Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Spotlight Is on God

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Hi. This is Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Before we start today's Revive Our Hearts, I would like to step in for a moment and say a word about the home going of Charles Colson, whose life and ministry have made such an enormous impact for the kingdom of Christ.

Needless to say, this is a huge loss for his precious wife, Patty, and his three children and their several grandchildren, for the staff at Prison Fellowship and the other ministries that Chuck founded, and the many of us who were blessed to know him as a friend. I'm grateful to be included in that group.

I can still remember back to 1974. When I was still a teenager, my dad wrote a letter to Chuck Colson, who was then in prison, related to the Watergate issue, to encourage him in his new-found faith. This was at a time where many were still skeptical of the genuineness of Chuck's conversion.

Throughout the years since, Chuck and Patty have been among my family's closest friends. He's been a personal encouragement to me many times and in many ways.

Even in those few instances where we didn't see eye-to-eye on an issue, I was always challenged by his love for truth and his passion to see Christ magnified and His kingdom advanced.

Five years ago, on the occasion of Chuck's seventy-fifth birthday, I was asked to record a tribute. I pulled that tribute out just in the last day or so. Here's a little bit of what I said in that recording:

Chuck,

Thank you for the way that you have set the pace for younger servants like myself who are following behind you. Thank you for being willing to lay down your life for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. Thank you for staying the course and being faithful to the Lord, to Patty, and to your calling. Thank you for your love for holiness and for speaking into the darkness of our day with such clarity, courage, conviction, and compassion.

As I think about your life, Chuck, the words of Proverbs 4:18 come to mind. "The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn which shines brighter and brighter until full day."

I pray that the life of Christ within you will shine ever more brightly in the days ahead, until that day when you see Him in the fullness of His glory.

Well, that day has come. Chuck will be greatly missed, as will his undefatigable labors on behalf of the truth. Chuck Colson fought faithfully; he fought well. And now his battle is over, and his Commander-in-Chief has called him home forever. What a victory celebration I imagine there must be in heaven.

You may remember in the story of Pilgrim's Progress, there is a character named Valiant-for-the-Truth. And at the point the Valiant-for-the-Truth enters heaven, the books says, "So he passed over and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side."

Margaret Clarkson has written a poem based on that story called, "Valiant-for-the-Truth Goes Home." Let me read for you several lines from that poem, because I think they are so fitting and appropriate as we think about Chuck Colson.

Valient-for-the-Truth Goes Home.

Those marks and scars he carries, witnesses of work well done;
And the trumpets all are sounding for his battles won.
And Christ, his Lord and Master, the One his soul adored,
For whose dear sake he laboured, is now his great Reward;
Forever shall he serve Him, forever see His face;
And the trumpets all are sounding the glories of His grace.

Well, the redeeming grace of God and the sacrifice of the Lamb have been put on magnificent display through the life of this beloved friend and this servant of the Lord. My prayer today is that it may be so in my life and in yours as well.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss asks, “Would you rather communicate your own ideas or God’s ideas?”

Nancy: If you have a message for other women, you have a message for your children, you have a message for women that you’re discipling and mentoring in the ways of God—if you want to be an effective servant of the Lord, you have to know God. You have to rely on what God puts in you through His Word to give out and speak to others.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, April 23.

We’ve been looking at the birth of Moses over the last few sessions. A group of women were involved in saving the life of baby Moses, including his sister Miriam. To hear how God brought these five women together, listen to the archives at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now, Nancy’s continuing in the series Remember Miriam.

Nancy: We started out several days ago saying that this was going to be a series on Miriam. And you’re probably wondering when we’re really going to talk about Miriam. We’ve gone on several rabbit trails and talked about the other women associated with Miriam in the incidents surrounding the birth of Moses.

Then we came to Exodus 15, and we’ve been talking about Moses’ song. But today we’re going to actually come to Miriam. We want to spend several sessions looking at her life and what we can learn from that life.

