Yesterday we spoke about the need to pray without condemnation. Today we will continue to explore some of the pitfalls of our words. I recall a time in the Old Testament when Aaron and Miriam faced condemnation, based on the words they used to criticise Moses. In Numbers 12, they spoke against Moses because he married a Cushite woman. Not only did they speak against Moses because of his choice of a wife, they also challenged his relationship with God. “And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it” (Numbers 12:2).
Miriam was a prophetess and Aaron went with Moses, to speak on his behalf before Pharaoh. In a sense, both Miriam and Aaron shared in the leadership role with Moses over the children of Isreal. Additionally, they were Moses’s siblings and it was Miriam who watched over Moses, when he was placed in a basket in the river. Their proximity to Moses and their familiarity with him, made it difficult for them to see him as more than their little brother. There could also have been some hidden resentment towards Moses who experienced a privileged upbringing in the palace. All the while Aaron and Miriam would have grown up under the bondage of Egyptian tyranny.
Either way, something gave them the bravery to challenge Moses’s authority. It is one thing to challenge his choice of a wife, but to speak about his relationship with God was taking things to an entirely different level. The bible’s description of Moses was someone who was humble and meek. God summoned Miriam and Aaron and gave them quite a scolding. “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed” (Numbers 12:9). After the Lord departed, Miriam was leprous and Aaron begged Moses to have mercy. Moses cried out to God on her behalf and God instructed him to shut her out of the camp for seven days. After the seven days, Miriam was brought back to the camp. We can assume that she was healed from the leprosy as she would not be allowed to return otherwise.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and we have to be careful how we use words to describe people. Words spoken in anger, frustration, bitterness, resentment, jealousy and other negative emotions can be extremely harmful. Either way, God judges the intentions of the heart and searches the deep and hidden things. Unlike us, God sees the motives behind what we say and we have to be careful that our words don’t come back to haunt us. There is a song that I remember singing in Sunday school which goes like this; “watch your mouth, watch your mouth, what they say, watch your mouth, watch your mouth, what they say. For there’s a father up above, looking down in tender love. Watch your mouth, watch your mouth, what they say.”