Another Look at Moses and the Ethiopian Wife

Moses and the Ethiopian

“And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.”

Numbers 12:1-2 KJV

Most of the commentaries I have read suggest that Miriam and Aaron’s real beef with Moses was not about the Black woman he married. They suggest that the real and only problem was the fact that they were envious of Moses’ unique position of leadership and the criticism of Moses’ marriage to a Black woman was just a smoke-screen of an excuse to address the real problem. But could this interpretation be a case of inserting modern-day Western values and mores into the ancient Eastern text? The unspoken suggestion of most commentaries is that Miriam and Aaron felt that Moses was lowering his social status by marrying a Black woman! But was that really the case? I would like to suggest that it was not!

First of all, who were the people of the dominant culture at that time? Well, I learned in Sunday School as a little boy, that it was actually the Hebrews who were enslaved by the Egyptians! The dominant people in that place and time and in that culture were the Black Africans! Therefore, for Moses to marry a Black woman was not a matter of him marrying someone who was considered socially beneath him but rather it was a case of him marrying someone who was considered to be socially above him! Moses did not marry “down,” he married “up!”

When we consider this possibility, Moses’ marriage to the Ethiopian woman and the complaint of Miriam and Aaron are not so dis-jointed after all! When Moses married the Ethiopian woman, as far as Miriam and Aaron was concerned, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back! E. R. Richards and B. J. O’Brien write in their work: Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible: “The Cushites (Ethiopians) were not demeaned as a slave race in the ancient world; they were respected as highly skilled soldiers. It is more likely that Miriam and Aaron thought Moses was being presumptuous by marrying above himself. That makes sense of the tone of the passage. “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they whined. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” (Num 12:2). In other words: Moses is not the only prophet here. Who does he think he is?” And to top it all off, he has the nerve to try to make himself more than what he is by marrying an Ethiopian woman!

 

Richards, E. R., & O’Brien, B. J. (2012). Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (p. 61). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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The Right To Be Right

right wrong signIn our world today it seems as though the right to be right is being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness! The needle of the moral compass has been broken and our world is teetering upon the jagged rocks of moral destruction. Whatever happen to the days when right was right and wrong was wrong? In those days, people who were wrong didn’t try to persuade people who were right that their wrong was right. They didn’t try to call their wrong right and the people who were right respected their right to be wrong!

But today, it seems as though no one wants to acknowledge they are wrong, even to the extent of attempting to force those who are right into accepting their wrong as right! But common sense logic dictates that if A is one way and B is another way, then A and B can’t be the same way! If A is going in one direction and B is going in the opposite direction, then A and B can’t be going in the same direction! Therefore if A is right and B is wrong, then logic dictates that A and B can’t both be right!

If we are to value the word of the ONE who determines what is right and what is wrong, then our society stands under judgment! In Isaiah 5:20-21, the Prophet declares: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (KJV) That is where we are today! We’re like kids playing on the playground who, because they don’t like the rules of the game, change the rules of the game. By the way, when you change the rules of the game from the original rules, you have in essence, created an entirely different game!

What am I saying? Well, the historical interpretation of the Judeo-Christian faith seems to suggest that a Supreme God created this world and everything within it, including humanity. The biblical record presents marriage as a God-ordained institution between a man and a woman. Therefore, according to the ONE who wrote the rule-book of marriage, any other union is not a marriage at all! Now, before anyone who may espouse same-sex marriage accuse me of being homophobic or insensitive, remember, I didn’t make the rules and neither did any of us! And just because we don’t like the rules, that doesn’t give us the right to change the rules!

The bottom line is this: In spite of modern society’s insistence to the contrary; there are moral absolutes! There is such a thing as right and wrong! However, being right or being wrong doesn’t make you any more or any less than anyone else. The Bible declares that we all have issues and if we are to be saved, it will be only by God’s grace and not by our works. But God’s grace is available to us only if we are willing to acknowledge our need for it. As long as we insist that our wrong (whatever it is) is right, we are estranged from grace. The first step to a cure of any disease is the acknowledgment and recognition of the disease. If you are sick, merely insisting that you are well and denying that you are sick will not make you well! It’s time to stop the moral nonsense! Right is right and wrong is wrong and calling wrong right does not make wrong right! We are all free moral agents and that means that those who are wrong have a right to be wrong and those who are right have a right to be right without being vilified by those who are wrong who insist that their wrong is right!

At Church To Have A Good Time?

people in a clubI posted a blog-post some time ago entitled: “The Crazy Things We Say In Church.” In that post, I listed some of the things that are commonly said in church that really don’t make any spiritual and in some cases, any common sense. Well, there is another saying that I’ve heard so much that I think it deserves a post all by itself! How many times have you been in a church service and heard an MC, a deacon, a preacher, or even a pastor say: “We’re here to have a good time”? Now, I wouldn’t have a problem with the saying if I hadn’t heard it somewhere else and it was theologically accurate!

