I’m sorry to be blunt but today’s Old Testament reading should be a wakeup call for anyone who thinks that the Holy Spirit is constantly on watch speaking to them about good doctrine. For us, with hindsight, it is easy to know that Moses was in charge and that God spoke through him. But all people want to inflate their own importance. This is what Aaron and Miriam do.
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?”
God puts a stop to this way of thinking immediately. He lets Aaron and Miriam know that Moses is his chosen representative.
And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.
Notice what God is saying here. First, he’s not denying that he MIGHT make himself known to people through the working of the Holy Spirit. Second, he is definitively stating that Moses speaks for him. Third, he is warning everyone be careful when you speak against my servant Moses. You should be AFRAID to do that, for speaking against Moses is to speak against God. This warning is particularly strong given the position that Aaron holds. He is the High Priest. He offers the daily sacrifice. He is the only one allowed into the tent with the Ark of the Covenant and God is still telling him – know your place.
We know that everything in the Old Testament finds fulfillment in the New Covenant. Jesus establishes this same paradigm with the Apostles. Jesus says to them, “he who hears you, hears Me. He who rejects you, rejects Me and the one who sent Me” and “what you bind on earth is bound in heaven, what you loose on earth is loosed in heaven.” Paul says that what he writes to the Colossians is “the same as a commandment of the Lord”. The Apostles clearly speak for Jesus.
Some people would say that is all fine and good but it only applies to the Apostles. But if we look to the Old Testament example, what if the Jews had said, “well that whole speaking for God thing only applies to Moses”. They would have missed David, Saul, and Isaiah and all the prophets. More importantly, as we saw in Matthew, the high priest still held this authority even though he was corrupt and doing evil. Recall that Jesus did not answer any of the charges at his trial UNTIL Caiaphas invoked his authority as high priest, then Jesus answered. Just as the authority of Moses did not end after Moses but was passed down through the generations so too is the authority given to Peter and the Apostles.
Some might say that things are different in the new covenant. That now we are in right relation with God, etc and that now the Holy Spirit comes to everyone. Fair enough, but having the Holy Spirit working in you doesn’t mean God speaks through you. Aaron was the high priest, he most assuredly had the Holy Spirit but this warning was most specifically directed at him. When Paul issues his edict that what he writes is “the same as a commandment of the Lord” it is in the context of correcting the faithful who are so filled with the Holy Spirit that they are causing a disturbance in Church by speaking in tongues. We know Paul and Barnabas had the Holy Spirit but as we will see in Acts 15, when a problem of interpreting scripture arises in the early church they cannot solve it and they have to take the issue to Peter and the other Apostles in Jerusalem. It is Peter who then states for everyone what “WE” believe.
Brothers and Sisters, the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives and as the Lord shows us in today’s reading part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to show us who speaks for God and to give us a proper fear of speaking against them. This is not the fear of children, it is not a terror of punishment but it is the fear of awe. It is the feeling of awe to recognize that one of the ways God has chosen to work in the world is through men. How lucky are we that God calls certain men out of the world to be his appointed representatives. That he then speaks through them so that we may know the fullness of truth.