4-8-16. Numbers 12:1-2. The Nature Of Complaints-my devotional

4-8-16. Numbers 12:1-2. The Nature Of Complaints-my devotional

Numbers 12:1-2               Kevin E. Jesmer

Key verse 12:2                 4-8-16

“’Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn’t he also spoken through us? And the Lord heard this.”


In this passage we are going to explore the nature of complaints within the church. This is such a sensitive topic. It is not easy to talk about for it touches the very core of our being, and for many it cries out, “repent!” But it needs to be talked about. And so here we go. Hold onto you seats!…

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

Miriam and Aaron were siblings of Moses. They were with Moses since the beginning. Miriam was the one who put the baby Moses, in a floating basket and followed it as it floated to the arms of Pharaoh’s daughter. Aaron was the one who accompanied Moses to Pharaoh when he challenged the Pharaoh to let the people go. They were very close to Moses and were intimately involved in the work of God in setting the Israelites free from slavery in Egypt. One could say that they definitely earned their place at the table.

But for some reason, these two siblings began to look at Moses with a critical eye. Look at verses 1-2 again. They began to speak against Moses and the reason was his Cushite wife. This woman was greatly envied by Miriam, who evidently thought that she, herself, was worthy of such a position and place. Their complaints continued to grow deeper and deeper. They started to complain about Moses’ authority and how they too held the same authority and this authority came from God also. (If you want to learn more about Miriam refer to (Exodus 2:15; and Numbers 12:20. Deut 24:9, 1 Chronicles 6:3, Micah 6:4)

Even though they were some of the closest people to Moses, it didn’t mean that they were immune to complaining about the leader of God’s people. Aaron and Miriam’s lives were intertwined with Moses’ life. It is sometimes the closest people to us, who share a history with us, who become the greatest critics. People who don’t know us and who don’t share a life with us, don’t care enough about us to complain about what we are doing. It is the people who are closest to us that are tempted to complain about us the most. They are the ones who have a vested interest in our lives, for their lives are somehow intertwined with ours.

Let’s dissect their complaints to discover the nature of what they were saying. Their complaints came in two categories, Moses’ life choices and coveting his God-given authority. Moses made a life choice to marry a Cushite woman and God had raised Moses up to be the leader of his people and the one through whom God would speak through.

First, the complaints about Moses’ Cushite wife. Moses didn’t have a Jewish wife because he lived with the Egyptians for the first forty years of his life and then lived in the desert of Midian for the next forty years. The woman is probably Zaporah, his first wife who was a Midianite. (Ex 2:21) A Cushite was an Ethiopian, from Northern Africa. There is no explanation, in this passage as to why Miriam objected to this woman.  But we can say that Moses’ choice for his own wife gave Miriam an opportunity to criticize the woman and especially Moses.

Second, Miriam and Aaron also complained about Moses’ position of authority and their own lack of it. In verse 2a, Miriam and Aaron stated, “’Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” They represent the priests and the prophets, the two most powerful groups next to Moses. But their real problem was their jealousy of Moses’ spiritual power and authority. The root of their criticism has to do with authority and position in the community. Moses was now the most important person. Everyone was listening to him and obeying him and people were not listing to Miriam and Aaron as much. Also Miriam was no longer the most important woman in Moses’ life. They did not like this and began to publically criticize Moses. The real issue was their growing jealousy of Moses position and influence. Since they could not find fault with the way Moses was leading the people, they chose to criticize his wife.

They may have kept these complaints to themselves for a while. But now they began to talk between each other about them. The spirit of the complaints grew in size and power. Complaints start with a thought and they grow to outward discussion, and if left unchecked, they will lead to outright rebellion and the collapse of a mission. The Bible affirms this in the Book of James 1:13-15, “13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (NIV)

       We need to think about the real issue. Moses’ wife was not the real issue. People often argue over minor things, avoiding the real issue. Rather than face the problem of envy and pride, we create a diversion. Maybe the critical finger that we are pointing needs to be pointed at ourselves. If we are in a disagreement, we need to stop and ask ourselves, “what is the real issue?” Are we trying to raise our own status, by criticizing others? Ask God to help identify the real issue and wisdom on how to deal with it.  If we are the one being criticized then we need to realize that what is being said, may not be the real issue, there is something deeper that may not even involve you. Try to understand what is going on and minister to the need.

There is a temptation to complain about those who have been established in positions of authority. I don’t know what is inside of us, but we want positions of authority. We criticize those who have authority and we criticize those whom we perceive as stopping us from attaining to positions of authority. There is something within us that is not content unless we have a seat at the table, being consulted on everything, and our opinions acted upon. If none of this happens according to our plans, then we criticize leadership.

There are times when leadership deserves to be criticized, especially if they are neglecting their godly duties. But most of the time leaders are criticized for the little things. In this passage it is because of Moses’ wife. And, of course Moses got mad once in a while. There may have been some character traits that would attract criticism. But, despite these peripheral things, Moses should not have been criticized like he was, by his own siblings. God put him in that position. If God didn’t want him in that position, God would take him out of it. We need to trust in God’s sovereignty.

We need to always see what was happening with these complaints in the spiritual realm, keeping it in the proper perspective. This is not a physical battle, against personalities, but a spiritual one. Ephesians 6:12 reads, “12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” We need to step back and take a broader look at what was going on. Satan was actually attempting to use this in order to diminish Moses in the eyes of the people and attempted to do so through Moses’ closest relatives. He wanted to oust Moses from his position of leadership. This is in keeping with his divide and conquer strategy.

In the mean time, what should we do? We need to control our tendency to complain about leadership, (unless it is truly warranted). The background of a leader’s spouse is not warranted. We need to find out what God wants us to do personally, and do it. We need to take the humble servantship role. We need to build up the body of Christ, working along with others in the church. If we really think we should have some authority, then we start at the bottom of the ladder, not at the top. Let God himself establish you through your humble service and obedience to his will. If God has a unique mission for you, learn how to serve that mission and build it up and draw the rest of the church alongside. There is a vast amount of opportunities to serve Christ out there, but many of them are between Jesus and you, at first. Don’t expect the church leaders to immediately back you up. This is a hard pill to swallow, but it is the truth and the pathway to attaining spiritual authority from God and not from ourselves.

Prayer: “Lord, I trust you with what you are doing in my life and ministry. Help me to serve you and follow Jesus in the situation I am in right now and trust you with everything else. Keep my eyes focused on you Lord and not on complaints.”

One word: May the Lord protect our hearts from complaints.


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