Daily Thoughts from Numbers: Meek Leadership

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite 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 a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. And he 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 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 them, and he departed.

   When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous.  And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done 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.” And Moses cried to the LORD, “O God, please heal her—please.” But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again. After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.  (Numbers 12:1-16 ESV)

On the pretense of Moses’ marriage to a Cushite woman (either his wife Zipporah or a second wife), Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ brother and sister, contest his authority.  This had to hurt Moses most of all, but Moses, in his humbleness, left the judgment to God.

Like a parent grabbing up his children for discipline, God summons all three and explains how He interacts with Moses differently than other prophets, like one would with a trusted household servant to whom you give all responsibility for running the house.

God then judges Aaron and Miriam with a question (“Why weren’t you afraid to speak against Moses?”) and a demonstration of His ability to take away health instantly.  Moses graciously prays for Miriam and she is cleansed but required to remain outside the camp for seven days.  When she returns to camp the cloud lifts and the people set out once again.

Until Jesus, Moses was the most unique prophet God ever spoke through.  He becomes the paradigm for the Messiah.  There are those who take their own anointing by God as leaders as an excuse to shut down all criticism of their leadership (“Don’t touch God’s anointed”) and these are the ones most likely to need such criticism.  Moses, on the other hand, though he was extraordinarily anointed, did not vaunt himself over his brother and sister and threaten them when they criticized him.  He was meek and trusted Yahweh to uphold his leadership.

PERHAPS the most central characteristic of authentic leadership is the relinquishing of the impulse to dominate others.
David Cooper, Psychiatry and Anti-Psychiatry


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