Word for the World devotionals from Dr. Randy White

Excessive Humility

(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) >Numbers 12:3 (NASB95)

In the midst of the story of Miriam's grumble against her brother Moses over his Cushite wife, the Biblical text gives this parenthetical statement about Moses' humility.  At first glance, it seems to be non-sequiter ("it does not follow").  Miriam complains that Moses may think that he is the only one through whom God spoke (a complaint which hardly seems to point to his humility), and then we are told how humble Moses was. 

I believe that the statement, which came from the pen of Moses himself, is a recognition that he mishandled the situation.  As Solomon would later teach, "there is a time for everything."  Could it be that Moses is telling us that he should have faced his rebellious sister head-on in confrontation, but his excessive humility would not allow him to do so?

At this point in the text, we really have no evidence for such a claim.  However, in the 16th chapter, the same complaint comes about, this time from Korah.  In that episode, Moses' cousin Korah claims that "all the congregation is holy, everyone of them...so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly..." (Numbers 16:3).  This is the same substance as Miriam's rebellion, the only difference being that Korah was willing to speak it openly.  In this second instance, however, Moses has a much different response.  Moses calls for one of the great showdowns of the Bible, which ends in Korah and company being swallowed into the earth. 

It looks to me like Moses learned his lesson.  There is a place for humility, but excessive humility is a premature surrender that does not honor God.

In His Grace;
Dr. Randy White

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