BETWEEN THE NUMBERS
-What would you think if your brother was elected president?
-Some of you might actually say “great!” “I’d vote for him”
-But some of you might move to Canada!
-Others would simply call the tabloids for an easy payday!
-If you aren’t familiar with the Bible characters Miriam and Aaron you may not realize their brother was Moses: the man God chose to lead the nation of Israel.
-Aaron was an important figure in the Exodus of Israel because he was the spokesman for his stuttering prophet brother: Moses.
-Miriam was also a prophet and led the women in praise after God led the Israelites through the Red Sea.
-At this point in Numbers a lot has happened since that time.
-A year has passed, and as we saw in chapter 11 last week…the people’s attitudes have begun to change.
-Camping is always fun for the first few days, but after a year...a critical spirit began creeping into the community.
-It even began to affect Israel’s most influential family.
12 While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman.
-In chap 11 the people didn’t like the food.
-Now in chap 12 Moses’ own family doesn’t like his wife.
-You might wonder why? Maybe she was stuck up. Maybe she was bossy or maybe she overcooked the lamb at Passover.
-It’s easy to find something not to like about people, but the text tells us what the hang-up really was: She was a Cushite.
-The way the original language reads makes it seem as though Miriam was the instigator of this criticism.
-She was the big sister of Moses and did not approve of her brother’s taste in women.
-This passage has given the scholars something to talk about.
-We know that Moses was married to Zipporah who was a Midianite; her father was Jethro: the priest of the Beverly Hill Billies. Priest of Midian.
-And some think the wife mentioned here is still Zipporah.
-But others believe that Moses, who is 80 at this point, has lost his wife and remarried.
-So why are they fussing about her being a Cushite.
-Option 1: Is that they were prejudiced. Cushites were people from North Africa, probably the area of Ethiopia, and they may not have liked her because she was black.
-Option 2 is more likely: They may not have liked her because she was not a Jew. The Jews were fiercely proud of their ethnicity.
-She was an outsider…and therefore they didn’t accept her.
-Which every option you choose, it paints kind of an ugly picture
of Aaron the High Priest of Israel, and Miriam the prophetess.
-We know that racism and persecution of other ethnic groups is ignorant, and petty, and not condoned by God.
-But our focus today is the remarkable contrast of character between Moses and his siblings.
-Moses was very humble and his siblings were very proud.
-We see it in their reaction toward Moses’ wife.
PRIDE TEARS OTHER PEOPLE DOWN.
-She didn’t pick her skin color and she couldn’t control which ethnic group she was born into.
-Pride is unreasonable like that.
-Aaron and Miriam also had no say in their race or ethnic group, but somehow they felt superior because of it.
C.S. Lewis “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.”
-Our pride causes us to rank ourselves above others people.
-To compare our kids with their kids, our marriage with their marriage, our career with their career.
-To compare our sin with their sin. Our success w/their success
-It’s so easy to let yourself think you’re better than others based of any number of criteria or comparisons we might make.
-It’s pride that leads us to compare, and once we’ve decided that we’re better than they are…we only continue to find fault.
-Think about that person that you don’t like. Maybe more than 1!
-Think about the people you avoid.
-Those people you gossip about. The ones you can’t stand.
-And be honest with yourself. Is there any pride involved?
-Have you ranked yourself above them?
-Are you convinced that you’re better than them?
-Are you looking for chances to build them up?
-Or does your pride justify tearing them down with your thoughts, your words, and your actions?
-Maybe that someone is your spouse, and you can’t figure out why your marriage is a wreck. Pride.
-Pride is the sin that led to Satan to stage a revolt in heaven.
-He built a case against God, convinced himself that he was better suited to be Lord of all.
-Knowing that pride was the original sin of the devil, we don’t need to wonder where our own selfish pride comes from.
-And just like we saw complaining grow and spread last week, almost inexplicably their pride begins to grow. Another thing…
2 They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?”
-They go from criticizing his wife to questioning his calling.
-It’s interesting that Moses didn’t sign up to be Israel’s leader.
-He didn’t want to be God’s man for that whole Exodus thing.
-In fact, he asked God to pick someone else.
-He didn’t ask for special honors, he didn’t ask for God to have a special relationship with him.
-He was doing the job that God called him to do and trying to keep it all together.
-Here Aaron and Miriam start doubting Moses and saying,
-“We don’t need Moses to speak to God for us!”
-“We can hear from God & we have heard from God on our own.”
-What do we need Moses for?
