“I have suggested in conversations that whilst church and religion is a great “starter pack”, just like kindergarten, there should come a time when “church” says, “That’s it – now leave here and find the world, find others like you, grow as you will never grow staying here – goodbye.”
I have never had a positive response to that.”
Another “reflection” on the annual Easter Festival now underway.
“Either “The bible says we should gather together – that is church”, or “But where would we go, and how would we find others like us?”
Just like questioning Easter. Tinkered-with and sexed-up to keep it fresh – but essentially the same thing year after year – a surprise party without the surprise.
Does this sound jaundiced?”
“Yes it sounds jaundiced.
Because there is an alternative. To actually be one of those “radical faith festival celebs” (just without the festival or the celeb). Radical faith is no more than thinking outside the (religious) box – enjoying the freedom to allow God out of that box – finding “nourishment” more and more in the everyday AND the everywhere AND in everyone.”
Having been in church leadership roles, of varying degrees over the years, I’ve done a lot of pondering about who and what the church is.
I’ve been pondering about the health of the church. I only have life experience and mostly a relationship with The Father, Son and Holy Spirit as my back up on pondering, but it seems that the church is very click-ish.
Don’t misunderstand me, I like Christian friends. I enjoy fellowship with like-hearted people where we can lift each others arms and encourage each other to go for it or even to give that wonderful advice and help guide us in the right direction. It is so needed.
But what is that called? It’s relationship. RE-LA-TION-SHIP. Which is what we should have first in our life with God. Relationship. He has called us to a relationship with all three of the trinity. Not religion.
There is nothing wrong with going to or joining a local church and getting involved – I attend an awesome local church.
It’s so good and sweet…….. until it becomes a religion. Religion can smother us and before you know it you can not be relating to God or others.
I’ve seen so many ministries spend so much time counseling and helping hurting christians that it makes me wonder if we, perhaps, take those hours and invest in relationships and teaching and guiding others into a relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit then they can hear His voice and through the loving relationship of God get well and then……. drum roll please….. go out into the world and preach the gospel rather than spending years of counseling and never reach out to those who are lost. Are we using the time on this earth to touch others or are we just always trying to get well and invite others to our buildings instead of inviting them into a relationship with God?
Just something I’ve been pondering deeply for a while.
THE Answer. You know… THE ANSWER. Like the Answer to The Question. The Great Question. The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything!
For those of us who are Douglas Adams fans, we know how he dealt with the Question and the Answer… thus:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Well, this has never entirely satisfied me, though I applaud Adams’ willingness to take on the subject. Libraries for centuries untold have been filled with the efforts of sages to solve the Mystery of Life. And, while my conclusions may well differ from Sage Adams here, I must say that a lot of my cogitation shares some strong commonalities.
So, here and now, I’d like to submit my own, subjective, non-scientific, anecdotal, take-it-or-leave-it-as-you-please, contribution to…
The Answer… to Life, the Universe, and Everything…
It is… 3 x S (Read as: “Three times S”)
[Consistent with the style of Adams, we will first describe the Answer, and then consider… What is the Question?]
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
S1 = “Superabundance”
The First “S” is “superabundance”, the provision for needs vastly beyond the degree of need. Quantity, quality, diversity… so overwhelming that the result is not merely satiation and satisfaction, but actual delight. Take the Garden of Eden, for example… all the foods available there, all the grains, grasses, fruits, vegetables. The delight and companionship of animals of every description. The mist of the morning, the clarity of the stars, the cool of the evening, the wonder of the sun and moon. Or Psalm 23, being led beside the still waters, sitting at a prepared table, being comforted.
This is to be free of need, and free of greed.
Could it be that the very first requirement of true “Happiness”… of “Wholeness”… is to be free of need?
