Avoiding a Critical Spirit
As always, thank you for being willing to teach your class week after week! You are a blessing to our church family small groups. God called you and you said yes!
We have moved from our six-week study of temptation into this special one-week topic. Our next set of lessons in our new books will be a series on mentoring. Scripture contains some great examples of faithful folks who understood and determined that passing the torch of faith to the next generation was a mandate from the Lord, and therefore, a vital life pursuit.
How fitting, then, is it that we would be remembering those who gave their lives in military service for our freedoms and our future? Memorial Day weekend allows us the opportunity to reflect on the gravity of life sacrifices made in battlefields since the Civil War. The only greater sacrifice would be the life Jesus gave on Calvary for the whole world. His death gave us the opportunity for eternal salvation. Their deaths gave us the opportunity to live in earthly freedom. Our gratitude should abound in the humility of thanksgiving for both gifts. President Lincoln at Gettysburg stated, “…they gave the last full measure of devotion…”.
Our lesson this week is taken from the Book of Numbers chapter twelve. At the end of the Book of Genesis, we find the tiny nation of Israel, approximately 70 in number, living in the land of Egypt at the invitation of Joseph, the son of Jacob. Between Genesis and Exodus, their invitation to be delivered from a famine morphs into slavery. The 70 will increase to approximately two million. A four-hundred-year page turn brings us to the life of Moses and the escape from bondage in Egypt. The baby Moses. His forty years in the palace of Pharaoh. His murder of the Egyptian and his escape to Midian. Forty more years as a shepherd near Mt. Sinai. A wife and children. His call at the burning bush. Age 80. Confrontation with Pharaoh. The plagues. The Passover. The Exodus. Crossing of the Red Sea. A year of camping and organization at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Receiving the Ten Commandments. Building the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Provision of manna, water, and quails. Setting up the Levitical priesthood.
In Deuteronomy 1:6, the Lord said to Moses, you have stayed long enough at this mountain. It was time to move out from Mt. Sinai and head for the land of promise. Along the way, Moses found out what it was like to deal with a bunch of knot-headed Israelites. Their feet had barely touched the ground each day when their mumbling and grumbling interrupted the beauty of those peaceful mountain mornings. We see this part of the story in the Book of Numbers as they began to move out and follow the cloud by day (which cooled them from the arid wilderness) and the fire by night (which kept them from ever being “disturbed” by the darkness). They conducted a census to number those available for fighting the enemies along the way and prepare them for conquering the residents of Canaan.
Moses had helpers already appointed early in the journey in Exodus. Now, in Numbers 11, God also gives him seventy elders to help with the tedious parts of administration. It appears in Numbers 12 that Miriam and Aaron had a problem with this new leadership. Possibly they were threatened by this new plan. Miriam was the elder sister. Aaron (three years older than Moses) was the first High Priest ordained by God. They spoke to the people against Moses…and the LORD was listening. He always is…
Why they would stage a family revolt against Moses is a mystery. Miriam said she was upset by the wife of Moses. We know he had married Zipporah while in Midian and had children with her. They may have been speaking of Zipporah, but possibly an additional wife. The Bible is silent on those details. However, that line of contention covered up their real intention. They were questioning the authority of Moses. Actually, they were speaking directly in the face of God and challenging His authority and His choice of Moses as leader. Such behavior is never a good idea. Adam blamed GOD for giving him EVE!
God called all three of them on the carpet and blocked their way into the tabernacle and conducted an invention. God totally re-affirmed the leadership of Moses who had been chosen to be the mediator of the covenant of God to His people. Miriam and Aaron were treading on very thin ice. God then afflicted Miriam with leprosy. Aaron (the High Priest!!!) interceded for her with Moses, asking Moses to speak to God about removing this disease. Immediately, Moses pled with God on her behalf. She remained in her “seven days of separation” and then was healed and cleansed by God. Her actions delayed their breaking camp and following God.
Criticizing leaders who have been chosen and called by God for service is a sin. Plain and simple. Division in the body of believers will hamstring and possibly destroy the effectiveness of every ministry. Pray for spiritual leaders. As they set goals and cast vision, follow their steps. Let God show you your part in the journey. Don’t grumble. Pray. Get busy.