We’re in Exodus chapter 15. Let me just backtrack to verse 1 to give us the context here. The Children of Israel have just come victoriously through the Red Sea. God has conquered their enemies.

The Egyptians are lying dead in the bottom of the sea, and the Israelites are safe on the other side. Not an Israelite lost and not an Egyptian spared—which, by the way, is a picture of how things will be at the end of all time.

Not one of God’s children will be lost. Everyone will get safe to the other side. We may have had failures and faults and flaws and stumbled along the way, but He will get us safely home if we truly belong to Him.

And not one of those who were on the opposing side, who have not placed their faith in God—not one of those will make it. There will be the destruction, the ultimate judgment, of the wicked.

You don’t hear a lot of teaching on that today. It’s not popular teaching. But you know what? Salvation is not precious unless we realize what we’ve been saved from. We’ve been saved from the judgment, the wrath, of God.

So the Israelites are now safe on the other side, and they’re looking back surveying this scene. The very next thing they do is to have a worship service. It’s their response to what God has done.

So we read in verse 1 of Exodus 15,

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, "I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

Then we have the whole eighteen verses we looked at in the last session of this hymn of praise, which they sing standing there on the banks, the other side, of the Red Sea.

Then look at verse 19:

For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea.

Now, we’ve already read that story. We read about it in chapter 14. Why is it repeated again here? I just think it’s a reminder. As we go to worship, remember why you’re worshiping:

  • It is who God is.
  • It is His character.
  • It is His ways.
  • It is His works that we praise when we come to worship.

Pick up at verse 20: “Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them”—or, as some of your translations say, “Miriam answered them,” answered the men. Miriam and the women were making a chorus, a response.

And what did they sing? “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

We’re going to take that passage apart and look at what we can learn about Miriam and about life as a woman of God. But let me just again give us a little background on Miriam. We know that she was an older sister of Moses by several years.

It was interesting to me as I was researching on her life that Miriam is featured prominently in a lot of Jewish rabbinical literature dating back centuries. She is also in what is known as the Midrash, which is a compilation of teachings based on the Hebrew Bible. The Midrash includes a lot of stories that, while they’re interesting, many of them are not true. They’re based on folklore or legendary stories.

In the Midrash and in some of this rabbinical literature, Miriam’s role is amplified considerably beyond what we learn about her in the Scripture. Here are some of the things, for example, that have been said about Miriam. These are not things the Bible tells us. They’re not things we believe to be true, but they’re things that rabbinical literature and folklore say about her.

For example, prior to Moses’ birth, Miriam is said to have told her father that he would have a son who would deliver Israel from Egypt. It was this prophecy, supposedly, that convinced him to have relations with his wife, in spite of the danger involved because of Pharaoh’s edict to kill all the baby boys.

In many of these writings, Miriam is considered the savior of Israel. It’s just interesting, considering that Miriam is the Hebrew name for the Greek word MaryIn both Old and New Testaments we have women who really were great women of God, but our tendency is to elevate them above appropriate measure.

There is no savior except Jesus Christ. Our natural tendency is to want to look to human beings to be our savior. So some of the extended literature on Miriam gives her that role. But she has a great enough role—no need to elevate it beyond what the Scripture does.

Here’s another interesting thing that certainly is legendary. It’s said in many of these writings that there was a “Well of Miriam” that accompanied the Israelites through their desert wanderings. She’s associated with water. 

The story is that after her death that well disappeared. Where they get this, I found, is in Numbers chapter 20, which tells us in verse 1 that Miriam died. And then the next verse says, “Now there was no water for the congregation.” So from this they get this whole story about this Well of Miriam that followed them.

These are superstitious stories that have arisen around the legend of Miriam. Here’s another gone: They say that Miriam, Moses, and Aaron—all three of them—died by a kiss from God. We see here the tendency to elevate people and to make more of them than is warranted.

What makes Miriam’s life instructive to me is not that all these big, supernatural things happened around her, which Scripture doesn’t give us any indication of. What makes her interesting to me was that she was so very human. She was used of God as a very ordinary human vessel in a significant way when she was walking in step with God.

