This year I am teaching a Bible study at our church called Women Who Dare to Believe along with Nan Gurley and Bonnie Keen, the authors of the study. This last week, it was my turn to teach on Miriam. I looked at three windows into Miriam’s life that are found in scripture: Miriam at the bulrushes (Exodus 2); Miriam, the prophetess (Exodus 15) and Miriam, the leper (Numbers 12). So then I got to thinking: Given these three windows into Miriam’s life, was she an Ice Queen, an Orphan or a Princess?
At first, I was tempted to label her an Ice Queen. She was the oldest child, and she was a leader of women. She was obviously bold. As a young woman and a slave, she approached the Princess of Egypt to ask if she could find a wet nurse for her baby brother. After they crossed the Red Sea, she was basically a worship leader who led the song of victory and celebration. She boldly proclaimed the works of God before the congregation. In Numbers 12 however, she used her boldness to criticize Moses for marrying a Cushite woman. This made her seem like an Ice Queen because they are typically critical. In Numbers it appeared that she was trying to make Moses seem unrighteous, so that she could seem more righteous, which is a classic Ice Queen move. She placed herself in the position of judge rather than letting God be the judge. It’s interesting that God never found fault with Moses for marrying a Cushite woman. It seemed that Miriam was adding to God’s law, something the Pharisees and Ice Queens are very good at.
However when I really looked at what was behind her question in Numbers 12:2, it made me think she might be an Orphan. She said, “Has the Lord indeed only spoken through Moses? Has He not also spoken through us as well?” I found it interesting to scan the chapters that come immediately before this chapter. Most of them began with “And God spoke to Moses and Aaron.” Then it went to “And God spoke to Moses.” So I imagined that Miriam, the prophetess, was feeling a little left out. “Why isn’t God speaking to me?” was the Orphan question she asked. Also in Numbers 11, it talked about God’s Spirit going out into 70 elders who were prophesying and again Miriam was left out. Perhaps the real question behind the question was “God, do you see me? Do you care about me? Have you noticed me?” But instead of taking her questions to God, they came out sideways onto other people around her, just like they often do for Orphans.
However, based on the other windows into Miriam’s life, she also knew what it was to be a Princess. I think the best picture of this is in Exodus 15:20 after they crossed the Red Sea. Miriam was 100 years old, and God had given her faith sight. As a young girl, she believed along with her family that there was something special about this baby boy Moses, something worth protecting. She saw how God used Moses to deliver the nation of Israel out of bondage. She was rescued from the only life she had ever known, the life of a slave. She stood on the edge of the wilderness where God would teach them what it meant to be His children, His chosen nation. She was free to worship God with singing, with instruments and with dancing. What a beautiful picture of a Princess!
Like Miriam, I stand on the edge of the wilderness. Behind me is a life of slavery, comfortable, but completely wrong. I was a slave to the need to be in control, enslaved to trying to get God to notice me through my good deeds. This was a life a bondage that kept me from being free to love and free to worship. But here I stand with my enemies floating in the sea behind me. I stand in a place where I know God has stepped in and delivered me when I had no power to deliver myself. He sacrificed his very own Son so that I could be free. He did the impossible and raised Him back to life. If my God can do that, I know my God can do anything, even change my hard heart. I declare with Miriam that He is my God, and I will exalt Him and bring Him glory.
However it seems that also like Miriam, as I walk in the journey set before me, I can slip into my Ice Queen and Orphan habits. I begin to make my own laws to maintain my own righteousness. Even worse, I hold the people around me to my impossibly high standards. I also sometimes wonder if God sees me or if he has forgotten about me. I complain about my adversities in the hearing of the Lord. I wish that my life was the way it used to be, that I could go back to Egypt. I want to jump out of my suffering, my wilderness, and be comfortable again. I wish that I had what someone else has, their husband, their ministry, their children.
How thankful I am that the Lord deals with me the way he dealt with Miriam! At their meeting in the tabernacle, the Lord departed in the cloud and left Miriam covered in leprosy. Aaron immediately repented for both of them, and Moses cried out to the Lord to heal her. The Lord said she had to stay outside the camp for seven days, but then she could come back. While this seemed harsh at first glance, I saw God’s mercy covering it all. He could have killed her right then and there, but he spared her life. She had seven days to spend outside the camp when she could repent and be restored. God healed her, which is a sign of forgiveness. How grateful I am for God’s healing in my life, even when it is healing the wounds inflicted by my own sin! The camp waited for her to come back before they move on, just like God is waiting for me to repent and turn back to him. (Consider the picture of the father of the prodigal son watching and waiting for his son to return in Luke 15.)
Miriam is remembered in scripture alongside her two brothers Moses and Aaron. God exalts her to a special place in his story. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” I Peter 5:6 May we all be like Princess Miriam!