In my last blog post, “The Shocking Truth About Those Who Grumble Against Moses,” God is thoroughly upset with Moses’ sister, Miriam, and brother, Aaron for openly questioning Moses’ station with the Lord and now God is going to handle it His way.
Moses is the accused and Aaron and Miriam, the accusers, so all must be present before the Great Judge of the Universe, God. And, in Numbers 12:5-8 God directly speaks to Miriam and Aaron. In fact, He tells them to “come forward and hear My words.”
That is, the accusers, the rebels, are separated from Moses; some Hebrew commentaries even suggest that Moses did not hear what God said to Aaron and Miriam because it was a private conversation.
What is said is kind of a combination of high praise and vindication for Moses, along with brutally frank chastisement towards Miriam and Aaron. And, God says that Moses is in a class all by himself. That among all men on the face the earth Moses is unique. In other words, Aaron and Miriam, you simply don’t rank with Moses.
No other individual alive breathes the rarified air that Moses breathes.
That is the meaning of the discourse in Numbers verses 6 and 7 where God explains that when He decides to make a man (or woman) a prophet of His, He does this by making Himself known to that person with the help of a vision. God speaks to the person in a dream.
But, when it comes to Moses, God deals with him in an entirely different manner; God deals with Him face to face, inaudible conversation and not in riddles. Further, God shows more of Himself to Moses than He does to any other man.
Where our CJB and most other Bibles say that God speaks to Moses “face to face,” it says that God speaks to Moses pe ‘el pe which means, “mouth to mouth.” In Hebrew, the use of the term “face” means “presence.”
So, even though it is true that God and Moses speak “presence to presence,” this verse is getting at something more: that the communication amounts to DIRECT revelation, while Moses is fully conscious, and represents the concept that a 2-way conversion is occurring.
Let’s dissect this a bit more. Moses has been given an unprecedented position among men; He serves Almighty God in a direct manner, and therefore Almighty God deals with Moses in a straightforward manner.
God establishes prophets (Miriam) AND High Priests (Aaron) in an indirect way. He made laws and ordinances that were to be carried out by men to establish the line of High Priests, and to put each succeeding High Priest into power. And the Lord consecrates prophets in a kind of supernatural way, by somehow putting visions of Himself, along with the declaration that He has declared that person to be His prophet, within the unconscious mind of the chosen person.
Then he gives that prophet the messages He wants to be passed along to humankind, but He does this through dealing with these prophets’ mysteriously in visions and dreams.
But, with Moses, it’s different. With Moses, the contact with God is as close as it gets between the fleshly and the spiritual. God has a conversation with Moses just as you and I would think of conversation. A dialogue. I say something, you respond. You offer a suggestion, I reply. I ask a question; you give me the answer. I say I don’t understand, so you elaborate. A give and take, an exchange of information occurs.
And this is what went on between Moses and God. Of course, God was supreme and Moses submissive, but the whole concept is that Moses could sway God and that as according to His will, God would at times give in to Moses.
Even more, God makes it clear that He has put Moses in charge of “all His household.” Let us be clear what God means by this. The Lord’s family, at least on earth, is Israel. The Lord established His household with the creation of Israel as a people set apart for Himself. God put Moses in charge of that household through a declaration.
In other words, Moses was just an ordinary flesh and blood man. He was no better or worse than any other man. But, God divided, elected, and separated Moses away from all other people for His good reasons, and then declared Moses to be the master of His household, just as Pharaoh declared Joseph to be master of HIS entire household, Egypt.
Moses bears God’s authority and power just as Joseph bore the power and authority of Pharaoh back in Egypt. Moses wasn’t God Almighty, and neither was Joseph the Pharaoh of Egypt.
Now that Aaron and Miriam understand the position of Moses; and unlike a High Priest there is no pre-established line of succession, there is no vote or approval of the people to decide who is to be in charge of God’s household, Israel.
There is no democracy set up here. God voices His anger against those who would DARE to speak against such a God-appointed mediator as Moses. And, that there is a price to pay for rebelling against him.
