Humility and Relationship with God

Moses was an amazing man, a great leader of God’s people and certainly one of the greatest men of faith in all of Scripture. He is known both as a great leader, and the giver of Law, but his greatest attribute was neither of these things, for it was found in his humility. In fact, we can go further than that and say that his humility was entirely the source of his greatness; that it was the genesis of his great accomplishments. This point really comes to the fore in chapter 12 of the book of Numbers, when two other great figures of the time speak against him…

Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this. (12:1-2)

Miriam was the older sister of both Aaron and Moses, a prophet and major figure in her own right, of course Aaron, the older brother of Moses was the first High Priest, and the companion of Moses throughout this period; the two were heavyweights to say the least. It seems surprising that they should be found grumbling like this about their brother, since both of them were earnest, devout and passionate followers of God, and yet with time, it would appear that they have grown resentful of Moses’ higher position in the Israelite universe. Yes, they had known relationship with God, they had both spoken His Word to the people; why was Moses so important?

So there they were talking… or were they gossiping? Whatever they were doing in private, they seem to have forgotten that they weren’t entirely alone; God heard them.

(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

Verse 3 is interesting here, inserted almost as an aside into the text, providing a clear contrast to Miriam and Aaron, as if to scream at us that they were not acting in humility in this unpleasant conversation. Then, God takes action:

At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, he said, “Listen to my words: (12:4-6a)

I don’t know about you, but had I been Miriam or Aaron, I would be a little concerned right about now; God said:

“When there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,
I speak to them in dreams.
But this is not true of my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
to speak against my servant Moses?”

The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them. (12:6b-9)

This is an amazing text on so many levels beginning with the fact that Miriam and Aaron, who were speaking privately, stepped out of bounds, and God heard them do it, because we cannot hide anything whatsoever from God. Secondly, it is utterly fascinating to see the nature of the relationships that are described in this text; “when there is a prophet among you” is a clear statement that God is speaking of Miriam and Aaron, both prophets to whom God has spoken in this way. I would imagine that most of us would consider ourselves very fortunate to have such a relationship with God as this, yet there is a much deeper relationship than that, and Moses had it.

God’s relationship with Moses is not one in dreams, visions and riddles, but direct, personal and face to face; Moses gets to see God’s form, and he is faithful in all God’s house. What is it that Moses has, that Miriam and Aaron lack? God asks an essentially rhetorical question about their conversation; He was angry, and then He was gone.

When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.” (12:10-12)

When God was gone, Miriam had leprosy, and we now see her appearance reflecting the spiritual decay that had only been inside her before. This might remind us of Jesus speaking to the Pharisees and calling them “whitewashed tombs” all pretty and perfect on the outside, but rotten on the inside. Aaron, repenting of his part of the tale, cries out to Moses to intervene, and Moses does so:

So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!” (12:13)

Moses, who is the injured party, cries out to God for her healing, because Moses loves his sister, the very sister who has been punished by God for her offense against Moses. While it is clear that Moses loves his sister, it isn’t all that clear that Miriam and Aaron loved their brother in this incident, is it? What was the difference between Moses, and Miriam and Aaron?

The answer is back in that strange little sidebar that we saw in verse 3:

(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

Moses was unusually humble, and his humility had enabled him to love God with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love his neighbor as himself. His humility and his love for God enabled him to enjoy a level of relationship with God that even the prophets Aaron and Miriam did not come close to, and it enabled him to cry out for healing in a situation in which many others would say, “Well Miriam, you got what you deserved”.

Humility, both in thought and in deed, was the ingredient that Moses had and that the other two were lacking, and if I might be so bold, I would like to suggest that it is the ingredient that many today lack.

Unlike in previous centuries, in our time and culture, humility isn’t even considered a good thing, rather, we tend to see it as a weakness much of the time. Yet as we can clearly see in this incident, humility is the strength of character that makes love and relationship, both with people and with God possible.

Jesus demonstrated this same idea, and in doing so, He saved Mankind from sin and death:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-10

We might do well to take a closer look at humility in our own lives.

Oh right  Miriam? God graciously granted Moses’ request, but Miriam had to be put outside the camp for a week first. I wonder what she thought about during that week…

3 thoughts on “Humility and Relationship with God

  1. Brother Don; I loved this on so many levels. Tonight I have had a bit of a reprieve from my pain and though I am not sleeping, my blessings from the posts I have been reading and trying to catch up on have made my spirit literally soar.

    I was about to quit the computer when I noticed this post that I hadn’t read yet! I am so glad the Holy Spirit made me aware! I love the teachings when it comes to Moses for not only did he write through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the five books of the Law, books that help us to understand God as our Father and Rock as well as Redeemer, but it shows us His willingness to relate, to commune with man!

    I have not been so eloquent in my teaching of Moses as this, but I did one once on what probably contributed to his humility. So many people think that if you have a “flaw” or infirmity, God can’t use you and yet, those are the very people that our Lord seems to relate too the most. Maybe, it IS because humility, compassion, grace and forbearance come easier to those that are afflicted in some form or another.

    When God first called Moses out, his first concern was that he wasn’t a great speaker, or that he couldn’t speak well. How could God Almighty, use someone who may have been poor of speech. We know he was educated because of his place in Pharaoh’s house. But God, in His wisdom had an answer for Moses and it wasn’t what most today would hope for or think. Today, it would be, “well Lord if you want me to speak for You, You’d better heal me or I can’t do it.”

    Moses just accepted the fact that still, his speech wouldn’t be better, but God would use Aaron to help Moses. Can you imagine Aaron’s attitude when he was made aware of this? His stocks just went up a bunch!! And that was the difference; Aaron didn’t have anything to keep him humble, whereas Moses always had this thought in his mind, “how can the God of Creation use such a simple speaker as I.” I believe in all his ways, except for the instances where His anger clouded his judgment, that was always a thought and it allowed Him to commune with God on a very personal and intimate level.

    The same can be said today of many of us who have things that the world looks at as hindrances. But what is impossible with man is ALWAYS possible with our Heavenly Father! He is always and forever so gracious to all of us!

    Thank you brother for this. It touched me on a very special level. I have as yet to get back to your site and read your past article on debating the Scriptures but I will very soon!! I look forward to it! ‘Til later, God bless you and much love in Christ;


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Roland; what an amazingly inspiring comment you have shared, particularly under the circumstances! Your insight is both unique and empowering for all of us, and I hope many will read this! Our prayers are with you brother, and I look forward, as we all do, to your return to “active duty”, in the meantime, be blessed! Don

      Liked by 1 person

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