S2 = “Safety”
The Second “S” is “safety”, the protection from or absence of anything that could threaten or cause harm. Was there anything unknown in Eden to be afraid of at the start? It has never ceased to amaze me that God set man to nurture and tend the Garden (often super-interpreted to mean “God sent man off to WORK, first of all!”… but… what was the “work”? He was assigned to do two things… tend/serve/nurture… and protect/hedge about. But, what did Adam need to DO? Mist rose in the morning to water all, the soil was rich with the vibrancy of pure primal life, there were as yet no “weeds” or “bad plants”, nor any pests or predator bugs or animals. A Garden initially arranged and landscaped by God wouldn’t require a lot of transplanting and corrective design. All that “sweat of brow” and “thorns and thistles” thing came AFTER the fall.
This is to be free of threat, and free of fear.
Could it be that the second requirement of true “Happiness”… of “Wholeness”… is to be utterly safe and free of fear?
S3 = “Significance”
The third “S” is “significance”, the sense that one is meaningful, important, and treasured to at least one other person. In the Garden, there was first… Adam. Adam and God, there they were. Made in God’s image, male and female, Adam and Eve created in God’s own image. Given free reign of the Garden. Able to eat of all but one tree. Naming each animal as presented by God. Called forth to walk with Him in the cool of the evening. Important to God, you think? Significant? Treasured? Or as in Psalm 23, sitting down at a table prepared for man by the Lord in the presence of enemies? Head anointed with oil? Cup running over? To dwell in God’s house forever?
This is to be acknowledged, important, treasured. This is to be free of the all too common fear that we and our lives are meaningless, that we are but cattle in a herd, a nameless cipher among a crowd of equally insignificant parts.
Could it be that the third requirement of true “Happiness”… of “Wholeness”… is to be utterly significant and treasured?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As I pondered these potential “Answers”, and began to focus on the “Question”, I realized that this is a bigger answer than I can even define. This seems to hold true on every scale, in every application. Countries, races, kingdoms, empires go to war over a lack in one or another of these. Wars and genocides happen when a people gathers strength in order to meet what they consider a “need”, or a “threat”, or the hunger for “prestige”. States go to civil war for what seem to be the same reasons. Families feud, political parties wrangle, and individuals fight, maneuver, argue over these same perceived places of emptiness.
What to do? How do we promote joy, happiness, peace… “Wholeness” and Love?
Each of us have our own piece of Kingdom, our own relationships, our own sphere of influence. Whether this is community, home, workplace, church, or even one relationship at a time…
We know we are to “Love”, but that often breaks down at the “How do we do that?”
What if we try these three…
That every encounter be nurturing, meeting what need stands before us in the moment? Often the need is just some time and attention. Perhaps it is a meal, or a cool drink of water, or a gentle touch, or hug. (Obvious professional cautions apply, depending on the nature of the relationship.) Sometimes, the need is just silent presence.
That every encounter be safe, free of fear? Not just fear of physical harm or danger, but fear of being made to feel bad. Fear of being judged. Fear of being shamed or made to feel small or wrong. What if in each moment, someone felt their burdens lightened in your presence, rather than made heavier?
That every encounter be important and significant? That in the moments of interaction, the other person, group, party, were treasured as relationship to you? As if they were treasured by God Almighty? What if no one were an “interruption” or an “annoyance” or a “burden”, but rather they were a blessing to you as you are meant to be to them?
What’s the question, then?
What if the question is, “How has God always intended us to relate to one another?” What does it take to live a blessed joyful life? The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything…
And, how do we bring this about in our homes, our days, and our churches?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
3 x S = 42?
Maybe so. I just ponder these things now and again…
Grace to you, Gentle Reader! Bless! — The Little Monk
“The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (I Timothy 1:5)
Love is patient and kind.
