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.) (NIV)
We can choose our friends: our families are chosen for us. We don’t know whether Moses was thinking along these lines but we wouldn’t blame him if he was. Out in the wilderness on their long and winding road to the Promised Land, Moses was faced with people who often grumbled and weren’t exactly the last word in godly dedication. But here he is faced with problems with his own brother and sister. It is quite likely their real problem was not his dubious marriage but his authority. Was he God’s only mouthpiece? Or more bluntly, why can’t we be as important?
This passage tells us Moses was humble. He was no puny weakling, but then again humility is not the same as weakness or timidity. It mentions his humility because later in this episode we see that he didn’t hit back and tell his siblings to get lost. He even interceded for his sister who was stricken by God for her rebellion. Moses didn’t use his great power to exact revenge.
Criticism is always hard to take. But how it affects us depends on its source. A stranger who insults us and tells us we are rubbish might cause us to flinch a little. But a friend or someone close to us who takes the same approach will cause us to recoil in pain. We are most likely to be hurt in life by those closest to us. They have the greatest capacity to delight us or damage us. This is why families can be crucibles of pain as well as refuges from pain. Intimacy opens us up to much blessing but also some burdens.
Like Moses, we do well not to sink into bitterness or fly into a rage at all this. Best to accept that human beings have the capacity to love and hurt: the two go together. The only way we avoid such a possibility of pain is to avoid closeness altogether. Which leads to even more pain. We accept our friends and our families for who they are and wield the gentle weapon of humility in the face of all our hurts.