Can you think of anyplace else where you have heard this statement? Hmm? Isn’t that what we used to say in our pre-Christian days when we were into the nightclub life? It was Friday night and we had just gotten paid so off we went to the clubs; to have a good time! Now, what’s so amazing to me is that many of us, although we now profess to know God, we go to church with a “night club mentality!” Let me show you what I’m talking about! When we were going to the club, we did not expect anything to happen at the club that would cause significant changes in our lives. We didn’t go to the club with an expectation of our lives changing for the better, we just went to have a good time! It was a hard week at work, so we went to the club to relax, forget about our troubles for a few hours, and to enjoy ourselves. Well, there are some people who go to church on Sunday mornings with the exact same expectations! They don’t expect any significant changes to occur in their lives. They don’t expect anything to happen while they are at church that will cause any significant change in their lives. They just come for an hour or two to “get their praise on!” They just come to have a good time! They left “hell” to come to church and then leave church with the full expectation to go back to the same hell they left! They don’t expect any changes. Sunday morning for them, is just a two-hour- reprieve from the hustle and bustle of everyday life!

But there is so much more to coming to church than just having a good time! Now, if you have a good time while you’re there, that’s all fine and well, but having a good time should not be the main purpose! Why should we come to church? Well, the main reason is to worship and experience the presence of God! And when we worship God, it is not about us; it’s about God! When we give God the praise and adoration of which God is worthy, our “good feeling” is just a by-product. But not only do we get a good feeling, God also moves on our behalf in our various life situations.

A good model of what should happen when we go to church in found in Isaiah’s temple vision in Isaiah 6. Isaiah “saw” the Lord, high and lifted up! When Isaiah saw how high the Lord was; he also saw how low he was! A true worship experience helps us to see the majesty and glory of God and recognize our own faults and failures. That experience caused Isaiah to exclaim (in the language of my fore-parents) “It’s not my brother! It’s not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord! Standing in the need of prayer!” Finally Isaiah was touched, cleansed, and commissioned. That’s what a real worship experience is all about! After a true worship experience; we don’t leave the same way we came! We leave with a sense of our sins forgiven! We leave with a determination and will to do the will of God! We leave stronger than we were when we came! The time we spend in worship at church is so much more than just for the purpose of having a good time!

If My People. . .

woman prayingYou would think the world would be a much better place if only all the notorious sinners would just quit sinning! But I was looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14 the other day and it dawned upon me that the responsibility for the condition of the land rest with the people of God! Look at the text! The KJV renders it: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Do you see what I saw? Look at what the text didn’t say! It didn’t say that God would heal the land if all the dope-boys came off the corner! It didn’t say that God would heal the land if all the sinners joined the church! It didn’t say that God would heal the land if the government did justly! NO! It said: “If my people. . .” Who are your people Lord? The Lord says: “The ones which are called by my name! If they would just do right! If they would just acknowledge their need for me and sincerely pray! If they would just seek my presence and turn from their wickedness, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land!”

Now there is a principle throughout the scripture that suggests that God honors the saving or preserving effect of the righteous. As evil and corrupt as Sodom and Gomorrah was, God would have spared them if there had been only ten (10) righteous in the land (See Genesis 18:32)! The last post prior to this one (See “Get Jonah Off Your Ship”) suggests the presence of certain people in our lives may be the reason for some of our troubles. But on the other hand, the presence of certain other people in our lives could very well be the source of some of our blessings! Genesis 39:4-5 says; “So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, [Potiphar] and he [Potiphar] made him [Joseph] overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field.” (ESV) Wow! Do you see that? That’s what Jesus was talking about when he said to his disciples in Matthew 5:13-14, “You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world!” Our calling is to be salt and light; to be preservatives and sources of divine insight!

Notice in the Chronicles passage that the Lord said: “If my people would. . . .Seek my face!” From much of the preaching and teaching I am hearing today, there are not many who are seeking His face! In the Bible, the phrase “to seek (my, his) face” means to seek the presence of God. But many, who claim to be Christians in America today, are not really seeking His presence because they are too busy seeking His presents! They don’t really want the face of God; they just want the favor of God! They are like a man who has a hard time looking in the face of a woman who is wearing a blouse with a revealing cleavage! They don’t seek the face of God because they are too preoccupied with seeking the favor of God! Little do they know; there is no real favor without His face!

But the key to the welfare of any society or community is the spiritual fidelity and maturity of the people who are called by His name! So, my brothers and sisters, don’t get so upset with “sinners,” they are just doing what they do! The real power for change is in the hands of those of us who are called by His name! When we get ourselves together and quit “playing church,” take God and His word seriously, and seek first the Kingdom of God and His/Its righteousness, all the things we need will be added unto us and God will heal our land!