Love understands we all learn in different ways and at different rates. We all have different levels of education. And while we may have a strong desire to learn and understand Scripture, we cannot all understand the King James Version, or the New American Standard Version or the English Standard Version. As beginners, some of us may need to cut our teeth on The Message or The Voice or the Easy to Read Version first. Please be kind and compassionate while we learn and grow in our faith. These versions are not heretical; they simply provide added explanation while we are in transition from milk to meat.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
We all fall short of the glory of God. Please don’t hold yourself higher than we are because you’ve had more education. The Pharisee had more education than the tax collector, yet the tax collector humbled himself before God (Luke 18:9-14). Please allow us to develop our own, unique relationship with our Lord.
Love is not self-absorbed, nor does it demand its own way.
Please don’t demand that I worship as you do, pray as you do, or subscribe to your religious laws or doctrine. Please don’t tell me I’m not a Christian if… Please do as He asks and teach me to beHis disciple, not yours.
“We have made ourselves content not with seeking the face of God, but with studying the facts of God. We are satisfied with a religion about Christ, without the reality of Christ… There is a place that transcends the boundaries of knowledge and dogma; it is a simple yet eternally profound place where we actually abide in Christ’s love.” Br. Francis Frangipane
Love is not irritable or easily provoked.
Luke recorded Jesus saying, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) If you have fully surrendered yourself to Jesus, then you have accepted His love and grace. Once you have accepted His gift, there is nothing left to irritate, annoy or provoke you. You have an unquenchable desire to give away the love and grace that overflows from Him.
Love keeps no record of being wronged, tallies up no offenses nor keeps score of the sins of others.
In relationship, do you think the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit choose to be offended by each other? Keep score against each other? Decide one was more healing than the other? One saved more souls than the other? When we point out each others’ faults and keep track of wrongs done, over the years we become bitter and resentful. Bitterness and resentment is grist for the enemy; they can easily be turned to hate, and hate locks out love.
Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out.
Love and truth build bridges; hate and fear build walls. Bridges help form relationships; walls prevent relationships. Relationships advance understanding and create true justice. The absence of relationships advances terror and exclusion for everyone. Which would you rather build?
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
When decisions are made from soil of love, faith and hope are harvested. Circumstances are seen from a different point of view. Individual lives are given value instead of being seen as a commodity. Differences become less important than finding connections and common ground which lead to peace.
Love never fails.
God is love. When we allow His love to shine through us, in God’s timing others will desire His unconditional love. They will thirst for His radical grace. They will hunger for His tender mercy. But love must come first.
May [you] have power to comprehend… how wide, how long, how high, and how deep God’s love is, and therefore to know the love of Christ even though it is too great to understand fully, so that your heart may be completely filled up and flooded with God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)
One of the beauties of humanity is when you find people of like mindedness. Kindred Spirits. Someone who thinks similar to you and even understands what you just told them.
For me that seems few and far between. But when I find one it is like a bowl full of gems and jewels and chocolate!
The church we attend has a Wednesday night meeting. I do not always go to the midweek meeting but the last three weeks they have invited three different young adults from a college in the Kansas City area. These kids (I call them) get the opportunity to share what they are learning and going through with the intent of helping others. Youth. So refreshing.
Last night a young man walked up to my husband and I and introduced himself as the guest speaker for the evening. He proceeded to say that he likes to get to know his audience by asking what it is they have been going through lately. Well, having just posted my last blog about the seasons of my life I jumped right in and talked about that. Bam! He totally understood what I was talking about.
Don’t you just love it when you find someone who gets you? It is so important. We all have friends and acquaintances of different degrees. It is important we know that. Some are friends and the relationship may be more one sided. Those are good. Some, well, some are just “hey, how ya doin'” kind of relationship and you keep on walking. That’s ok too.
I’m not saying that this young man is now my deepest friend. I may never see him again. What I am saying is that we all need someone or a few someone’s we can rely on. The someones that don’t question your every look or move. The someones that have your back. The someones that hand over their back to you. The trust that no matter what you go through or how you go through it they will not judge or walk away, even if they don’t understand totally. The love.
As Christians we need to stand with others. We cannot do this life alone. We not only have the power of God within and without but we have others that need us and us them.
