Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it may give grace to those who hear (
Friend to Friend
Miriam was the brave little girl who hid among the bulrushes to watch her baby brother floating in the Nile among the crocodiles and would-be assassins of the Hebrew babies. Because the Hebrews were growing too numerous for the Pharaoh’s comfort, he issued an edict that all Hebrew male babies must be killed as soon as they were born. But Moses’ mother had a dream that her son would live. After she could no longer hide the growing babe in the quiet of her cottage, she wove him his own little ark of reeds, covered it with pitch and set him afloat in the crocodile infested Nile River. His sister, Miriam, hid among the bulrushes as he set sail.
She watched as the Pharaoh’s daughter spied the basket and her attendant drew the beautiful boy from the water’s edge. “This must be one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.
Then Miriam emerged from her hiding place and bravely inquired. “Shall I go and fetch one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”
Not only did Moses’ mother get to nurse her son, watch him say his first words and toddle his first steps, she was paid handsomely to do so.
Eighty years later, we meet Miriam again. Only this time she is not hiding among the reeds of the Nile, but leading the fleeing Israelites in praise and worship after their escape from Egyptian bondage. She used her words to encourage God’s people and her musical talents to lead them in song.
But something happened to Miriam along her journey to the Promised Land. She became disgruntled with Moses’ leadership and began to use her words to attack her brother rather than attend to God’s people. Let’s join Miriam as her words became her undoing.
Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the LORD heard this.
(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
At once the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them came out. Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, he said, “Listen to my words:
“When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions; I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:1-8)
Those are words that should strike fear into any of us who dare to speak against God’s servants. We should be afraid to speak against God’s elect. As Paul wrote, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).
When the cloud from which God spoke to Miriam and Aaron lifted, Miriam was covered in leprosy and her skin appeared like snow. Moses, even though he was the one who was questioned and ridiculed, prayed for God to heal his sister. Yes, God did heal her leprous skin and her diseased words, but not before she spent seven days in isolation outside the camp. Ultimately, over a million people’s journey came to a complete stop for one week because of one woman’s sinful words. Her grumbling gossiping words impeded the entire group from heading to where God had intended them to go.
Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that my words will never stop progress. I pray that I will never use my words to speak ill of Your children. Help me. Stop me. Put Your hand over my mouth. May no unwholesome word come out of my mouth, but only that which is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now it’s your turn
Have you ever experienced a situation in which one person’s words or a group of people’s words brought God’s work to a sudden stop?
All too often the church becomes a breeding ground for grumbling and gossiping. Church members have very specific ideas about how a church should be run: contemporary music vs. traditional music, choir robes vs. street clothes, seeker-sensitive vs. discipleship of believers. Before you know it, the journey to the Promised Land comes to a halt.
What are some ways that you can bring peace to a potentially volatile situation?
How can you use your words today to encourage the leadership of your church?
Consider writing a note or an e-mail of encouragement to someone in ministry who has blessed you.