The price, the wages of this rebellion, was that Miriam was stricken with what most Bibles will say is Leprosy. Wrong. She was stricken with Tzara’at. Indeed Tzara’at was a skin disease, but it was not Leprosy. Leprosy wasn’t even known in that part of the world until hundreds of years into the future.
Besides, the Hebrew word used here, Tzara’at, doesn’t indicate a particular disease. Several different levels and kinds of Tzara’at ranged from minor to severe.
But the key to understanding the term Tzara’at is that it is a spiritually based infliction. It is the outward manifestation of one’s inward and hidden condition. It is a God thing, whereby Tzara’at is a punishment or a disciplinary action upon an individual, divinely caused.
Now, there is no mention of punishment upon Aaron. I have no idea why. But, this is not the first time we’ve seen Aaron easily led into sin; he did so when the people cried to him to build a Golden Calf, and (although reluctantly), he did as they asked.
And this is a good reminder to us all that even though Aaron was High Priest, he was still just a man. He wasn’t any less or more sinful in nature than those beneath him. He didn’t have his evil inclination removed. Temptations are still placed in his way just as for us modern Believers. And, he failed from time to time (again just like us modern Believers), no matter his intent not to.
In brief, look at the pattern set up here in Moses; the pattern of how the Messiah was established.
- He would be declared, or spoken, into existence.
- Even though He was, on the one hand, human, his position as Messiah had no human peer.
- The Messiah was to be God’s trusted Master over His entire household. And, who is God’s household? Israel and all who was to be joined to Israel through those covenants given to Israel. Jesus was given all of the Father’s authority over men.
- Men would come against the Messiah, and say that this man doesn’t have anything they don’t. That they are just as close to God, that they hear from God, that they have just as much standing with God as does Jesus.
- That as great as God’s appointed prophets are and were; that as superior and outstanding as the High Priest was, this Mediator was above them all.
- That the great Mediator would have God’s spirit in him, and if others were to have God’s Spirit it would have to be drawn from Moses’, and later Jesus’, body.
- The Messiah would be humble, meek. He would NOT come as a great world leader, seeking to rule all in his power. Rather, he would be a reluctant leader, but always willing to bow the will of the Father.
- The Messiah would NOT be an intermediary being; He would be a Mediator and Intercessor. He was not some other being; he was fully a man. And, yet, he was fully God. Not a hybrid of the two, and not something halfway in between a man and a god, like an angel. Let me emphatically state that while the Mediator/Intercessor attribute of Moses was entirely carried out in Yeshua, that certainly the aspect of Christ’s being God and fully man was unique to Jesus. And this was something that Moses was NOT because there could only have ever been ONE with that mysterious, inscrutable characteristic… and that ONE is Messiah Jesus.
Then, in Numbers 12 verse 11 we’re introduced to yet another piece of the pattern that would be established in Moses and followed in Messiah: Aaron, even though God’s presence is right there with him, pleads forgiveness of his sin from MOSES!
Aaron says to his brother, Moses: “OH, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned.” WOW! What was Aaron thinking? He calls Moses, “my lord,” and asks MOSES not to count their rebellion as sin? Trust me: this is NOT like you or I asking someone we have offended to forgive us. And this is not Aaron asking Moses, as a brother, to accept his apology. We offend people, but we sin against God.
Is this not exactly how we are to approach Jesus? Are we not to ask Jesus “my Lord, please do not count against us the offenses that we have committed against the Father”?
Aaron finally got it. He now understood the lofty position of Moses. He understood that Moses was God’s appointed Mediator and Intercessor. And, while it was not Moses, per se, who does the forgiving (it was Abba, the Father), there WAS no approaching God except through Moses. And, whatever Moses decided on a matter, and spoke it to the people as his decision, it was done with the power and authority of the Almighty Father.
We pray as a result of our Mediator, Jesus, TO the Father. We do NOT pray to the Mediator as the SOURCE of the power and authority. Jesus says all power and authority was given to him; so, WHO gave Jesus that power and authority? God, the Father, gave Jesus that power and authority.
When asked by Jesus just how we should pray and this occurred AFTER He made it clear that He was God, He said we should pray “Our Father.” And, Jesus Himself prayed “Our Father.”