Recently, my husband and I saw the need for others to come alongside and hold us up through changes in our life. It’s all good things. He travels from time to time and I cannot always go along. We needed prayer support and friend support while he goes and I stay or when we both go.
So. We formed “Our Posse”. A group of friends of like heartedness and like mindedness. A group of loving and caring friends from quite the variety of life. A Motley Crew. We send out group messages when we have upcoming things we may need wisdom about and they pray. What a difference our life has become. We feel so much lighter. So less burdened.
I recommend this for everyone. It is not good for man to live alone. We were born for relationship. First one with God and then others.
I had a call from a friend of twenty plus years. We use to take nature walks or just gab over coffee and tea. Instant friends. Now she lives in Puerto Rico. But we are still strong together and always will be. It’s as if we never parted geographically.
Don’t stand alone, Dear Reader. There are people out there for your back. Even this blogging community has someone or someones for you to connect with.
“How do I LIVE in Christ, right here, right now, day to day?”
THAT, I call “the littlest question”. That is a question of “how?”, not of “Who?” or of “What?”. That is a question of “little me”, not “All Mighty God”, or “The Mighty Counselor”, or “The Messiah”, or “The Savior”. That is a question of right here, right now, not “In Eternity”, “In the Cosmos”, or “From the Beginning of Time”.
As Christian bloggers, as ministers of the gospel, as church people, as teachers/preachers, we spend much of our time dealing with “The Great Questions!” “Who/What is God and His Nature?”, “What is Truth?”, “What is Forgiveness and how Often?”, “How Should the Bride of Christ, The Church, Run?“, and so on. Those are decidedly GOOD questions. They explore our relationship with God as we seek to know Him intimately and thus experience eternal life. Nothing wrong with such questions. I spend much time in them, as do others.
But, once in a while I am reminded of the fundamental simplicity of Christ. Recently I was reminded, by someone INSISTING that I address a single, very simple question. It shames me to confess, their question was so fundamental and so simple, and I spend so much time “in my head” with the great and mighty questions, that for far too long… I couldn’t even HEAR their question properly.
What was the question?
“HOW… in practical terms… How am I supposed to LIVE, as a Christian?”
Every time I answered, the person shook their head and said, “I HEAR that, but I don’t know how to DO that! I hear that from you, I see that in Scripture, I hear that in Church… but when it comes right down to it, I don’t know what that all MEANS outside of church, prayer and religion. HOW do I DO that?”
I realized that THEY were not the one “not getting it”. THEY weren’t “dense”. *I* was. *I* wasn’t getting it, *I* was being slow on the uptake. I didn’t know why communication wasn’t happening, so I backed up a moment to take my confusion to Jesus, and He showed me the problem. It made me blush then, and it makes me blush now.
I kept giving them “Great Question” answers. You know… “Love God with all your…”, “Love as Jesus loves…”, “Forgive always…” so on and so on. I kept answering the “What?”‘s of Christian living. They weren’t ASKING me about “What?” or “Why?” or “Who?”… they got all that. They knew all that. They were asking “HOW?”, and I was utterly failing to respond. What’s more, truthfully, I didn’t KNOW. I hadn’t “thought about it”. It all seems so complicated… “How do you live a perfect (as Jesus commanded at the end of Sermon on the Mount) Christian life?” So many rules. So many opinions. So many interpretations. So many traditions. What was I to say?
So, as I stopped my speaking, closed my eyes, backed up… and “punted”… I prayed, then shut up and listened. “Lord? What’s wrong here? Why are we not connecting? I’m missing something critical here.”
And, at first, all I could hear was Jesus’ laughter. Rather like we laugh when watching a kitten tie themselves up in a big ball of yarn. Not “making fun” so much as “recognizing the absurdity of the moment”. His laughter calmed me in the sense that I knew I wasn’t “misleading” or “speaking less than Truth” here, but I remained confused for the moment.
