I'm pretty excited to explore today's epic fails because they aren't go-to characters in the Bible. We hear a lot about the men we've explored up till this point--Abraham, Jacob, Moses--but these two don't usually get a lot of attention. Perhaps that's why they are so relatable to us. They were a brother and sister combo who grew up in normal circumstances that had a significant part in Israel's journey out of Egypt and towards the Promised Land. They are Aaron and Miriam, the siblings of Moses. (To read his epic fail click here.)
We get the first glimpse of Aaron as an adult in Exodus 4 when God is calling Moses to go to Egypt to deliver Israel out of slavery. Moses claims he isn't eloquent in speech and tries to talk God out of using him (although we know Moses spoke well, as Acts 7:22 proclaims). God becomes angry with Moses and instead appoints Aaron to be the spokesperson for Moses, which later backfires on Moses. As we see here, Aaron was being lifted up as a major player in this exciting story of God's deliverance.
We first Miriam as an adult in Exodus 15 once Moses has led Israel across the Red Sea. It's here she leads the women in a song of praise to the Lord for His faithfulness and power. To think God used these two siblings, by no means earning the honor to be leaders in Israel, in such mighty ways is incredible! Aaron was appointed a prophet and Miriam a prophetess in the nation of Israel, leaders chosen purely out of God's grace.
Their first major mistake--and it's a big one--comes to play in Exodus 32 while Moses is on Mount Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments from God. While Moses is up there Aaron would have been left to oversee the nation. It's really quite sad what happens next. Moses had been up on the mountain for a while and the people began to worry (a common feeling they went to while in the wilderness). So Aaron--a prophet of God to Israel and temporary leader--propose they make a golden calf to worship. Moses is literally hearing from God about the sin of idolatry and the people are below doing this very thing.
The people form a golden calf and begin making offerings and worshipping it, which led to sin and immorality. God informs Moses of what's happening and he is very angry, understandably. In fact, we learn in Deut. 9:20 that God was so angry with Aaron He wanted to kill him, until Moses interceded on his behalf and the nation's! But then Moses sees it all for himself and is angry as well, confronting Aaron for what happened. It gets worse here as Aaron blames the people and lies to say the calf appeared on its own in the fire (when Aaron had fashioned it with his own hands).
I really want to shake my head at Aaron in disappointment and admonish his mistake because it's so obvious what he did was wrong. But then I take a look at my own life and I can't say I'm any better. Chances are you can't either if you're honest. I know I've had a time or two I lost sight of God--felt like He was distant--and out of fear or discouragement, I turned to something unhealthy in this world. No, I can't shake my head at Aaron because I've had my own moments of weakness. Thankfully, Aaron and I and you all serve the same gracious God who doesn't forget about us after a human failure to keep Him at the center of our life.
Moving on, there is a moment in Numbers 12 when both Aaron and Miriam undermine and disrespect their own brother Moses, who is the appointed leader by God over the people of Israel. I'm truly intrigued by this story because there are so many layers to it. On the surface they seem to be opposing Moses for marrying a Cushite; someone outside of the Israel community. Perhaps they looked down upon Moses for marrying her? Another suggestion is that Miriam (who led the charge against Moses) was jealous her position as a female leader in the community would be threatened by the wife. Maybe it was an excuse for other ill-feelings they had against Moses. Perhaps the best answer lies in their own envy of Moses' leadership. Verse 2,
The Lord hears this conversation and immediately calls them and Moses together to address the situation and take up defence for Moses (a subtle reminder God takes up our cause!). At that God addresses their envy. Yes, they are prophets and He speaks to prophets through dreams and visions, but Moses is more than a prophet. With Moses alone does He talk with face to face. God makes it clear there is a distinct difference in His relationship with Moses. He then brings leprosy upon Miriam and she is cast out of the community for seven days.
Again, I can't help but see Miriam and Aaron's sin in my own past. Comparison, which leads to envy, inflicts us all at one point or another. May we be reminded to check our own comparison of others lest we become envious and sin in our heart, against others, and against God.
Aaron and Miriam were regular joes like you and me; people chosen to be used in the kingdom of God for no reason other than God sovereignly chose to use them. Yes, they made mistakes--idolatry, lying, envy--but God was still gracious, loving, and forgiving towards them and used them to be leaders in the nation of Israel in a very pivotal time in history.
God has a plan for you; wanting to use you regardless of what you've done in the past. Just be willing to repent and be obedient, and who knows what God will do with your life!
- Do you relate to Aaron and/or Miriam in any way? How so?
- Do you believe God is gracious and wants to still use you?