One of the Adult Sunday School classes at church is going through the book of Numbers. The event discussed this past Sunday was the twelve spies of Canaan. To give background, chapter 12 was discussed briefly.
Numbers 12 gives the account of Miriam and Aaron (Moses’ sister and brother) as they bring complaints about Moses’ leadership. They use his marriage to an Ethiopian woman as their excuse to cast doubt on his connection with God. As a punishment for their rash actions, God gives Miriam leprosy. Aaron is so worried for her that he pleads with Moses to ask God’s forgiveness which is eventually granted. Seven days later, Miriam is cured of her leprosy.
A few questions came to my mind when rehearsing this story once more. First, why did God only punish Miriam? Aaron was also very much involved. He was also the high priest. Shouldn’t he have more of the responsibility? The second question is was Miriam’s healing God’s way of granting forgiveness or is forgiveness assumed because she was healed?
I believe the text sheds some light on both of those questions. When God addresses Aaron and Miriam, he literally comes to the tabernacle as the Pillar of Cloud. Verse 10 states that when the Pillar departed from the tabernacle that is moment Miriam is struck with leprosy. It is important to remember that God dealt differently with Israel in the Old Testament than he does today, but it should be seen that the judgment was accompanied by God’s departure. What Aaron should have been more concerned about was God’s absence. As the high priest, he was responsible for answering for the peoples’ sin. If anyone should have been aware of God’s absence it should have been him.
Fast forward to Chapter 14. Upon return from Canaan, the spies (except for Joshua and Caleb) report that the land will be too difficult to conquer. Joshua and Caleb stand up and remind Israel that God has already promised the land. Another overlooked moment is verse 10. As Joshua and Caleb speak the glory of the Lord fills the tabernacle. Again, this moment is quickly overshadowed by Israel’s lack of faith and God’s punishment of causing Israel to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
As we approach the Easter season, many will look once more at Christ’s time in Gethsemane. As He prayed in the garden, Christ sweat drops of blood due to His extreme anxiousness. He prayed for God to take away the cup He had been asked to bare. Many assume that being the brutal death He was about to face, but there was something more extreme that he was about to go through. For the first time, God would have to turn His back on His Son when the sin of the world was laid on Him. Christ was worried about the absence of the Father. God’s presence was more important than anything else.
Don’t overlook the presence of God or lack thereof. The reason God gave us His Word was that we may know Him and enjoy His presence. Take time to live in the presence of God today as you…
Walk in Him.