Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Chasing History: Miriam - Keeping Our Eyes on What God Gives Us

ChasingHistoryLinkUpGrowing up in Hawaii, my family had devotional time together after dinner. We called it ‘ohana time – ‘ohana means “family” in Hawaiian. I remember that we had some books that we read through; questions we talked about; but what I remember most is acting out the stories from the Bible. And for some reason, the one I remember most is the story of Moses.

While my father read aloud from Exodus out of his hard-covered, gold-toned Good News Bible, my mother, brother, and I recreated the river Nile on our living room floor. My favorite sheets from my parents’ bed – the ones with the watery pattern in blues, greens, and aquas spilled across the floor. The wicker laundry basket was relieved of its usual load and padded with soft towels and blankets. My little brother, playing Moses, would fold himself into the basket (oh how I laugh with joy at that memory – trying to imagine the towering six-foot plus man he’s grown into trying to do that now) so I – wrapped in a simple white sheet, being Miriam – could carefully steer the basket to the side of the river to my mother, the princess.

I identified with Miriam. She was the older sister. Her job was to look after her little brother – not always the easiest thing to do! After Moses was placed in the basket in the river, Exodus says, “His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.” I always wondered how long she had to stay there. In the Bible, it jumps right into Pharaoh’s daughter coming down to bathe and finding the basket, but there’s no way to capture that passage of time. Was Miriam there for five minutes? Five hours? Did she have to do this for several days?

There are times in our lives when God asks us to wait for something – to wait for Him. It’s usually not easy – not with our sense of urgency; our sense of chronological time ticking away. But if we hold out, if we wait, He is always faithful to His promise and brings His answer in His time.

Whatever her time of waiting was, Miriam stayed and watched over her brother. And it was she who was brave enough to approach the princess to ask about finding a nurse for him – and thoughtful and thorough enough to bring her own mother; ensuring that Moses would be raised in his own home until he was of age to be weaned and raised in the Pharaoh’s house.

We hear nothing of Miriam until Moses returns to Egypt as an adult after living in Midian and meeting the Lord at the burning bush. What must it have been like for her – all those years in bondage, working day in and day out; wondering what became of her brother. Did she know that he had abandoned his royal life after killing the overseer? Did she have hope of ever seeing him again?

Miriam is not mentioned again until Exodus 15, after Pharaoh and his army have been swept under the Red Sea, Moses and the Israelites sing.

Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them:
Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
He has hurled into the sea.

Photo by Edumigue
It is here at the Red Sea that she is spoken of as a prophetess – God has spoken to her and through her.

That must have been heady stuff – in that day or in any day - for the Lord himself to speak to you or through you. This is where it got complicated for Miriam, or for anyone who is striving to be a servant for the Lord. There seems to have come a time when that wasn’t enough for Miriam. When she, along with her brother Aaron, got tired of being in little brother Moses’ shadow and longed for a higher status of their own.

I find this one so relevant – for anyone today who looks around at others who are being blessed by God and asks, “why not me?” For the writer or blogger who celebrates the success of her friends, but wonders quietly in her heart if her time will ever come. For the young woman who dreams of becoming a mother and attends one baby shower after another for friends and family while waiting to fill a cradle in her own home. For the family struggling to make ends meet; waiting on that right job to come through – wondering how long it will be until they can move into a home that fits or make it through the month without holding their breath.

Miriam and Aaron were not so patient – they spoke out against Moses and his family – and God dealt with them. Miriam especially felt His judgment. He reminds them, Moses is different than other prophets - he has a closer relationship with God, and that the Lord is the one who will make that decision. As her judgment for challenging Moses, Miriam is afflicted with leprosy and is banished from the camp. Moses pleads with God on her behalf, and she is healed eventually, but does not enter the promised land and is buried in Kadesh.

Miriam had God’s calling in her life. She did not play an insignificant part in the story of the Hebrew people and their release from Egypt. Her challenge however, came from taking her eyes off of her calling and looking to what others had – in her case, her brother Moses – and desiring that instead.

God gives each of us gifts. We need to honor and nurture these gifts and allow them to grow to use in His service and in ministry. Be encouraged that He knows your individual talents and heart’s desires and be content with what He has given you. If you keep your eyes on Him and on His calling in your life, He will make you fruitful and multiply those gifts beyond your wildest imagination – and you’ll be able to return it all again for His glory.


  1. Oh my friend! How I adore this! I love the story of Miriam and to be honest, hadn't really remembered her unfortunate end... but how you tied it in to us - right here, right now - and how we must honor and celebrate not only those who go before us... but also the gifts that He has placed within each of us as well! To wait on the Lord and trust in His timing - and to not give in to that temptation of comparison! Such a great reminder!

    1. Thanks much! I'm really enjoying this series. And I need to pay attention to my own writing - goodness. Trusting is not my strong suit, but I'm working on it!

  2. This is fantastic. I had never really thought much about Miriam, and certainly not her story. She's been one of the lost women of the bible for me. Thank you for bringing her to the light!

    1. Bless you Marcy - I enjoyed writing this and wandering down memory lane. And then finding some good, new truths in her story to share.

  3. So glad I saw your tweet to Karrilee and Marcy this morning, or I might have lost this post among the many I have in my queue to read! This is beautiful and what a blessing of a message. I admit I kinda just skimmed over Miriam, but oh what a lesson she has to teach us. I'm so guilty of this... and have plans to write a piece on learning contentment. Lately the desire for what others have -- blog success, published books, homeschooled children, beautiful house on acerage -- it's weighing me down and I need Him to pull me out. Thank you so much for this reminder!!!

    1. So glad you stopped by - especially since we were in the same passage this week! I'm glad it was encouraging.

  4. So, not gonna lie, I feel so dumb to realize I've never really connected the sister by the Nile with Miriam in the desert. DUH. She sure did wait for a long time, starting at the Nile, then 40 years, then 40 years in the desert, etc. And I had forgotten what happened to her in the desert. Thanks for doing all this reading and writing - reminding us all of Miriam's Story (and how it applies to us today)!


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