Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD– how long?
(Psalm 6:2-3 ESV)
Time never fits. If the time is good, it is always too short. If bad, well, “how long, O Lord, how long?” God’s people have many ‘how long’ experiences on their journey home. But they do not always have them for the same reasons.
You could be stuck like Paul in Philippians 1:12-14. Paul’s time under house arrest was for ‘the greater progress of the Gospel.’ God would relieve Paul in his own time. Meanwhile, people were being saved. In fact, Paul was once in yet another jail in the very town of Philippi. That prison time was not about Paul either. It was about the Philippian jailer and his family. They got saved.
Sometimes we may be in a hard place for reasons we do not know, indeed, may never know. But God knows. And God knows how and when to vindicate his faithful servants.
But sometimes we land in a hard place because of our own behavior and we sometimes have to stay there until we learn what God has left us there to learn. Such was the case in Numbers 12, when Moses’ sister and brother rebelled against his leadership. Miriam was the youngest of the three, Aaron being oldest and Moses being the middle child. (see Numbers 26:59) But in this story Miriam was named first because Miriam was the instigator.
Poor Aaron, he was so easily duped. Miriam knew this. She was at Sinai when the crowd cowed Aaron into making a golden calf. Now she drew him into her scheme to challenge Moses. How do I know that Miriam was the instigator?
When God summoned all three to the tent of meeting and all three went into the cloudy presence of God, God asked Aaron and Miriam why they weren’t afraid to challenge Moses. When the cloud of God’s glory was removed, only one person was leprous, Miriam. Miriam knew Aaron, but God knew them both. He sees behind all the manipulations of men and his arrows don’t miss. (Psalm 7:11-13) Aaron was the fall guy but God didn’t fall for it.
Poor Aaron seemed to go whichever way the wind blew. When he saw Miriam’s leprosy, he was immediately transformed from heinous rebel to repentant suppliant. He begged Moses and Moses begged God, “Heal her, please!” God’s response is worthy of some meditation.
Numbers 12:14. “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days?” Miriam was put outside the camp for seven days. The whole nation came to a standstill for seven days. For seven days, one and all, and especially Miriam, had extended leave to mull over Miriam’s rebellion. Sometimes we get stuck, not for someone else’s sake, but for our own.
If you are stuck in a hard place like Paul, you may never know why. Be patient. God knows how and when to deliver his faithful servants. But if are stuck in a hard place like Miriam, don’t waste a minute. There is something here he means for you to learn. Learn it. But you too must be patient. God knows the difference between thinking you’ve got it and getting it.
What a Savior to love such a people! Romans 5:8