“You’re just making things all too complicated,” He said. “HOW do you live out love? If you want to focus on one, single, behavior that will have the greatest impact on letting Me be Me in you… ‘be KIND’! The closest human label and emotion to ‘agape’ in behavior, is ‘kindness’. Tell him to go out tomorrow, and every day, in every encounter, making every decision, in the kindest way and being kind to everyone. He will know, as do you and everyone else, when he is being ‘unkind’ and ‘selfish’. Tell him, simply to ‘be kind’, and then follow up from there with him later.”
And so I did.
That has affected me since. I’ve looked at that aspect of my Crystal Rose now from many angles. It’s true. “Kindness” in the way we mean that, is central to all of the Old Law. Central to the Gospels. If we were to line up all the encounters of Jesus, and ask what central characteristic they hold in common, His kindness would be atop the list.
Kindness… to be consistently Kind… is very very simple.
It is also very very hard!
Want the Scriptural take on all this?
Read over the entirety of 1 Corinthians 13 for a moment. (It’s a comparatively short chapter. Go ahead and look at it… I’ll wait here.)
<< Hums the Final Jeopardy theme music tune here, waiting patiently…. >>
Finished? Good. Now watch this…
In all that chapter, Paul deals with “love”, and simple behaviors, after opening with matters of Great Questions. After all, Paul’s epistles constantly deal with Great Questions and Weighty Matters… the nature of God, the nature of the Church, the nature of Salvation, discipline in the church, the nature of ministry, the qualifications of ministers… and on… and on… and on. We base much of our Great Question dialogue grounded in the writings of Paul. As I said, nothing wrong with that.
But! We can lose sight of the simple fact that over and over and over, Paul is ALSO “making new believers”! He is evangelizing. He is sharing the SIMPLE Good News of the arrival of Jesus, His Kingdom, and the freedom in our lives of our redemption. Paul doesn’t plunge new believers into heady debate about “to meat or not to meat”, or lots of other things. He speaks of Christ, of His love, of Christ come, and crucified, and risen.
The KEY verse, in all of 1 Corinthians 13, I believe to be Verse Four:
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant…”
As I’ve looked and pondered these things, the opening verses deal with the Great Questions! You can have all the “Great Answers”, and do all the “Great Things”… but without this bedrock, this “love” thing… that’s all meaningless. Everything before verse four, seems to lead up to verse four. Everything after verse four, seems only to expand on and refine it.
“Patient, kind, no jealousy or ego…”
To brag and be arrogant are based in pride, and pride (wounded) is part and parcel of jealousy.
So… right here, in front of man and God and everybody, I say openly… “If you want to live out the perfect Christian life, and have the love of Christ flow through you to others, focus behaviors on ‘patient, kind, not ego-bound'”.
One last note. Think about, in your own life, those persons… those (usually) handful of persons… who have really “shone Christ” in your own life to you. You know who I mean, the one’s who, when you spend time with them, leave you sensing the nearness and presence of Christ more strongly than you did before. Those ones that just ‘cover you up in’ the Father’s love, the Son’s Forgiveness, the Holy Spirit’s presence. The ones you reach towards when you feel that need for the tangible presence of Jesus.
Now, ask yourself, “is that person patient? kind? and humble (ego-free)” in their dealings with me?
I wonder if this relationship stuff – with the very best of intentions – can become a little one-sided:
‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Although the add-on comes close.
‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:7-12
Thank you Father.
But I have to tell you – much as I appreciate these offerings, much as I accept these offerings, much as I embrace these offerings …
I have so much to give, so much to offer, so much You can embrace in me … so much we can be together … so much I want to be in You and You in me!
So I have to say something to You, dear Father –
Ask of my soul, and I will hear. Search of my heart, and I will invite. Knock on my thoughts, and I will connect. For I ask of You to ask of me as I ask of You.
You will ask only for love, why then would I give obligation? And for tenderness, why would I return simple duty? And always relationship, how then can I ever offer a mere slot in a diary?