-Pride not only tears others down, it…
PRIDE PUFFS US UP.
-James Tillis was a professional boxer in the 80s.
-He grew up in Oklahoma but decided he needed to move to Chicago if he was going to make it big as a fighter.
-So he packed up his belongings in two cardboard boxes and got on a bus for the Windy City.
-When he arrived he was let off close to the Sears Tower in Chicago which was the tallest building in the world at the time.
-That proud young man set those boxes down and looked up at the Sears Tower and said, “I’m going to conquer Chicago!”
-After he was done boasting he looked down & boxes were gone
-Pride puffs us up…but often leaves us deflated.
-As Miriam and Aaron were boasting and posturing and puffing themselves up…something familiar happens.
-In Chapter 11 the people complained and it says that God heard their complaint. And now in the end of verse 2 it says…
But the Lord heard them.
-I asked this question last week and it’s so pointed I want to it ask it again:
HOW DOES OUR PRIDE SOUND TO GOD?
-What does the Creator think when his creation boasts?
-What does the Lord of All think when we boast about our little empires and kingdoms?
-How does it sound to Sustainer of All Things when we brag about what we’ve accomplished?
-There was a great commercial AT&T commercial that aired a while back. The sales lady is giving Grant Hill a run down on their cell phone plan and he says, “Sounds like a slam dunk.”
-She says, “Oh, you a basketball fan?” Then she says…“Lilli Adams, High School, Point Guard, JV.”
-And Grant Hill says, “Small forward, college and professional.”
-And she meekly replies, “Oh, good for you.”
-That must be how our pride sound to God!
-Silly. Ugly. Pretentious. Unjustified. Arrogant.
-Pride convinces us that we are smart…smarter than others.
-Pride convinces us that we are right…others are wrong.
-Pride convinces us that that we have everything under control.
-It allows us to believe that we are self-sufficient & self-reliant
-It feeds the lie that we get credit for all we have and have done
-And it promotes feelings of ingratitude and discontent.
-But most of all it shows that we are oblivious to God.
-While Miriam and Aaron are bragging about their status with God, they are completely unaware of what God is thinking.
-Now verse 3 is very interesting parenthetical note.
3 (Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.)
-I smiled when I read that because Moses wrote Numbers!
-It doesn’t seem like a humble man would make a side note announcing his humility.
-If U have to tell people you’re humble then you’re probably not
-The scholars believe that Joshua added this note after Moses had passed away.
-So not only were Miriam and Aaron being boastful and proud, they were picking on a man who was humble. And God heard.
-My childhood home was two stories and the basement was the family room where we played.
-Sometimes we’d start fighting & my parents could hear from upstairs.
-If my dad ever said, “Kids, get up here… we were in trouble.”
-Being called upstairs by my father meant he’d heard and we were about to get in trouble.
-And that’s what happened here with Miriam & Aaron.
4 So immediately the Lord called to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam and said, “Go out to the Tabernacle, all three of you!” So the three of them went to the Tabernacle.
-The Tabernacle was the place where the presence of God resided. The place of worship.
5 Then the Lord descended in the pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the Tabernacle. “Aaron and Miriam!” he called, and they stepped forward. 6 And the Lord said to them, “Now listen to what I say: (They’d been talking a lot and now it was God’s turn)
“If there were prophets among you, I, the Lord, would reveal myself in visions. I would speak to them in dreams. 7 But not with my servant Moses. Of all my house, he is the one I trust.
-What was God saying? You’re messing with the wrong guy.
8 I speak to him face to face, clearly, and not in riddles! He sees the Lord as he is. So why were you not afraid to criticize my servant Moses?”
-Who do you think you are? Where do you get off questioning my appointed leader? Why weren’t you afraid to criticize Moses?
-They’d been thinking “Moses is our annoying kid brother”.
-Moses married a low-class lady from the wrong side of the tracks.
-Moses acts like he’s the only one who can hear from God.
-But now in the presence of God, all those comments seem silly, unreasonably and ungracious.
PRIDE SHOWS CONTEMPT FOR GOD.
-As God’s sons and daughter we’re called to see people and circumstances from God’s perspective.
-God is the one who shows love to undeserving people.
-When we’re tearing other people down, we’re failing to realize how undeserving we are.
-God is the one who provides power for us, but when we pridefully boast over others we’re saying my power is sufficient.
-God was the one working through humble Moses, but Miriam & Aaron showed contempt for God by grumbling against Moses.
