Outside the Camp

Joyce K. Ellis

Moses’ sister Miriam learned a hard lesson. Disrespect for authority can get in the way of our prayers and keep us from God’s blessing.

Here I sit, outside Israel’s campground. Everyone treats me as “unclean.” A bird twitters a song nearby. I love music, but I don’t feel like singing. I wish I could take back what I said. Let me tell you how it happened.

I love my youngest brother, Moses. When I was young I watched over him in the Nile before the Egyptian princess adopted him. But when he moved into the palace of Pharaoh, it was as if Aaron and I were our family’s only two children. We played together and talked about everything.

When we grew up, Moses returned as God’s leader to deliver our people to the Promised Land. I became a prophetess. God speaks to me, and I tell others what I hear. I even wrote a song about how God used Moses to cross the Red Sea and bring us out of slavery.  

But after we escaped from Egypt, we started wandering in the desert. Tired, hungry, and thirsty, we all got cranky. One night, I sat with Aaron by our campfire, twirling a twig.

“I don’t get it,” I complained. “God speaks through you and me, too. Why don’t people respect us as much as Moses?” “I don’t know,” Aaron sighed. “I’m a high priest. I’ve spent my whole life praying for these people.” I tossed the twig into the fire. “Who does Moses think he is, anyway? He didn’t even marry someone who follows Jehovah!”

Aaron nodded slowly. Suddenly God’s voice boomed from heaven. “Come out, you three, to the Tent of Meeting.”

My heart pounded. Aaron and I ran to the tent, but Moses had gotten there even faster. A tall Pillar of Cloud hovered by the entrance to the Tent. God was there. Tears stung my eyes. What had I done?

“Miriam! Aaron!” God thundered from the cloud. “Step forward!”

My knees buckled, but Aaron steadied me. We walked forward, shielding our eyes.

“Listen,” God commanded. “I usually speak to prophets in visions, but with Moses I talk plainly and in person. Why did you speak disrespectfully against him?” God’s anger blasted us like a red-hot furnace.

Suddenly, I felt strange. Swollen splotches of white spread over my body.

Aaron gasped. “Miriam! It’s leprosy!” Leprosy is a disease that eats away your skin. There is no cure. Aaron grabbed Moses’ hand. “Moses—our godlyleader—please don’t judge us harshly for our thoughtless sin.

”Moses raised his hands to heaven. “Please heal her,God!” he cried.

God answered Moses’ prayer and healed me. But to remind us all of the results of sin, I had to live outside the camp for seven days. Today is day seven. Speaking against God’s chosen leader kept me from my friends and my position as prophetess. And my sin kept my people from moving closer to the Promised Land. “Lord, please help me be more careful with my words!”

Wait! I think I see Aaron coming for me. “Thank You, God!” I’m forgiven. Now we can journey on.

Article excerpted from "PrayKids: Outside the Camp" by Joyce K. Ellis, © 2003. Used by permission of NavPress, www.navpress.com. All rights reserved.


Author and speaker Joyce K. Ellis is creator of One-Minute Bible Devotions for Kids.


Originally published May 29, 2007.

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