Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it (Numbers 12:1–2).
Sometimes our anger and hurtful words serve as a smokescreen, masking the real problem in our lives. Take Numbers 12 as a case in point.
The opening verses bring us into a conflict between Aaron, Moses, and his sister Miriam. As best I can tell, Aaron and Miriam attack Moses because his wife is Ethiopian, and not Hebrew. If you read between the lines, however, you’ll notice that Aaron and Miriam cleverly sidestep the heart of the problem by attacking Moses’ wife. Verse 2 reveals what really irks them: “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?”
Take note: While the real issue is their pride and jealousy, they create a diversion by attacking Moses’ wife instead. The heart of the problem is their deep-seated envy of Moses’ position—his influence over the people is increasing.
While their questions are fair, their conclusion is unwarranted. Moses never claimed he was better than other Israelites; and he never denied that they were all collectively chosen by God. However, God called him specifically to lead the people. Hence, their rebellion against Moses is tantamount to rebelling against God. As with many people in the church past and present, they camouflage their pride under a thin veneer of spiritual zeal and vitality.
Rather than doing some self-examination, they go into attack mode. Their problem, in contemporary parlance, is a lack of emotional intelligence. Simply put, emotional intelligence refers to the ability to manage your emotions and to respond properly to the emotions of others. Furthermore, this involves the ability to understand your emotions.
Because they lack emotional intelligence, they fail to properly identify the issue at hand—namely, their pride, jealousy, and envy.
Let’s bring this to street-level, where you and I live.
Do you ever see people argue over minor disagreements, all the while failing to address the real problem? Do you ever attack someone’s character simply because, deep down, you’re jealous of their gifts and skillset? Do you ever lash out at someone in your family, company, or church because they’re rising to a position of leadership?
Because we’re skilled self-swindlers we can even cloak our anger, resentment, pride, and jealousy under the guise of “constructive criticism,” claiming that we want to help someone when in reality bringing them down serves only to reinforce our own self-importance.
These reflections serve to remind us that we are not in peacetime.
We are always at war with the enemy who seeks to trip us up anyway he can. We must remain clear-headed, sober-minded, and humble before God at all times.
David’s closing prayer at the end of Psalm 139 must remain in the forefront of minds: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23–24).