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People gossip and joke about their preachers and leaders though they may not mean to hurt their feelings. There is a song by Kingsmen Quartet titled “Excuses”. In it, their tenor chronicles interesting excuses the devil gives to Christians to keep them from attending church. It begins with personal excuses and ends with gossip about the preacher – he’s too young, and maybe he’s too old, sermons are not challenging enough, and maybe they are too bold…, he needs to have more dignity, or else he’s too proud. In the end, the tenor says, ‘we all have them (excuses), don’t we!’
Running one’s mouth about leaders is an old habit. Moses’s own siblings – Auntie Miriam and Pastor Aaron – even gossiped about him! In this episode, the subject was Mrs Moses. She was a Cushite, Ethiopian, dark-skinned. I can almost hear Miriam breathing puckishly into Aaron’s gloating ears, “They say she can’t even cook our food well…. “Goodness me! Her skin is so dark; it’s as if she doesn’t want to bathe correctly; hmmm, “I even overheard them quarrelling last night… “Did God ask our brother to marry her? “Does God speak only through Moses? “What about us? “He speaks through us too! Hahahahahaha!
To think this was coming not just from Moses’ siblings but also from the leaders of a complicated, painful to manage, 10,000+ wandering wayfarers. They were supposed to be leaders whose lives should be the examples God could count on.
God broke through their nitpicking in anger. He called the three siblings out of His tabernacle. Then God descended in the cloud and stood at the entrance to the tabernacle, effectively blocking any chance of getting back in there even if they dared to do so. He had stopped Aaron and Miriam’s chance of entering the only place on earth where God, Himself, had said people could go to obtain mercy. That is how despicable, how repulsive gossiping was and still is to the Almighty. And when He had finished speaking, He was not finished with them – He went ahead to show how repulsive it was to Him.
One can manage problems from his enemies. But ‘negative friendly fire‘ is a damaging betrayal. When Julius Caesar’s closest friend, Marcus Junius Brutus, also stabbed him, Caesar stuttered, “Et tu, Brute?” Even you, Brutus? Who hasn’t felt the burning sensation of ‘negative friendly fire?’ And how many of us have not given our loved ones that burning sensation of gossip, betrayal, and backbiting? “We all have them, don’t we?” But it’s so execrable (deserving of a curse) that God actually places the curse on Miriam (verses 10-15).
“When you are disposed to criticize a friend,
Just remember, the beginning’s not the end;
When within this urge you find,
These three questions bring to mind:
Is it TRUE? Is it NEEDFUL? Is it KIND?” – Anonymous