Consequence of Not Submitting

Yesterday I delved into the example of Deborah, a submissive wife who was chosen by God to be a prophetess and a judge in her community. What a big calling for a woman in that day and age!

We looked at just how radically submissive a wife can be.

Today I want to look at another woman who served as a prophetess. She, however, was not documented in the Bible as being a wife. Yet she was submissive most of the time.


Let me start with a story.

Janet was a prayer warrior. It was known amongst the women in the church that if you had a need that was urgent she was who you called on. Many nights Janet spent on her knees interceding for a sister in Christ or her family for various reasons. It wasn’t unusual for Janet to make hospital or home visits just to pray with those hurting or in need. While rarely the way expected or requested, each need always seemed to be met.

One month in a church planning meeting a request was made for a conference on prayer. A middle-aged woman who was well-established in the congregation mentioned that they had a seasoned prayer warrior in their midst that would be wonderful to lead such a conference. Conversation continued and the idea was tabled for further research.

Throughout the next month many people spoke with Janet about her prayer ministry. She spent hours in prayer herself asking God to clearly direct her path. When it came time for the next planning meeting Janet was confident God was prompting her to lead the conference. Although she had never really taught before, she certainly had the experience necessary to lead this conference and she was willing to do it at no cost.

Barely minutes into the meeting a motion was made to bring in well-known, high-priced speaker on prayer. The motion passed with everyone’s vote except for a shocked Janet.

That night after the meeting the pastor cheerfully approached Janet. “I have had a request to see if you would be willing to teach a class on Wednesday nights for our newly-wed wives on prayer. Doesn’t that sound like a great opportunity? You will be a GREAT inspiration and encouragement to women at this stage of their marriages!”

We’ll come back to Janet’s story a little later. Let’s take a look at another woman with a calling. Her name is Miriam.

Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them: “Sing to the Lord, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” Exodus 15:20-21

Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron, prophetess, and worship leader. Not only that, but she played a drum and danced!

In many conservative circles, Miriam is radical and a rebel!

Let’s rewind.

Where did Miriam get her start in ministry?

Remember Pharaoh degreed that all male children born to Hebrew women should be killed. Miriam’s mother had a son and hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer she put him in an ark and set it in the reeds in the river. Miriam stood watch over her brother. Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe in the river and found baby Moses. Even though she knew he was a Hebrew baby she had compassion on him. (Paraphrase Exodus 2:3-6)

Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the maiden went and called the child’s mother. Exodus 2:7-8

Miriam submitted to her parents, to God, and to government officials. Her faithfulness resulted in her own mother getting paid to nurse and raise her own son until he was big enough to be raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter.

We don’t know anything about Miriam’s ministry from the time she protected her brother’s life to this celebration after the crossing of the Red Sea.

Moses was God’s chosen mouthpiece and Aaron and his sons had been promised to be set apart as priests (Exodus 28 and 29). Miriam had no such promise or future specified.

I have spent much of my week focusing on how women, especially submissive women, are not doormats, nor should they be silent victims. I stand beside all I have proclaim thus far.

Today I want to issue a warning, however. Those of us women who have been called into radical submission, into radical ministry, bear a load of responsibility.

We need to remember that we are called to submit to authority. I’m reminded of the saying, “Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.”

Miriam was human. She was just like me. Maybe like you, but I won’t make that assumption.

Miriam got a little caught up in jealousy. Here she is serving alongside her two brothers doing the same work at the same time and seemingly reaping no rewards. Moses had received numerous radical direct experiences with God Himself and managed didn’t believe he was capable of doing what God created him to do. Aaron was an amazing speaker and got to speak for Moses. Because of his willingness to be the microphone, he and his sons would be priests.

Miriam and Aaron spoke out against Moses’ wife to start with, but finally we find out they really don’t have a problem with who he’s married.

So they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard hear it. Numbers 12:2

Have you ever watched someone above you who’s doing the exact same thing as you and wondered why they’re above you? It could be at work, in the church, or in a ministry. We’re doing the exact same work. Why is the labor of their hands being blessed and mine isn’t?

I’m inferring quite a bit here, but I can imagine this might be along the lines of what Miriam was thinking. God heard her and called her on it.

Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself know to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?” Numbers 12:6-8

Um, I think Miriam just got an answer. God might have spoken through her and Aaron, but He had spoken directly to Moses. Moses was His chosen one. She and Aaron should not have been speaking out against Moses in any way shape or form.

Miriam had been called to be submissive not superior. She allowed her pride to cloud her thinking and to corrupt her calling.

When we allow our pride to take over we allow our submissive nature to slip away. All of the sudden it isn’t about feeling like I have a right to be or do the same thing my male counterparts are doing, but it’s about me calling God onto the carpet and snubbing His leadership in my life.

If I’ve learned nothing else in my life, I’ve learned that I am not smarter than God.

And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord! Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb!” So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!” Then the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may be received again.” So Miriam was shut out of the camp seven days, and the people did not journey till Miriam was brought in again. Numbers 12:10-15

Miriam’s failure to submit brought discipline from the Lord. Her brother Aaron, the follower, was the one who noticed and pled forgiveness for her plight. Her brother Moses, the one they had spoke out against, the one they had sinned against, the one they both should have been in submission to all along, immediately cried out on her behalf and prayed for her healing.

God heard Moses prayer and forgave Miriam. However, she still had to accept the consequences of her rebellion. Not only that, but the entire camp had to sit for seven days and wait for her punishment to end.

When we choose not to submit to those God has placed in authority over us, whether they be husbands, relatives, or Godly leaders, we put not only ourselves in danger, but the entire body in danger.

Remember Janet’s story from the beginning of my post? Janet felt like God was calling her to lead the prayer conference at her church. She was the only prayer warrior within the congregation. The church didn’t vote for her to lead the conference though. Instead, they offered to let her teach newly married women how to pray.

What a consolation, right?

Janet has a couple choices. Ok, she has a LOT of choices in my mind!

She can:

A) leave the church. Yep. Just quit. How dare they overlook her gift that way.

B) confront the issue. Call it onto the carpet. Why are they paying some high-priced person to come lead a conference that she is clearly qualified to lead and willing to do for free?

C) Refuse to teach the newly married women’s prayer class. Are you kidding? If I’m not good enough for the whole church, then I’m not good enough for the new wives.

D) teach the newly married women’s prayer class with a bitter spirit and not give it her all.

E) pray without ceasing over the newly married women’s prayer class while pouring everything she knows into those women. She is helping to shape the future prayer warriors of the congregation, you know.

F) attend the church-wide prayer conference and contradict everything the speaker says. Make sure everyone’s aware of just how upset she is by this decision.

G) attend the church-wide prayer conference, pray without ceasing for the speaker, take copious notes, and stay late each night to pray with members who would like someone to pray with them.

Seven choices. Seven. And I didn’t think too hard to come up with that many. How many more options are popping in to your head?

Are any of these choices submissive? Some of these choices have the power to put Janet in danger, but some of them could seriously harm many other people.

What if Janet said no to teaching those newly married wives or stopped praying for others all together? What kind of impact might that have?

Sometimes our pride causes us to decide not to submit. Your no better than me! I don’t have to listen to you! And we proceed to do something we later regret just because we didn’t want to look weak by submitting.

I don’t know about you, but I happen to believe that strength is found when we get on our knees and that my friends is submission.