Sermon: Blessed are the Meek
Scripture: Matthew 5:5
In this week’s lessons, we discover how the Bible defines meekness, and what is promised to those who possess it.
Theme: The Meekest Man
Now I have noticed in preparing this study that not all of the commentators on Numbers are willing to accept this aspect of the story of Moses and his Cushite wife. In fact, most of them simply ignore the girl’s racial characteristics. But we have every reason for believing that this was the case and that the rebellion was based purely on racial prejudice. Some conservative commentators would dismiss this view on the grounds that the people of Israel were later forbidden to marry among the Canaanites, who inhabited the land of Canaan before their conquest under Joshua. But this was later, and it was based on the debased religion and sexual malpractices that characterized the people of the land (Ex. 34:16). At this time there were no such injunctions. Joseph had married an Egyptian girl, Asenath, the daughter of an Egyptian priest. And many persons of other oppressed nations had left Egypt with Israel at the exodus and presumably were incorporated into the newly emerging nation (Ex. 12:38). It was one of these that Moses married, and it was against her racial characteristics that Miriam and Aaron rebelled. The Bible says, “And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it” (Num. 12:1-2).
Now if there are still doubts about this interpretation of the story these should be dispelled by the sequel. For God gave a punishment to Miriam, the instigator, that was frighteningly appropriate to her prejudice. “And the LORD spoke suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron and Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forth. And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant, Moses, is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, even plainly, and not in dark speeches… Wherefore, then, were ye not afraid to speak against my servant, Moses? And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed. And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow” (Num. 12:4-10).
Now, that’s the biblical account. In other words, God said to Miriam, “You think lighter is better? All right, have more of it.” She became a leper as God used the incident to teach that there was to be no purely racial prejudice in Israel. And, of course, there must be no such prejudice among God’s people today.
We come to the end of the story, and we find that Moses prayed for Miriam, so she was healed. But we ask, “What was the conduct of Moses through the incident? Did he fight back? Did he seek to defend himself against his accusers?” Not at all. Moses submitted himself to God. He bowed low before God, and thus was vindicated. Therefore, in his response Moses became a forerunner in conduct of Jesus Christ, “who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:22-23). Meekness of this sort will take off its shoes before the burning bush, but will obey God by walking up to the mightiest ruler of the day and demanding, “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go” (Ex. 5:1).
What was Miriam’s punishment for speaking against Moses? Why was it appropriate?
How did Moses show meekness in response to this whole event?
Reflection: In what ways did Jesus demonstrate meekness, and what are the implications of this in both our individual lives and in the life of our church and its witness?