Bible Studies for Life

with Liz McGraw

Sunday,  May 1

Redeemed from a Critical Spirit

Numbers 12:1-11, 13-15

The Children of Israel used to really bug me. They were such complainers. While reading their stories, I could hear them whine. “You brought us out here to starve. We should go back to Egypt. We’re hungry. We’re tired of manna. Give us meat.” And on and on they would whine. I wanted to shout, “What is your problem? You were in slavery and God used Moses to set you free. You had the cloud by day and the fire by night. The very presence of God guided your every step! Gird up your loins (in other words, put on your big boy panties) and follow God!” While Moses did get frustrated and complained, he was a far better person than me. I would have wanted to use slap therapy! Then God speaks to my heart, “Liz, what are YOU doing? Aren’t you comparing yourself to the Children of Israel? Aren’t you criticizing and complaining about them?” Ugh! Yes Lord.

As we consider Miriam’s story in Numbers 12, we will learn that a critical spirit damages our lives. However, let’s begin with some background information. Numbers 11 details how on their journey from Mount Sinai to the promised land, a series of complaints erupted among the Israelites against God and His leader Moses. The Israelites first complained about the hardships of the journey, resulting in God sending fire among them. Not learning their lesson, they complained again about having only manna to eat and no meat. Moses also complained bitterly to God about the burdens of leading the Israelites, so God directed him to appoint 70 elders to assist him. God sent quail for the people to eat, but then sent a deadly plague upon them in judgment. The Israelites then traveled to Hazeroth, where a conflict between Moses and his siblings Miriam and Aaron ensued.

Numbers 12:1-3 – The first lesson we learn is that a critical spirit can arise when we compare ourselves to others. Miriam and Aaron were not happy with Moses’ new wife – a Cushite woman. They began to question his leadership and compare themselves to him. Listen to their words, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” (v. 2). I think Miriam and Aaron thought they could do a better job. What a mistake!

Numbers 12:4-11 – The second lesson is that God rejects a critical spirit. When I was a child and needed correction, my mother would holler “Elizabeth Anne!” Did your mother or father ever call out for you like that and you knew you were in trouble? Well imagine God calling your name. Scripture says, “Suddenly the Lord said to Moses and Aaron and to Miriam, ‘You three come out to the tent of meeting.’” Busted. They must have known they were in really big trouble. God chastised them and said, “Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?” (v. 8). God was not going to allow their criticism to remain unchecked. The result was that Miriam suddenly became leprous.

Now I must confess that I do not understand why Aaron was not struck with the same horrible condition. Why wasn’t he punished? After all, he also had complained, “Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses…” (v. 1). I guess I’ll have to wait until heaven to find out, and then I won’t care. But I am thankful that Aaron pleaded Miriam’s case to Moses and that Moses interceded on her behalf to God.

Numbers 12:13-15 – The third lesson we can glean is that God’s discipline is intended for restoration and not destruction. Even at the plea of Aaron and Moses, God did not remove Miriam’s plague. However, after seven days He healed her completely and restored her to the community. Not only does verse 14 imply complete restoration, other scriptures confirm her restoration. Numbers 20:1 acknowledged her death and tells of her burial which was an act of honor. Also in Micah 6:4, Miriam was remembered for her role as a leader, not a rebel.

When we play the comparison game, it becomes easy to fall prey to criticism. Comparing ourselves to others can lead to discontentment and dissatisfaction, and such discontentedness only leads to further problems, such as a critical spirit. Contentment comes only when we take the focus off of ourselves and place it on God. Perhaps we should take God’s Word seriously, reject a critical spirit in our own lives, and find contentment in God.

McGraw is development director of Crossroads SW Counseling Center, a conference speaker, life coach, and member of Woodville Church.