At times, we all experience envy—resenting the blessing or success of others. But envy can be particularly damaging when we let it divide the people of God. In Numbers 11, the Israelites had been wandering in the wilderness for two years, and they were frustrated. They claimed they were treated better in Egypt, and even complained about the manna God provided (11:1–6). They wanted meat! Finally, God sent quail—more than they could eat (11:31–34). But because of their continued discontent, God also sent a plague.
Not long after, Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses (12:1). The surface complaint was that Moses had taken a Cushite wife. However, the real issue was jealousy. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” (v. 2). This sibling trio was being pulled apart by envy and competition. The use of the feminine singular verb in verse 1 implicates Miriam as the point person. Aaron followed her lead. Verse 2 ends with an ominous declaration of God’s omniscience: “And the Lord heard this.”
We are told in verse 3 that Moses responded to these accusations with “humility.” But God—in true parental fashion—called all three siblings to the tent of meeting for a talk. Miriam must have been shaking in her sandals when the Lord appeared in a pillar of cloud (v. 6). Aaron, the priest, would typically have been allowed entrance. But on this day, God stopped them all at the door—a clear signal of divine displeasure. From the cloud, God spoke. He focused on Moses’ faithfulness and uniqueness. God communicated more directly with Moses than with any other prophet.
>> From this passage, we can take away a challenge and a charge. First, we must guard ourselves against envy. Yank it out early before it puts down roots. And second, we must strive for the distinction that Moses earned: a humble and faithful servant of the Lord.
May we delight so fervently in your purposes that we give no thought to ourselves. May we have true humility that proceeds from recognizing our position before you, seeking you faithfully in all we endeavor!