp, and the people moved on. They explored Canaan, then once again rebelled against the LORD out of fear. So, they were banished to wander the wilderness; soon after, Miriam died and was buried. (Numbers 20:1)

There's much to learn from Miriam, over-all her devotion and sisterly love for her brothers. All of us as sisters are charged with the task of supporting our siblings, as Miriam did for hers. The task of a sister is indeed a great one! We should also learn to guard against envy and jealousy of our siblings. This can be very hard, as each person is blessed with different gifts. Sometimes it's hard to see siblings - especially younger ones - surpass you in different areas. However, instead of opposing or making fun of them, we should affirm them for their hard work and excellent abilities. As a sister, we hold the power to sway those watching us - namely our siblings - for good or bad. Learn from Miriam, and purpose to influence your siblings for the better!

Read all about Miriam in Exodus 2:1-10; 15:1-21; and Numbers 12:1-16


Ella said...

It was so good to read one of these "Women of the Bible" posts again. You do it beautifully, as always.

Miriam was a good sister (most of the time) I hope I can be the same way.

Lori Beth said...

Excellent post! It brought about a new perspective on her life to me, as well as being a sister and being a leadxer. Thank you! I look forward to another post like this in the future.

Anna S said...

Lovely post about Miriam! I should study more about her character.

Laura H said...

Awesome Story! Thanks for sharing!
Laura H

Miriam Rebekah said...

Wonderfully written!

She was such a good sister. I pray that I can be one as sweet as her.

Well, she's a good namesake to live up to. :)

Except for the leprosy...but other that she was quite obedient. =)