I know that You, who art Love Unconditional, can only ask good things of me – Will only ever ask good things of me – How then would I ever desire to doubt your request?
This is not “just” the law, this is not “just” Love Unconditional – this is My free will, this is My choice, this is Me living in You as You in Me every day.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
For the very first time, you feel an immense relief. Your burden is lifted. You feel embraced by the love of the Father. You feel the total acceptance of Jesus. You are ready to let down those old barriers and give yourself completely to The One who invited you into His family. You think you can hear the Holy Spirit leading you in truth and love…but then you begin to hear other voices.
If you feel like you are surrounded by a forest of conditions and laws and rules and you need a machete to clear the way to the Father’s heart,
If you seem to hear noisy, clanging cymbals that don’t sound like love but sound like accusations – you know, accusations like:
If you don’t go to church you’re not a Christian;
If you vote that way, you’re not a Christian;
If you do yoga you’re in partnership with the devil;
You’re just a new believer so you don’t know how we do things;
Please recognize we’re all trying to do our best. And sometimes we make big mistakes.
Sometimes we treat you as a number, a filled seat in our church.
Sometimes we consider you converted and assume you believe the way we do because you attend our church.
Sometimes we attempt to indoctrinate you into our convictions because we’ve been raised into a theology or worldview from birth, certain it’s the correct and only one and passionately want to save you from incorrect beliefs.
Sometimes, we’re so busy proclaiming our own views, we alienate the very people Jesus wants us to save.
We forget to introduce you to the heart of God, to teach you to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit so you are able to hear the unique way He speaks to you.
It is a huge responsibility, to share His love, to invite and train in discipleship – a huge distinction from making converts. I think we sometimes shirk the great responsibility Jesus left to us by doing the latter, which requires no relationship, no grace, no pouring out of God’s love.
The former is a commitment, coming from the power of the Spirit; it produces fruit which lasts and reproduces itself out of His love and grace. It forms relationship and brings someone into the family of the Jesus. It’s a joining of hands and heart in the Father’s embrace.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19) This word, make disciples, mathēteusate, means to teach or to be trained as a disciple.
God’s love is radical. His grace is provocative and socially unacceptable. It is not for the faint of heart, but for those courageous enough to pick up this cross and follow Jesus.
Your Relationship with God is Sacred
What matters is your relationship with the Father, your conversation with the Holy Spirit, your willingness to receive and give away the love and grace of Jesus.
What matters is you refining your unique journey with God because He speaks to each of us the way He created us to listen. And rest assured you responded to His invitation at the exact right time for you. He alone knew when you were ready to take His hand and walk with Him. Continue to trust His love, His guidance and His embrace.
What to Read
Before you read any theological books or current books that profess to sway you one way or another; before you read a version of the Bible someone recommends but you can’t understand, get yourself an easy-to-read study Bible. One that has lots of commentary notes and a good index (concordance).
Instead of attempting to follow a 365-day Bible reading program, read the apostle John’s Gospel and in particular the words of Jesus. Highlight them if your chosen Bible doesn’t print them in red. Also read John’s first letter (1 John), his sermon on the Gospel of love. Read it slowly, like dessert.
After that, read the other three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke)along with their introductions, again paying particular attention to the words of Jesus. They write about many of the same events but from their own perspective.
Don’t be afraid to make notes in the margins or underline certain passage. Write question marks, and begin to look at the Scripture references in the inside margins. They refer to other places in your Bible where the same things are being said.
When you’ve finished, you should have a pretty clear idea of what Jesus considered important.
After that, take a look at this list ofresources, then ask trusted friends for one or two books to read.
Above all, don’t lose hope. Don’t lose your own connection to God.
Talk with Him every day. And be sure to take time to listen.
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…
Miriamand Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife,for he had married a Cushite.“Has theLordspoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?”And theLordheard 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 theLordsaid to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out.Then theLord 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 theLordburned 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 natureGod,
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 himto 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.
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…