Like all parents everywhere, my husband and I have frequent conversations about how to discipline our children. Often we ask ourselves: Does the punishment fit the crime? Will this particular consequence teach the lesson we long for our kids to learn? The answer isn’t always as obvious as one might imagine. Are we being too lenient? Or too harsh?
From a human perspective, God’s discipline toward Miriam in Numbers chapter 12 might seem too severe. Even after He verbally chastised her and Aaron for their jealously, God’s anger still burned toward them. So much so that He followed up His lecture with leprous sores all over Miriam’s body—and only hers (vv. 10–11). It is the first case of leprosy recorded in the Bible. Immediately, Aaron began to plead for her deliverance. He did not just ask for healing though. He begged for mercy: “I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed” (v. 11). Note that he addressed his plea to Moses. Not to God. He had been humbled and knew now his deferential place.
Without question, hesitation, or condemnation, Moses cried out to the Lord on Miriam’s behalf: “Please, God, heal her!” (v. 13). God’s response demonstrates both His holiness and His grace. Miriam would endure seven days of the disease. For seven days, she would be banished from her community, sending a strong message regarding the seriousness of sin to all of God’s people who could not move until she was cleansed and restored.
>> Hebrews 12:6 tells us that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Has God allowed the consequences of sin to be made manifest in your life or the lives of people you love? What did it teach you? As we conclude this study, which woman’s story has resonated most deeply with you? What have you learned about God by studying their lives?
Dear God, you alone bring joy out of pain, and even your discipline demonstrates your mercy. Teach us to submit to your rebuke with the humility of Aaron. Thank you for your forgiveness!