Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women in rhythm and dance.
When Moses was a baby, his mother took the extraordinary step of floating himin a basket down the Nile River (see ). This was not a case of child endangerment; it was a matter of casting Moses on the mercy of God. However, Moses’ mother also exercised prudence by sending Moses’ older sister to keep an eye on the baby from the bank of the river. We are not told at this point the name of the sister, but later we find that Moses had a sister named Miriam and a brother named Aaron. So it is reasonable to assume that the sister in this story was Miriam.
Miriam was apparently called and gifted by the Lord to be a prophet. Aaron fulfilled a similar role. When Moses complained that his speaking abilities were limited and that he would rather not go to Pharaoh with God’s message, the Lord said, “Aaron will be your spokesman to the people, and you will be as God to him, telling him what to say” (). Later, the Lord amplified his calling of Aaron and said to Moses, “Your brother, Aaron, will be your prophet; he will speak for you. Tell Aaron everything I say to you and have him announce it to Pharaoh” ( ). There is no doubt that Miriam saw herself in the same light because with Aaron she stated, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” ( ). There is every reason to believe, therefore, that Miriam’s ministry involved attending upon the Lord, hearing his word, and announcing it to the people.
After the enormous victory over the Egyptian army, Moses led the people in a “song to the Lord” (). Unfortunately, while we have the triumphant words of the song, we do not have the music. But we do know that it had rhythm! So much rhythm that Miriam grabbed a tambourine and “led all the women in rhythm and dance” while singing the chorus of the hymn ( ).
It does not take a lot of imagination to recognize that if Miriam were to reappear and act in this manner in some segments of the church today, she would cause quite a stir! In others, she would be quite a hero. She would quickly become the center of controversy, because she engaged in a prophetic ministry, she used percussion in worship, and she felt it was appropriate to dance before the Lord!
Those of us who question such activities today would do well to consider Miriam, while those who would use her as a role model should remember that even prophets have faults, and gifted speakers sometimes get things wrong (see ).
Scripture Exodus 15:1-21
SONG OF DELIVERANCE
|1||Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: "I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.|
|2||"The LORD is my strength and my defense ; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.|
|3||The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.|
|4||Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea.|
|5||The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.|
|6||Your right hand, LORD, was majestic in power. Your right hand, LORD, shattered the enemy.|
|7||"In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.|
|8||By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood up like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.|
|9||The enemy boasted, ’I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’|
|10||But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.|
|11||Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you — majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?|
|12||"You stretch out your right hand, and the earth swallows your enemies.|
|13||In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.|
|14||The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia.|
|15||The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away;|
|16||terror and dread will fall on them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone — until your people pass by, LORD, until the people you bought pass by.|
|17||You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance — the place, LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.|
|18||"The LORD reigns for ever and ever."|
|19||When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.|
|20||Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing.|
|21||Miriam sang to them: "Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea."|