When she was a humble servant of the Lord, God used her in a significant way. And when she stepped outside of God’s boundaries for her life, she suffered consequences. We’ll look at that in the last portion of this series when we get to Numbers 12. We’ll see that there was a time when she stepped outside God’s ways, and as a result she suffered consequences.

So we learn a lot. When we’re obeying God, we’re blessed, and God can use us. When we go outside God’s plan and God’s place for our lives, then we will suffer consequences.

It reminds me of what Romans 15 says:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (verse 4).

Listen, we don’t need all those extraneous stories to give us hope. We have the Word of God. And through the encouragement of God’s Word, we have hope.

So let’s get away from all the extra literature, all the Google stuff, and let’s come back to the Word of God and see what we do know about Miriam’s background. We do know from history that she was born about 1527 B.C. She was born in Egypt. She was the firstborn of three children; she had two younger brothers, Aaron and Moses.

She had Hebrew parents who were from the tribe of Levi—which, as you’ll recall, would later be designated the priestly tribe. Her younger brother Aaron would become the first high priest of Israel.

We know that she had godly, believing parents. They’re listed in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11. We’re told that by faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months because they saw that he was a beautiful child, and they did not fear the king’s edict. They were a man and woman of faith.

We know that she was born and lived as a slave in Egypt for the first eighty years of her life. We know that her parents were born and lived as slaves all their lives in Egypt. Her grandparents lived in Egypt all their lives as slaves. So she didn’t know anything else other than the life of hardship and slavery in a foreign land.

As we’re seeing in this series, there are three primary scenes recorded in Scripture that have to do with Miriam. The first we looked at over the last several days was when she was a child. We see events surrounding Moses’ birth.

We’re looking now at the second major incident in her life, which is when she was an older woman, around ninety years of age. So most of the intervening time of her life—virtually all of the intervening time of her life—she has lived in a land of hardship and slavery in Egypt.

But as a little girl, she saw the works of God. She saw the providence of God. She saw the hand of God. And it marked her in a way that would impact her for life.

We saw her when she was a child caring for her younger brother. We saw her to be a conscientious older sister, compassionate, concerned, confident. We saw her to be responsible, alert, brave, bold, and intelligent.

We saw that she must have been close to her little brother whom she helped to rescue and who lived in their home for the first two or three years of his life. She had risked her life to save his, so certainly he had a special place in her heart.

But remember that when he was just a little boy, he left their home and went to live in the palace to be adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. So Miriam hadn’t spent a lot of time with this younger brother Moses.

Then, when Moses was forty, you remember he fled from Egypt. And for forty years he was gone. She didn’t hear anything, see anything, know anything of him for those forty years.

Then Miriam was there in Egypt when Moses returned, sent by God to deliver His people. She was aware of what was going on. They were reunited, and she saw him confront Pharaoh and saw God send the ten plagues when Pharaoh refused to respond. She participated in the celebration of the first Passover in her home.

Undoubtedly, her parents were no longer living at this time. But in her home, they would have put the blood on the outside of the doorposts and the lintel of the house. She heard the cries of the firstborn Egyptian sons dying as the angel of death passed through.

But she saw that the firstborn in the Israelite families lived because the angel saw the blood on the doorposts and the lintel of the house. She heard the cries of the firstborn Egyptian sons dying as the angel of death passed through. But then she saw that the firstborn in the Israelite families lived because the angel saw the blood on the doorposts and passed over. She experienced all of this. She was there as a woman around ninety years of age.

She joined the other Israelites as they left Egypt in the great exodus. She was with them as they came to the Red Sea. She saw Moses lift his rod. She was with the people who walked through on dry ground. She stood and watched as Pharaoh’s army drowned in the sea.

She was there for this amazing high point of Jewish history. After 400 years of slavery, the reality of their emancipation begins to sink into this woman’s heart, as it does with the others who are celebrating this great triumph of God.

