Black & White

Today's devotion from Numbers 12.

Numbers 11 dealt with the cravings of the people, but Numbers 12 hits closer to home. The account opens with Aaron and Miriam, Moses' own brother and sister, criticizing him because of his Cushite wife. A footnote reveals that the Greek Septuagint refers to this wife as an Ethiopian.

Scholars debate the exact scenario. So, we don't know if Zipporah had passed and Moses had remarried, or if there was some other order of events. Regardless, we can plainly see two things going on that are disconcerting.

First, this is an ethnic slur initiated by Miriam, a prophetess. The identification of Moses' wife as a Cushite or Ethiopian is a reference to physical traits, like dark skin. This could explain why the punishment of Miriam is to be stricken with leprosy-like pale skin. The books of the Pentateuch are filled with examples of God brining in and including non-Israelites in His kingdom and plans. The very covenant God made with Abram specifically stated the His endgame was to bless all people. Racism is not acceptable in Christian life.

However the second insight is more revealing. Miriam is jealous of Moses, and the ethnicity of his wife is only a means by which she can attack him. If the racist remark she made revealed the prejudice in her heart, what is revealed by her jealousy of her own brother? Exodus 15:20 reveals that Miriam is a prophetess that others follow. As such, her questioning of Moses' leadership is especially wrong.

Racism and jealousy are not new, and neither will be extinct anytime soon. How should we as followers of God respond to these when they rear their ugly heads? I think the verses that follow reveal that our only true recourse is humility. During this entire event, the only thing Moses says is a prayer for Miriam's healing. Think about that for just a moment. Moses doesn't have to say a word because God comes to His defense.

And yet, even after everything is said and done, not a word is spoken about Moses' feelings except those of concern for his sister. In his response there is no hint of hurt or bitterness. Instead, we see only love and genuine care. Perhaps his response reveals best why God would defend him?

How do you respond to unjust attacks and jealousy? What do those responses say about you?