Jesus was God. He wielded power and authority of the Father God, yet He is NOT the Father. Rather, He is Jesus, the Word, who is God the Son.
Don’t ask me to make this any easier to understand, because I can’t. And this leaves us all with a giant mystery; I understand that. But, I think we should accept this as the incredible mystery that it is because if it was fully comprehensible by our minds, entirely rational and logical and scientific…where is the need for faith?
Humanity has tried to draw up all kinds of models and use all sorts of human words and phrases to describe the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These attempts fall so short that they seem to send us off on wild-goose chases inevitable and the result is strange doctrines.
Let’s just observe the Messiah-patterns of Joseph and Moses, accept what Jesus said about His relationship to the Holy Spirit and the Father and get all we can from that, and leave the rest alone.
So in Numbers verse 13, Moses, as Mediator, takes Aaron’s request to heal his sister Miriam from the divinely wrought Tzara’at that was now upon her, to the Lord.
I can tell you with full confidence that Miriam was healed right on the spot even though not explicitly detailed. Right then. How do I know this was the case? I know this was the case because of the Levitical laws concerning impurity and the rituals of purification.
God answers Moses by saying, “let her be shut out of the camp for seven days.” Don’t let the part about “if her father spit in her face” send you up a rabbit trail. It only means that if a woman’s father found fault in her, and humiliated her for her indiscretion, that he would send her away from him for a time.
Notice the comparison made between a stillborn baby (in Numbers 12 verse 12), one who died in the womb for whatever reason and the Tzara’at that afflicted Miriam. This Tzara’at was a kind of death, just as the passing of the unborn child.
However, Miriam’s condition is NOT compared to the death of a baby because Miriam was in danger of physically dying from her Tzara’at; in general, Tzara’at (despite the many Hollywood movies to the contrary) was not a deadly disease, although it was often disfiguring.
The comparison is Biblically because of actual death; eternal death is separation from God. And, the Levitical Laws separated a person who was ritually unclean separated from God. They were, in essence, in a state of spiritual death. Their souls, or spirits, were as dead and rotting away, as was the body of a stillborn infant. And, the skin condition called Tzara’at was merely an outward manifestation of that inner death and rotting away.
So, Miriam faced the standard procedure for ANYONE who contracted Tzara’at… they had to be put outside the camp because they were ritually impure; were separated from God’s people because they were separated from God.
Miriam was put outside the camp for seven days and here is how I know that Miriam was healed by God immediately. The regular ritual period of cleansing for a person who has Tzara’at (7 days) does not start until that person is FREE of any signs of Tzara’at.
In other words, the clock that counts down that 7-day period doesn’t begin ticking, until that person any longer HAS Tzara’at. And this is a principle, a law that applies to virtually all of the purification rituals. The CAUSE of the ritual impurity has to be gone before the prescribed period of cleansing can begin.
Further, this whole scene is eerily similar to a time when Moses first met God, and he wanted proofs about who God was, and what the extent of God’s power amounted to.
Recall that God told Moses to put his arm inside his cloak, and when he pulled it out, his arm was white with Tzara’at. But, when God instructed him to put his diseased arm back into his cloak, the healing was instantaneous and complete.
In essence, the same thing is afforded for Moses’ sister, the prophetess Miriam; she was struck with Tzara’at to reveal her inner sinful condition that led to her outrageous accusation towards Moses, but then the Lord instantly healed her once the point was made.
And, because of Miriam’s excellent standing within the community of Israel, all Israel remained at Hazeroth where they camped until Miriam’s 7 day period of purification ended. And this was no small thing; ALL Israel paid the price of Miriam’s sin and rebellion, by having their journey to the Promised Land delayed by a week.
Those of us who are leaders, teachers, pastors, or prophets need to understand that when we exhibit sin, we can harm those we lead and teach and are appointed to care for. When we get full of ourselves and teach speculation as fact, or men’s doctrines as God’s truth, or make predictions that are of our minds and not of God’s, then we not only commit sin we impede those to whom we’re responsible for being ministered. And we will be held accountable.
The chapter ends by telling us that after that week passed Israel moved on from Hazeroth to Paran, a desert wilderness. Likely where they next camped for an extended stay was Kadesh.