They are free! I mean, you just imagine that it was like you could finally breathe after generations of slavery, of oppression, of hardship, of bondage. They’re free!

They’re free from Pharaoh’s dictatorship, free from his hatred, free from the Egyptian taskmasters and their whips, free from the backbreaking labor building cities for Pharaoh. They are free!

Miriam is experiencing this along with all the others in the Jewish community. As we come to Exodus 15, they’re experiencing this breathing of air again—the ones who’ve been emancipated, set free by God. She is there with the Israelites celebrating at the Red Sea, now as an older woman about ninety years of age.

We see her in this passage as a capable musician and as a leader. She is an influencer, influential among the Children of Israel. In fact, interestingly, Miriam in some ways frames the Exodus account.

In Exodus 2, she’s there as Moses is rescued from the Nile; she’s participating in that story. Then in chapter 15, on the other side of the Red Sea, she’s there as God’s people are rescued out of Egypt. Eighty years apart between those two incidents: In the account of the Exodus, she’s there at both ends.

We see Miriam’s life as a model of hope in the midst of the most hopeless and helpless circumstances. Why? Because God has providentially intervened on behalf of His people. This, we’re going to see, motivates her to join in this chorus of thanksgiving.

Look again at verse 20:

Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.

“Miriam the prophetess.” I want to focus on that little phrase. Then in the next session we’ll jump into the rest of this passage and see what kind of worship service this was.

Miriam the prophetess: a prophetess is a female prophet. Miriam was one of about eight that are named in the Scripture, depending on exactly how you count. Theologians differ as to exactly what is meant by a prophet or a prophetess, and there may be a slightly different meaning between Old Testament and New Testament uses of those words.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, which is one of the resources that I use for word studies, says:

Though much of Old Testament prophecy was purely predictive [that is, telling the future] . . . prophecy is not necessarily, nor even primarily, foretelling. It is the declaration of that which cannot be known by natural means . . . it is the forth-telling of the will of God, whether with reference to the past, the present, or the future.

So it’s someone who speaks the Truth of God’s Word. John MacArthur, in his study Bible, says virtually the same thing:

. . . “prophetess” refers to a woman who spoke God’s Word. She was a teacher of the Old Testament, not a source of revelation.

Now, Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology takes a little different approach, particularly speaking of New Testament prophecy. He says that that kind of prophecy means telling something that God has spontaneously brought to mind.

Well, I’m not going to try and sort through what all these great theologians can’t sort through to find exactly what that means. But I will say, the fact that Miriam was a prophetess tells us some things about her that are helpful by way of background.

First of all, we see that it meant she had a calling of God on her life. She had been set apart by God in a special way to be used for His purposes and Israel’s redemption from Egypt.

In fact, in the little Old Testament prophecy of Micah, written 700 years after the life of Miriam, we see another reference to Miriam. God says,

I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam (Micah 6:4).

Certainly Moses was the most prominent of those three, and certainly he was the leader in a way the others weren’t. But it’s interesting that Miriam was recognized by God as one of the leaders sent to help His people be redeemed out of slavery in Egypt.

She was apparently recognized as a spiritual leader among the women. You see in this passage in Exodus 15 that when she led the women followed. I believe this is because God had set her apart and marked her life, put a calling on her life. She was fulfilling that calling when she did what she did in Exodus 15 to lead this women’s choir in response to the song of Moses.

I also think the fact that she was a prophetess stresses that her role, her influence, and her gifts as she utilizes them in serving God—all of that came out of a relationship with God. I think she’s a woman who knew God. It was out of that relationship with God that flowed her influence and her gifts and her service.

You see, the baton of faith had been handed to Miriam from women who had gone before her: the Hebrew midwives who feared God. She knew that story. She may have known those midwives; she probably did.

She was influenced by the faith of her mother, who dared to trust God against all odds. But having seen the faith of the women who had gone before her, she had developed her own faith. She didn’t ride the spiritual coattails of her predecessors.

