and the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud, stood at the entrance to the Tent, and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them had stepped forward,
bear these words in the silent composure of his magnanimity and meekness, it nevertheless became God to justify his servant, as God alone could effectually and signally justify. God notes all unjust and slanderous doings with respect to his people. He hears, even though the reviled ones themselves be ignorant. God then proceeds by one course of action to produce a double result - to humble Miriam and Aaron, Miriam in particular, and to exalt Moses. In what he did, notice that with all his anger and severity he yet mingled much consideration for the transgressors. We need not suppose that their words had been spoken to any considerable audience. More likely they were confined to the limits of the domestic circle. And so the Lord spake suddenly to the three persons concerned. Probably none but themselves knew why they were summoned. There was no reason for exposing a family quarrel to the gossip of the whole camp. The sin of Miriam need not be published abroad, though it was necessary, in order to teach her a lesson, that it should be condignly punished. So they were called to the door of the tabernacle, and there God addressed them from the pillar of cloud, with all its solemn associations. This word suddenly also suggests that when God does not visit immediately the iniquity of the transgressor upon him, it is from considerations of what we may call Divine expediency. He can come at once or later, but, at whatever time, he certainly will come. Consider now -
I. THE HUMBLING OF THE PROUD. This was done in two ways.
1. By the plain distinction which God made between them and Moses. It was perfectly true that, as they claimed, God had spoken by them, but he calls attention to the fact that it was his custom to speak to prophets by vision and by dream. There was no mouth to mouth conversation, no beholding of the similitude of the Lord. God can use all sorts of agencies for his communications to men. It needs not even a Miriam; i.e., can speak warning from the mouth of an ass. But Moses was more than a prophet; prophet was only the part of which steward and general, visible representative of God, was the whole. What a humbling hour for this proud woman to find that Jehovah himself had taken up the cause of her despised brother! It is probable that Moses himself had mentioned little of the details of his experiences of God; they were not things to talk much about; perhaps he could not have found the fit audience, even though few. Upon Miriam it would come like a thunderbolt to know how God esteemed the man whom she had allowed herself to scorn. So God will ever abase the proud by glorifying his own pious children whom they despise. Satan despises Job, says he is a mere lip worshipper, a man whose professions will not bear trial; he gets him down into the dust of bereavement, poverty, and disease; but in the end he has to see him a holier man, a more trustful and prosperous one than before. Miriam meant the downfall of Moses; she only helped to establish him more firmly on the rock.
2. By the personal visitation, on Miriam. She became a leper. As her pride was hideous in the manifestation of it, so her punishment was hideous - a leprosy, loathsome and frightful beyond the common. We might expect this. A malignant outbreak in her bodily life corresponded with the malignity of the defilement in her spirit. As to Aaron, we may presume that his sacred office, and to some extent the fact that he was a tool, secured him from leprosy, but the visitation on his sister was punishment in itself. He felt the wind of the blow which struck her down. Proud souls, take warning by Miriam; you will at last become abhorrent to yourselves. Remember Herod (Acts 12:21-23).
II. THE EXALTATION OF THE MEEK. This is a more inward and spiritual thing, and therefore not conspicuous in the same way as the humbling. It is something to be appreciated by spiritual discernment rather than natural. Besides, the full exaltation of the meek is not yet come. The resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus himself were arranged very quietly. But we cannot help noticing that from this sharp and trying scene Moses emerges with his character shining more beautifully than ever. He does nothing to forfeit the reputation with which he was credited, and everything to increase it. He acted like a man who had beheld the similitude of the Lord. Notice particularly the way in which he joins in with Aaron, interceding for his afflicted sister. This is the true exaltation: to be better and better in oneself, shining more because there is more light within to cast its mild radiance, as God would have it cast, alike upon the evil and the good, the just and the unjust (Psalm 25:9; Psalm 59:12; Proverbs 13:10; Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 29:23; Daniel 4:37; Matthew 23:12; Galatians 6:1-5; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 3:4; 1 Peter 5:6). - Y.
The Lord came down.
1. As, first, His speed. By and by the Lord called them; so showing us how fitting a thing, yea, how pleasing to Him, convenient expedition is in justice, and how displeasing, needless, and sinister delays. It showeth also what a tender feeling God hath of the wrongs of His children, not only of some, but by name of magistrates' and governors' wrongs, when they are spoken against without cause. Surely He so feeleth it, that even by and by He will undertake the righting of them, and cannot hold from punishing such offenders as so lightly regard His holy ordinance. We think that unless we keep ado in our own causes it is not well (and I condemn not all care this way), but certainly none have been sooner and better righted than such as patiently have endured a time and committed things to the justice of God.
2. He calleth the two offenders by themselves, leaving Moses to hear and see for his comfort the Lord's care for him. And this also is a great point of justice, to call persons that have done amiss, not carrying matters in secret and condemning without hearing.
3. He speaketh to them and biddeth them hear His words as He had heard theirs. Which likewise showeth that true justice chargeth men, and doth not hoard up in heart what cutteth off love and liking; giving good words outwardly, and yet inwardly thinking most evil things. Oh, let us hear your words if you have conceived any offence, and then will either confession or true purgation give satisfaction? The contrary course may have policy in it, but who shall justify it for piety, charity, or any virtue?
4. In His words He setteth down the difference of prophets, showing that all have not alike measure vouchsafed of Him, and therefore may not argue, I am a prophet as well as he; ergo, as good as he. Such kind of reasonings have in all times disquieted the Church and peace of the godly. The differences which God layeth down you see in the text. To some by vision; to some by dream; to some in darker words, to some in plainer; but to Moses mouth to mouth; that is in a more excellent measure of grace, and familiar favour than ever to any. Therefore, although the Lord had also spoken by them; yet forasmuch as it was not in that degree as to Moses, they should not have compared themselves with him, but yielded him a reverence above themselves. Yea, how were ye not afraid, saith the Lord, to speak against My servant Moses, even against Moses? So showing that imparity of grace and gifts from the Lord should work ever an imparity of honour and regard by all that will walk rightly, though in some other respect there may be a parity.
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