Sunday, March 25, 2007

Matt's Messages - Envy Vs. Humility

“Envy vs. Humility”
Life in the Wilderness
March 25, 2007
Numbers 12:1-16

Last week, we read about Israel complaining in the wilderness. Complaining about their hardships and complaining about God’s gracious provision of manna.

And we read about God’s judgment upon them for their complaining. Fire on the outskirts of the camp so that they named the place “Burning” and a quail storm that overwhelmed them with bird meat and resulted in a plague that made them name the place “Graves of Craving.”

But now, having moved to another place, named Hazeroth, and having learned their lesson, the people of Israel are now going to faithfully march right up to Canaan and conquer the promised land. No more complaining, right?


They have not learned their lesson yet. In fact, some of their leaders are now going to complain again.

Surprisingly, some of their most important leaders are going to launch an attack on their chief leader–Moses.

In fact, these important leaders are from Moses’ own family: Miriam and Aaron.

And as we read about their attack on their brother, we are going to see in living color the difference between envy and humility. “Envy Vs. Humility.”

And hopefully, we’ll be drawn away from the one and to the other.

Let’s pray together and then get into Numbers chapter 12. [prayer]

Verse 1 should come as an absolute shock to us.

“Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite.”

It seems that Miriam was the real leader in this.

She began to verbally attack Moses’ leadership (and she roped Aaron into it, too) because Moses had married a Cushite.

Miriam! The same Miriam who had faithfully watched baby Moses in his little basket on the river and boldly spoke to Pharoah’s daughter in a way that rescued Moses and eventually rescued the people of Israel!

Miriam! The same Miriam who had written the first praise song recorded in the Bible. “I will sing to the LORD for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.”

That same Miriam is now publically talking against Moses. Why?

First off, because Moses had married a Cushite. Now that could be talking about Zipporah because the land of Cushan was the same as the land of Midian.

Or it could be that Moses had recently taken a new wife. Perhaps Zipporah had died. And this wife was from Cush or Ethiopia.

Either way, Miriam was upset because Moses had married an outsider. A non-Israelite.

This was, of course, not against the Law unless the wife was not willing to come into the covenant community of Israel.

But there was something deeper here than ethnicity.

There was something deeper in Miriam’s heart than racism.

It was envy. Look at verse 2.

“‘Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn't he also spoken through us?’ And the LORD heard this.”

Notice the envy here?

It isn’t that they just disagree over Moses’ choice of a bride.

They talk against Moses, and they are envious of his position.

“‘Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn't he also spoken through us?’”

Notice that they don’t talk to Moses about their concern. They talk about Moses and they try to get other people on their side.

That’s how envy operates.

If you have a problem with someone, the biblical thing to do is to go to them. Not to talk about them.

90% of the problems that Christians have with one another could be solved by simply following that prescription.

Notice where envy comes from.

Envy comes from pride.

You might not think so, because when you envy something or someone you don’t have something. So you might not think that pride was the issue.

But envy says, “Don’t I deserve what that other person has?”

I’m worth it!

“Don’t I deserve it?”

Miriam said, “Hasn’t the LORD also spoken through us?”

Envy comes from pride.

But humility is the opposite of pride.

It says, “I don’t deserve it.”

When you ask a humble person how he’s doing, he answers, “Better than I deserve.” Right?

But Miriam (and Aaron) were full of themselves and therefore envious of the special relationship that Moses seemed to have with God.

And their envy led to a frontal attack. V.2 “And the LORD heard this.”

Again, the LORD hears everything! In this case, He hears in such a way that He decides to act.

And He acts on behalf of Moses, who was unfairly being attacked.

In this case, Moses was the opposite of Miriam in every way. V.3

“(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)”

He wasn’t perfect, but at this moment in time, Moses was the most humble man that was alive.

And he didn’t deserve these attacks.

Moses loved to share leadership. We saw that last week, didn’t we? He would have rather someone else took over!

And when God gave the Spirit to the 70 elders, including to Eldad and Medad, the ones that weren’t at the Tent of Meeting, Moses wished that everybody could have the Spirit in the same way!

Moses was the picture of humility.

Not always, not perfectly, but truly. And the most humble man on earth.

So, it wasn’t fair that Miriam and Aaron attacked him like this.

And then, God got involved. V.4

“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. [Time to get to the Principal’s office!] Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam.”

Imagine what this was like! God summoned these three to appear before Him. And He came down in the pillar of cloud (whatever that means!), and He stood at the entrance (whatever that means) to the Tent and then summoned the two who were speaking against Moses to step forward. Imagine what they felt!

“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?’”

“You were wondering if Moses had a special relationship with me?

The answer is “Yes!” He does.

With other prophets, there are visions and dreams and riddles.

But Moses and I are on face to face (literally: mouth to mouth) terms.

He has not seen me in my full glory. Noone can see that and still live. But I put Moses in the cleft of the Rock and passed by him. And he has seen my “form.”

“Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

You should have been.

Notice again, the contrast between envy and humility.

Miriam wants to be known as a Leader (with a capital L!).