She had seen the providence of God herself—first as a child in the rescue of her brother Moses, then at his return to Egypt and the ten plagues. She had seen God move, and she had developed her own personal relationship with God.

That’s important as we see her singing this song. She’s a worshiper because she’s a worshiper out of her heart. She worships God in spirit and in truth. She’s not just singing words; she’s not just leading a women’s choir. It comes out of a heart relationship with God.

We see Miriam’s prophetic gift manifesting itself in a similar way to another account in the Old Testament. Remember when Samuel spoke to Saul before Saul was getting ready to be anointed as the first king of Israel? Samuel said to Saul,

You will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. Then the Spirit of the LORD will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man (1 Samuel 10:5-6).

That is another occasion, like the one we’re reading about at the Red Sea, where prophesying meant to create music designed to accompany a religious celebration or feast. Miriam was tying this occasion into the goodness and the works of God. That was part of her prophetic gift and ministry on this occasion.

She was a woman who was endowed by God with spiritual gifts and insight. The insight into who God was, into what He had done, the theme of her song—it’s not something she made up. It’s not something she manufactured. It’s not something that came out of herself. It’s something that God put in her.

If you have a message for other women, you have a message for your children, you have a message for women that you’re discipling and mentoring in the ways of God—if you want to be an effective servant of the Lord, you have to know God. You have to rely on what God puts in you through His Word to give out and speak to others.

First Corinthians 14 tells us that the one who prophecies speaks to people for their upbuilding or edification, their encouragement, and their comfort (see verse 3). Those spiritual gifts—gifts of teaching, speaking, leading, serving, all these spiritual gifts that God gives to us in an New Testament sense—they’re always for the benefit of others and for the glory of God, for the building up of other believers.

Those gifts are not to impress others with how gifted we are or to put us on display. They’re for the purpose of building others up.

In Exodus 15, in this passage we’re looking at, we see Miriam using this prophetic gift to bless the Lord and to bless others. The spotlight is on God. We’ll notice when we get to the end of this series that when Miriam’s spotlight got out of line—when she tried to turn the spotlight on herself and her own gifts—that’s when she got in trouble.

So those gifts are given by God to us as women for the purpose of serving God and serving others, and they flow out of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. She’s given us a lot to think about.

When most people think of women in the Bible, Miriam probably doesn’t usually spring to mind.  But her story is packed with meaning. Her example has a lot to teach us. And her mistakes serve as an important warning.

I appreciate being able to turn on the radio or downloading a podcast and hear teaching on a character like Miriam. It helps me understand the Bible better, and it gives me important insight into how I should live.

Revive Our Hearts comes to you each weekday on the radio and over the web because listeners generously support the ministry. If you want Revive Our Hearts to continue in your area, would you pray about what you could give to support the ministry?

When you give any amount this week, we’ll show our thankfulness by sending you Nancy’s book, Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free. You’ll also get a bookmark that goes with it. The bookmark is called, “The Truth that Sets us Free.”

We hear so many messages all the time, it’s easy to make decisions based on the way everyone is acting around us. But what if these popular ideas are unbiblical? Lies Women Believe will take you through a process of evaluating your heart and your actions to make sure you’re not falling for popular lies. The book will show you how to base your life on the truth of the Bible.

Ask for Lies Women Believe and the bookmark when you call with your donation of any size.  Here’s the number: 1-800-569-5959. You can also donate and indicate you’d like the book by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

If you were running for your life, would you pack a tambourine? On tomorrow's program, hear about some women who did. Now, let's pray with Nancy.

Nancy: O Father, how I thank You for the gifts you give to Your people, and how You have equipped us with gifts of Your Spirit to serve and to bless others. Help us not to put the emphasis on gifts but to keep the spotlight where it belongs: on You.

May our serving and our discipling and our ministering and our child-rearing and all the things we do to serve You—may all that flow out of a relationship with You, a faith that is genuine, a life that is real, and a walk with You. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 

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