Day 17


Exodus 14:21-31, Exodus 15:19-21, Numbers 12:1-16, Numbers 20:1

BY Annie Downs

I think Jesus gives special grace to older sisters. Sure, maybe it’s because I am one (multiple times over, thank you very much), but I still think it is true.

There’s something in the heart of an older sister, put there by God, that is akin to mama mode. Have you seen that in yourself? Or in the older sister in your life? Or in your oldest daughter? The oldest sister protects, she cares, she worries. Yet, at the same time, she fiercely desires independence—she’s just careful not to go so far away she can’t come running the first time she’s needed.

We are fickle creatures, us eldest sisters.

And Miriam fits in our club so well.

We meet Miriam in Exodus 2, when her brother Moses is just a baby in a basket, floating down a river (I CANNOT IMAGINE THE PANIC I WOULD FEEL IF MY BABY SISTER SALLY WAS IN THAT BASKET!). She follows and protects and does her big sister thing. And the Bible doesn’t say this, but I’m betting she didn’t take her eyes off that floating basket its entire trip.

They grow up, and as we keep reading about Miriam and Moses and their other brother Aaron, she’s still there. Of course she is. She’s a big sister. She’s THE big sister. She stands with him, she travels with him, she leads the women in worship as Moses leads the people. And also? She gets all judgy about his decision-making.

(Classic big sister move, Miriam. CLASSIC.)

We see it in Numbers 12, when she gets herself and Aaron all worked up about this gal Moses marries, and God is none too pleased. This woman who has stood by her brother—from his first river-float to crossing the Red Sea—is now, decades later, in trouble with God for speaking against Moses.

It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Even with the ones we love the most, the ones we feel most connected to and most responsible for, we mess it up. We do it wrong. We sin. We hurt others.

Just because older sisters feel protective and caring and are awesome in general (ahem), it certainly does not make them perfect. (That sound you hear is my younger siblings screaming “AMEN! PREACHIN’ TO THE CHOIR!”) And that’s a hard thing for us to face as humans, no matter your birth order.

It’s hard to feel like you can’t fix what you want to fix OR judge when you want to judge. Whether you are a mama or a friend or a sibling, I think we all have people we feel we can protect, take care of, and insulate from hurt and pain and disaster. It was a hard day for me when I had to face the fact that I am unable to protect my sisters and keep them safe. Even on my best days, I am not enough.

We can’t be Jesus. We can’t be the rescuer. And that’s disturbing to our human hearts.

Miriam had to feel that. We see it in some of her actions. And I bet if we knew her, and she was willing to be honest, we’d hear it in her stories too—the struggle to be her own woman while also protecting these grown little brothers who are leading hundreds of thousands of people across a sea and a desert for years and years. The struggle to not just be a leader but be a hero— the hero.

Do you feel that way, too?

Do you think you have to be the hero? Do you believe you alone must enact justice in the lives of the people you love? Do you presume to be enough to win this battle?

Oh, sister. You aren’t, you don’t, you can’t. Remember, Miriam said it herself when she sang in Exodus 15:

HE has triumphed gloriously.

For you. On your behalf.

God is the rescuer. Jesus is the hero. You don’t have to carry the burden for all your people, you just have to trust that Jesus does.

Maybe the greatest grace Jesus gives big sisters (and all sisters) is the grace to let go and let Him triumph.

It is glorious that way.

Post Comments (169)

169 thoughts on "Miriam"

  1. Kristi says:

    Watch my judging ways…. always easier said than done to me. This devotional was a fantastic reminder to me today.

  2. Madison says:

    oldest sister here! This devo was spot on! I am thankful for a God who fights the battles for us. There is a song by Morgan Harper Nichols (Jamie Grace’s sister) that’s called “I can’t save myself” Listen to it– it’s beautiful!!

  3. Mary says:

    I am the oldest of four and this resonates deeply. I’ll never forget the day my sister, the second in line, came to me and tearfully told me she couldn’t live under my “rule” anymore. We were almost adults and I had tried to take care of her by forcing her to be me. I still struggle with boundaries in caring for those closest to me. I’m so thankful for the reminder that in not the first to struggle and that God is sovereign in my life and the lives of my younger siblings!

  4. Andrea Z. says:

    Saying something out of love and concern is different than saying something out of judgement. This has been a lesson for me because I’ve had to ask God to help me learn when to speak up and when to shut up and pray. As a leader there is a fine line and God calls us to edify each other. Miriam did her best and made a mistake because she thought more about her place in Moses’ life and thought she had the right to give her opinion, but Moses was still a child of God and we always have to give God his place.

  5. This described me so well… I even do it with my friends and roommates bc I’m the eldest. Some of them will come to me when they want a momma figure bc, let’s face it, living away from home and just college life in general is hard. Some of them have to tell me to stop when I’m being too motherly. It helps that I still live very close to my own mother, and I am so thankful for her. But I’m more thankful for the Lord’s grace that shows me the balance of serving others and knowing when to just sit back, pray and trust that his grace is sufficient. Thank you Lord!!

  6. Rebecca says:

    Oh my. This spoke to me on so many levels. I’m the oldest in my family, and I constantly feel that it’s my responsibility to protect and guide my siblings. I get angry and indignant when they don’t do what I think they should, because don’t they know I’m only trying to protect them? I’m trying to herd them all along and make them walk in straight line, like a mama duck, but the truth is that they’re not my ducklings to herd. They’re His. I can be supportive and loving and protective, but I can’t take Jesus’ place. He made me the eldest for a reason, and I don’t take that responsibility lightly, but I realize now that I do need to take a step back. Thank you, SRT, for this eye opening lesson.

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