Moses is known as a faithful servant.

There are only a handful of people in the Old Testament whom God calls, “My servant,” and Moses is one of them.

And it should be our goal to be similarly commended!

It should be our goal to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Do you want that?

I do.

I want to be found faithful. And known as faithful. And serving.

And be known as a servant.

Sometimes, I want to be known as a Leader with a capital L.

I confess to loving to see my name in print and loving it when someone says that I’m a good leader.

And I can get jealous of those who lead bigger churches or who publish books.

But the deepest desire of my heart is to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”

And notice this. Envy (because it is sourced in pride) gets opposed by God. V.9

“The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them. When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam–leprous, like snow.”

She was covered in a skin disease and it was like she was covered in snow!

The Bible says in many place: “God opposes the proud.”

If you are proud, you are striving against God.

And it might seem right now like the proud get away with it, but it is not true.

God opposes the proud.

What you see on the cover of most magazines will encounter the active opposition of the Almighty Ruler of the Universe!

What you see in the posturing of World Leaders will in His timing encounter the active opposition of the Almighty Ruler of the Universe!

And that’s what God does to those who are envious.

God opposes the proud!

“But He gives grace to the humble.”

And Aaron, immediately humbles himself. V.10

“Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy; and he said to Moses, ‘Please, my lord [notice that!], do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother's womb with its flesh half eaten away.’”

Notice how Aaron takes responsibility for his sin.

That’s a mark of humility.

Many confessions these days equivocate on responsibility.

“Well, if I did something wrong, I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry that you’re hurt by that.”

Notice that Aaron takes full responsibility in his request for forgiveness.

And notice how he calls Moses, “Lord.” He puts himself into the position of a subordinate. That’s the position he should have been taking all along.

And notice Moses’ response. V.13.

“So Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘O God, please heal her!’”

Here’s humility in action. He’s gracious.

He’s loving. He feels for her.

He doesn’t say, “That’s right, Lord! You got her now! Give it to her some more!”

He calls out for mercy. He’s maybe too merciful. Because God says that it would be right for her to stay that way for a period of time. V.14

“The LORD replied to Moses, ‘If her father had spit in her face [public rebuke], would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.’”

Why does she have to go outside the camp? Remember chapter 5? She’s got a skin disease. It affects her entire body!

V.15 “So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back. [It appears that God healed her.] After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.”

God gives grace to the humble.

Moses’ prayer for mercy was answered by the LORD.

And they moved on to the staging ground for their attack on Canaan.

Let’s review and then apply this to our lives.

What we have here is a picture in black and white (black like Cushite and white like Miriam’s leprosy) of envy versus humility.

1. Envy comes from pride. Humility is the opposite.

2. Envy says, “Don’t I Deserve It?!” Humility says, “I Don’t Deserve It.”

3. Envy wants to be known as a Leader. Humility is known as a faithful servant.

4. Envy is actively opposed by God. Humility draws grace from God.

Which do you want to be?

Envious or Humble?

It’s easy to pick that out when this list is put up here, isn’t it?

But it’s not so easy to remember this when the temptations rear their ugly heads.

When are you tempted to envy?

At work?
At home?
In your neighborhood?
In your extended family?
At church?

What are you tempted to envy?


God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.

I’ve recently been re-reading C.J. Mahaney’s excellent little book, “Humility: True Greatness.”

I recommend it and all of the 14 practices that he suggests for cultivating humility in our personal lives.

We think of envy (like we do complaining) as a little sin that doesn’t matter very much.

But God cares a lot, doesn’t He?

God opposes the envious but gives grace to the humble.

Because God Himself is humble!

The One Who has every right in all the universe to be proud!

God is humble. Just look at His Son!

Jesus being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–[Good Friday] even death on a cross! Therefore [Resurrection Sunday] God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, [so that on That Day!] at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

He was the humblest of all.

And He was a faithful Servant like Moses.

But He was so much more, friends!

The book of Hebrews picks up this passage from Numbers 12 and points out how much more Jesus was than Moses!

It says, “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.”

Moses was a faithful servant. And may we want to be, too.

But Jesus was a faithful SON!

Moses heard the word of the Lord and saw His form.

But Jesus is the Word of the Lord and is His form!!!!

And Jesus didn’t just pray that we would not have to go outside the camp.

Jesus went outside the camp for us.

He bore our sin and our shame. He suffered outside the city walls for you and for me.

Jesus bore our sins.

And if we trust in Him and hope in Him and Him alone, we have everything!

Forgiveness, Redemption, Eternal Life in Heaven, Hell Cancelled, Heaven Guaranteed, Adoption–Everything!

Jesus is what we need.

If you don’t have Jesus yet, I invite you right here, right now to trust Him as your own Lord and Savior. Your only King and Rescuer.

He bore your sins and went outside the camp for you.

Trust Him. Receive Him.

Turn from your way of doing life and trust in His.

The Humblest Man ever was Jesus Christ.

And He not only shows us the way to live in humility.

But He paid the price for all of our pride and envy.

Come to Him.