Wandering And Murmurings
In Chapter 9:15-23, we read how the Lord led His people by the pillar of cloud and fire.
The cloud provided a shade from that Sun in that hot desert and the fire showed them the way at night.
Whenever the cloud lifted, the people of Israel would set out, and when the the cloud stopped, they camped. Sometimes the cloud would linger for a few days and some times it would linger for many months, (verse 19, 22). If the cloud stopped only for one night, then when the cloud lifted in the morning, they would move on, (verse 21).
They would settle down in the evening and in the morning they would have to move.
Think of the practical inconvenience of this! Here were people traveling with their little children, their tents and their animals-and they had to set up their tents, when the cloud stopped late in the evening. I imagine that it would have taken them a few hours to set up camp before they could go to bed that night. At dawn in the morning, they would hear the cry going through the camp that the cloud was lifting again. I can imagine the irritation that swept through the camp-because they would have to pack up everything and move again. Thus God taught them to learn patience and to obey Him moment by moment!
A true servant of God will never complain when God tell him to do what is inconvenient. God may tell him to go somewhere and then tell him to return. He obeys instantaneously, like the angels of heaven.
The pillar here is a picture of the Holy Spirit. You can be born of the Spirit and baptized in the Spirit, and yet not be led by the Spirit in your daily life. Only those who are "led by the Spirit" are the sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
There is a difference between a child and a son. A son is mature and grown up. Those who are led by the Spirit in daily life are the sons.
God was very strict about any murmuring or complaining that he heard in the camp of the Israelites. The Israeltites who grumbled in the wilderness "were destroyed by the destroyer" ( I Corinthians 10:10). And we are told in the next verse that this is written as a warning for us not to grumble and complain. (I Corinthians 10:11).
We shine as lights in a world full of murmuring and complaining, mainly by living a life in which we "do all things without murmuring and complaining" (Philippians 2:14).
Murmuring and complaining were characteristics of the Israelites during their 40 years of wondering in the wilderness and are the clearest proof that such a person has not yet entered the land of Canaan (the victorious life). A Christian leader who grumbles and murmurs can never lead others into the victorious life. One of the clearest proofs that we have finished with "wilderness wandering", is that we have stopped grumbling and complaining in our homes and elsewhere, and started giving thanks at all time and for everything (I Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:20).
In Chapter 12 we read about the grumbling and murmuring of the leaders: Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses concerning the women he had married. In actual fact, this was because they were jealous of Moses' ministry. Aaron was 3 years older than Moses and Miriam was 12 years older, and they saw God using their younger brother as Israel's prophet and leader. It's not easy to submit to someone who is younger than you.
God chose Moses because he was the humblest man on earth (verse 3)
That verse is found in parenthesis (brackets) because Moses did not write that about himself. It was added later-probably by Joshua. The only thing they could find to criticize in Moses is that he married a non Jew. It says there that "the Lord heard it" (verse 2).
The Lord hears it whenever anyone speaks against his anointed servants.
The Lord called them out and told them that whereas He spoke to prophets by visions and dreams, he spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. (verses 6-8; Exodus 33:11).
Here the Lord makes it clear that His speaking to us face to face is far superior to His speaking to us in a vision or a dream. Yet many believers today imagine that a man who claims to have visions and dreams is more spiritual than one who hears the Lord speaking to his heart.
To be led by the Spirit in day to day matters is far superior to mere visions and dreams.
The Lord was angry with Miriam and Aaron for criticizing His servant. The cloud withdrew from the tent and Miriam suddenly became full of leprosy (verse 10). And Moses was a new covenant man living in old covenant times. He was and amazing man Just like there are Christians in this new covenant age who live by old covenant standards, even so there were a few under the old covenant, who lived by new covenant principles.
When the Bible says that all who come under grace (the new covenant) will overcome sin in their lives (Romans 6:14), that means that those who do not overcome sin are living under the old covenant and most believers are defeated by sin in their lives.
The Lord said that Miriam must be put out of the camp for seven days so that she learns a lesson (verse 15). Otherwise others would not know what happened and would not fear to do such things themselves. God makes an example for those who rebel so that others may fear. Miriam learned her lesson and then came back to the camp-never to speak like that again in her life. But in spite of this, many others in the camp did not learn a lesson-and we shall come to that later.