Dr. Myles Munroe wr0te in his book The Burden of Freedom, “When a lifestyle of irresponsibility is allowed to increase, the voice of conscience is progressively silenced . . . Conscience has died throughout much of the world’s society because we have inherited a spirit of irresponsibility.” Irresponsibility thrives when we fail to punish wrong behavior. But we also spur its existence by too quickly applying mercy without permitting disgrace. This may seem odd since the word disgrace carries such a negative connotation. This is why Scripture is profoundly important. Notice how God used disgrace to teach us a lesson.
Numbers 12:14—The LORD answered Moses, “If her father had merely spit in her face, wouldn’t she remain in disgrace for seven days? Let her be confined outside the camp for seven days; after that she may be brought back in.”
In Numbers chapter twelve we read about how Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a foreign woman. As the story goes, God punishes Miriam for daring to speak against the faithful leader He appointed and so He strikes her with a serious skin disease. Aaron when he sees her condition cries out to Moses, “My lord, please don’t hold against us this sin we have so foolishly committed. Please don’t let her be like a dead baby whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb” (12:12).
Moses although undoubtedly hurt by the criticisms of his siblings is also pained to see Miriam’s condition and he immediately cries out “God, please heal her!” (12:13) But God sees a bigger issue and refuses to immediately grant Moses’ request. By making Miriam suffer with a scary skin condition (probably leprosy) He accomplished several objectives.
First, Miriam for seven days had to live in fear wondering if God would really heal her or if she would die from her horrible affliction! Second, she suffered the humiliation of being an outcast—a woman who could not live within the Israelite encampment. Third, she had an entire week to ponder the severity of her actions—by speaking against Moses she spoke against God. Finally, she experienced healing grace. Her comments against Moses were meant to undermine his authority. Amongst rebellious countrymen, this was the last action needed and she and Aaron were fortunate to keep their lives—something she would never forget.
We may mistakenly view God as harsh when He punishes people or allows them to suffer. God is never cruel. He is always just. He will not compromise His holiness by overlooking sin. Yet He is also quick to forgive, amazingly patient, and willing to extend grace to sinners. We would do well to read and learn from His actions in the book of Numbers.
We have to be careful not to be too quick to reduce or set aside punishment. The point of punishment is not just to discipline someone for improper behavior, it is also meant to cause him or her to never again want to commit the transgression—the goal is repentance. In the pain of disgrace a repentant person finds wisdom. Had God ignored Miriam and Aaron’s sin imagine how chapter 12 might have turned out. Their complaining would have increased. They might have created factions in an already fractured nation and Moses, humble man that he was, might just have said, “I’ve had it. Let someone else lead these irresponsible people!”
©2014 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)