8 August 2022

'In my defence': Dealing with criticism

Bible study by Major Annette Allen

Major Annette Allen says there are times when we have to trust that God will speak for us.

Key text

Our study passage is a challenge to leaders and those being led. As a leader, is there a temptation to rise to challenges, especially when they are undeserved? As followers, how do we support those who are particularly anointed by God for a specific purpose? This was the dilemma that Moses had to face. He was a great and gifted man confronted with opposition from within his family.

The chapter begins as his siblings, Miriam and Aaron, start to question whether or not they should listen to Moses for counsel and direction, and it would seem that Moses’ wife – a Cushite from Ethiopia – is the object of their frustration. Perhaps they didn’t approve of her but, for unknown reasons, envy and pride start to surface and they start to mutter among themselves: ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?... Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’ (v2).

Pause and reflect

  • How do you deal with criticism, especially when it comes from the people closest to you?
Bible Study Numbers 12

Numbers 12:2

'Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?' they asked. 'Hasn't he also spoken through us?' And the Lord heard this.

Read the passage

We are told that Moses was ‘more humble than anyone else on the face of the Earth’ (v3). Maybe this is not based on his first 40 years, when he did much of his growing and mistake-making, but he was certainly unparalleled in his leadership. God had led him on a physical and spiritual journey and Moses had matured into the leader God always knew he could be.

The Lord hears the grumblings of Miriam and Aaron and is not very pleased. He reminds them that with other prophets he spoke through visions but with Moses he has spoken face to face. Moses is someone who has the special blessing of God upon him (see vv6–8). Moses is their brother, but spiritual fear should be even more present not less so

Pause and reflect

  • Do we recognise those whom God has anointed?
  • Do we find ourselves willing to follow graciously or do envy and pride stand in our way?

We are told that the anger of the Lord ‘burned against them’ (v9) and that Miriam was inflicted with leprosy and was then ordered out of the camp for seven days.

Aaron immediately recognises this as instant punishment for the sin that they have committed. He begs Moses for forgiveness. Moses beseeches God to heal Miriam (see v13). Instead of instant forgiveness, God reminds them of the ultimate cultural punishment for shameful acts – to be spat in the face and confined outside the camp for a week.

Through their acts of defiance and rebellion, not only have Aaron and Miriam rejected the authority of Moses but they have also rejected God’s authority.

Pause and reflect

  • In what ways do we reject God’s authority by our actions?

Of course, there are times when leaders make mistakes but there needs to be a proper process for addressing such concerns. The process needs be transparent. We also have to be cautious that our grievances are not born out of envy and pride or because the leader in question is pointing out biblical truths.

Pause and reflect

  • Are we ever tempted to dismiss God’s laws as unnecessary if they are inconvenient?
  • How do we seek forgiveness for the things we do that disrespect God?

Moses has done nothing worthy of criticism. Therefore, he might well be tempted to defend himself. However, Moses remains silent while God speaks for him. In fact, through the whole of the incident, the only words that Moses utters are to ask God to heal his sister. His behaviour recalls the way that Jesus remained silent in the face of accusation from the Sanhedrin (see Matthew 27:12).

When we are unjustly accused, it is not easy to remain silent if everything inside us cries out for justice, to be listened to and to be understood. Instead, we tend to retaliate. Yet, as leaders, there are times when we simply have to trust that God will speak for us and will make right those areas of injustice where we would love to argue our case.

Pause and reflect

  • If you are a leader, how do you respond when someone unjustly accuses you?
  • To what extent might practising grace and trust be more effective towards those who hurt you?

God, at this point, still has more work for Moses to do. If dissension is not addressed and quashed, it can quickly escalate among the ranks. Lest we, too, become subject to God’s judgement, we need to be supportive of those who have been commissioned by God to deliver his message and to lead his people.

Bible study by

Annette Allen

Major Annette Allen

Corps Officer, Failsworth

Let's pray

Lord Jesus, there are times when I am traumatised by life and I feel so alone, abandoned even. Come, beautiful Christ, answer my heart’s cry. Come, weep with me and heal my wounds.


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