9 The Lord was very angry with them, and he departed. 10 As the cloud moved from above the Tabernacle, there stood Miriam, her skin as white as snow from leprosy.
-Ironically, the punishment for an olive skinned Israelite, who’s persecuting a dark-skinned Cushite, was to be turned white!
-And all that pride and contempt changed instantly.
When Aaron saw what had happened to her, 11 he cried out to Moses, “Oh, my master! Please don’t punish us for this sin we have so foolishly committed.
-Notice how humble they instantly became. They were ridiculing Moses just moments before and now they’re begging for his help.
-They were ranking themselves above him and now they’re pleading with him to forgive them.
-We’ve all heard this before:
PRIDE COMES BEFORE A FALL.
-You may not have ever heard this story but you knew where it was heading. Pride is no respecter of persons.
-It always leads to a disastrous end. President, prophets, athletes, actors, men, women, sinners and saints all end up in the same place with their pride: flat on their faces.
Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”
-God was angry with the terrible attitude of Miriam and Aaron so he let them feel a bit of his wrath.
-That may seem harsh to you. But what do you suppose would happen if God let that pride go unchecked with two top tier leaders? It would have spread.
-Others would have joined in. Rebellion. Chaos. Anarchy.
-God acted decisively in this situation to squelch that pride.
They that go up in their own estimation must come down again by His discipline. Spurgeon
-What was Moses doing while his critics were being punished? Was he boasting over them? No! That would have been prideful.
13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “O God, I beg you, please heal her!” ….So keep her outside the camp for seven days, and after that she may be accepted back.”
-Leprosy sounds pretty bad, but there is something worse here that I’d never picked up on before.
-Part of her punishment was to be set outside of God’s people.
-She was set away from the Tabernacle, from God himself.
PRIDE SEPARATES US FROM GOD.
-Satan’s pride got him thrown out of heaven and Miriam’s pride got her ousted from God’s people.
-That what pride does. It will do the same to you and I.
-God can’t use us while we’re full of pride.
-We can’t teach us others to follow Jesus when we’re more impressed with ourselves than with him.
-We can’t reach out to help broken people when we’re convinced that they’re getting exactly what they deserve.
-We can’t promote the gospel when our pride has us focused on self-promotion.
-We can’t worship the Lord of All when we’re worshipping at the altar of pride and selfishness.
-Men can’t lead their families in the faith while they’re filling up on arrogance and self-sufficiency.
-Women can’t respect their husbands if they’re only seeing faults through the lens of their own self-righteous pride.
-Kids can’t honor their parents when they’re pride has convinced them that they’re parents don’t know anything about anything.
-God can’t help you battle an addiction if you’re too proud to admit you have one!
-God can’t save your marriage while you stubbornly insist it’s all your spouse’s fault and no fault of your own!
-God can’t prepare you to lead when you’re too proud to be led.
-But God CAN let you experience the consequences of your own pride…and often times it looks just like it did with Miriam.
-He can set you outside of the camp for a while to let you let you marinate in your own conceit for a while.
-Though we might never say it; our pride tells us that we don’t need anyone’s help…including God’s help.
-And the only way to cure us of that godless attitude, is for god to let us go at it on our own and see what happens.
-I’m not talking about God forsaking us; I’m talking about God breaking us.
-Humiliation is a great remedy for pride. Brokenness is a great cure for those who think they have it all together.
-7 days of illness and isolation was all that was Miriam needed to get her attitude turned around.
-But some people are hard-headed and can go for years.
-The problem with pride is that it effectively convinces people they don’t need God.
-Pride is the enemy of worship. I was praying early this morning and giving thanks. And it struck me that everything I care about in life comes from God.
-I love my wife and the Bible says marriage is a gift from God.
-I love my children and the Bible says children are a gift from God.
-I love my job, and the Bible says ministry is a call from God.
-I couldn’t say “yes” to Jesus without help from God.
-I couldn’t have God’s wisdom and discernment without the gift of his Holy Spirit.
-The Bible says my ability to earn wealth is from God.
-It says that every good and perfect gift is from above.
-Which means that we should all be very impressed with God.
-That we should be humble and remember where our blessings came from.
-That we should never buy into the lies about our self-sufficiency.
-That we should never base my self-worth on a comparison to someone else.
-Aaron and Miriam had gone from slaves to leaders of a nation, but it had gone to their head. They were celebrities! Royal family!
-As we grow in our faith we should realize more and more it’s all about God, it’s all about Jesus, it’s all about his Spirit which lives within us and it’s not about us.