By Everette Chapman
I recently taught a Bible study about Miriam, the sister of Moses in the Bible. I entitled it, “Miriam: Prophetess, Trouble-maker, or Both?” Miriam, Moses’ sister, was used of God at the time of his birth to keep him alive and to have him placed, eventually, in the palace of the Pharaoh. Under the tutelage of the Pharaoh’s daughter, he received a classical education in the king’s court, thus equipping him to lead his people, the Israelites, from Egyptian slavery to freedom and nationhood.
She evolved into being a leader of the Israelite women and was dubbed a “prophetess” by the author of the Book of Exodus. After the Israelites had escaped the Egyptian army, and that pursuing force had been drowned in the Red Sea, she led the women in singing a glorious anthem to God: “Sing to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously! The horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea!”
There was, however, a not-so-salvific and not-at-all-that-prophetic incident in the life of Miriam. It occurred when she and her brother, Aaron, rose up in rebellion against Moses, questioning his leadership and even his exclusive call from God, and were totally insubordinate. The answer to the question, “Prophetess, Trouble-maker, or Both?” is that she was both. She had a hand in keeping Moses alive at his birth, and she rose to be a prophetess and a leader of the Egyptian woman. At the same time, her humanity raised its ugly head when she also became a rebel and a trouble-maker.
Miriam was simply like all of us. She was human and, as such, a mixture of good and bad, noble and ignoble, heroic and hellish. Throughout her life she did great things and not-so-great things. Presenting Miriam as just like all of us, I brought that study to a close with Linda Ellis’ poem, “The Dash.” Several listeners requested a copy of the poem. I include it here, for them and for you.
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone, from the beginning to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth, and spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said that what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represented all of the time that she spent alive on earth
And now only those who love her could know what that little line was worth.
For it matters not how much we own – the cars, the house, the cash.
What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard: are there things you would like to change?
You never know how much time is left that can still be re-arranged.
If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s truly real,
And always try to understand how other people feel,
And be less quick to anger, show appreciation more,
And love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
We should treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile,
Remembering that this special dash might last only a little while.
These words remind me of some I used to see in a little farm house in our neighborhood. An elderly couple had bought from some schoolboy a little cardboard plaque, which read: “There’s only one life; ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” I agree.
Rev. Everette Chapman is pastor of Fairfield Mountains Chapel.