If I asked you to name some of the most important biblical women who would come to mind? Surely one if not all of the Mary’s in the New Testament. If you are familiar with the Old Testament you might think of Eve, Sarah, Deborah, Hannah, or Esther.
I wonder how many of you would have thought of Miriam? Miriam is Moses’ big sister, the first woman in the bible to be called a prophet, and God says that she lead the Hebrew people along side Moses and Aaron;
I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. Micah 6:4
Miriam was instrumental in Moses’ rescue by the Pharaoh’s daughter, and she is shown leading the Hebrew women in public worship after they crossed the Red Sea. By any standard that is a pretty impressive resume.
We can learn a lot from Miriam’s life. But if I had to pick one word to sum her up I would pick; ‘outspoken’. This is not to say that every time she speaks she says the right thing. At one point Miriam and Aaron both become rather unhappy with Moses and his leadership.
I think the story even alludes that Miriam and Aaron were considering removing Moses from his role as leader. However God is not pleased with this, and he shows up to scold Miriam and Aaron. Miriam gets the brunt of the discipline. Her skins turns sickly white and for a week she has to stay outside of the community.
I think there are two types of people in the world. The ones who more often find themselves saying, ‘I wish I had said…’ and the ones who more often find themselves saying, ‘I wish I hadn’t said…’. I suspect Miriam is in the latter group, and so am I.
As a person who more often regrets the things I say instead of the things leave unsaid I appreciate Miriam’s life and example. Miriam reminds us that somethings are worth speaking up for. In particular we need to speak up for the weak and the vulnerable. And she reminds us that we need to be cautious with the way we criticize, even when our concerns are justified.
If you had the impression that all good biblical women were consistently obedient, mostly silent, and generally in the background I hope Miriam has started to change that perception. Miriam is a wonderfully outspoken leader in her community. The church needs ‘Miriam’s’ today as much as the Hebrews needed Miriam in her day. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.