Miriam (Exodus 14-15)
A strange quiet hung in the air. The kind of quiet that only comes after an immense and terrifying event.
Miriam stood between her two brothers, Moses and Aaron, staring out at the churning mass of water that had closed in behind them. Was it only moments ago she had been standing in the middle of that very space on dry ground, or had it been hours? Time had seemed to slow to stop as she and her brothers led the great mass of people and animals through the strangely dry Sea of Reeds.
As the last of the gathered people stepped out of what should have been sea onto dry land, a cry went up. “They’re coming!” Turning, Miriam saw Pharaoh’s forces charging forward again. She stared, willing herself to watch as those who had enslaved her and her people bore down on them. If death was coming at Pharaoh’s hands she would meet it as she had every other moment in her life—with open eyes and a courageous heart.
She watched as Pharaoh’s forces followed in the footsteps of her people, charging across the same path that had brought them safely through the waters. But something was different—it looked as though the dry ground wasn’t as dry as it had been. As she and the rest of the great multitude watched, the wheels of Pharaoh’s chariots began to sink; wedged into the deepening mud.
Suddenly, Miriam sensed movement beside her. She turned, and saw her brother Moses stretching out his hands over the Sea, just as he had before it dried up—and the waters returned.
Screams erupted from the multitude as the waters swirled and churned. Miriam watched, as those who had held her captive her entire life disappeared beneath the waves. Then the silence descended.
‘Was it shock, or relief, or fear,’ Miriam wondered. She was certainly feeling all those things and more after what she had just seen. She turned to her brothers and saw the same nameless expression spread across their faces. She waited, surely Moses would know what to say—but the man who had faced Pharaoh again and again now stood in stunned silence. Her gaze shifted to Aaron, the spokesman of the group. Surely he, who was never without words, would know what to say—but he too was speechless in the face of what had just occurred.
The shock of the last few days seemed to have finally caught up to her two brothers. Their terrifying last night in Egypt had given way to a hurried escape and days spent wandering, following a pillar of cloud and fire. Everyone had seemed to be waiting for the inevitable, and then it happened. Pharaoh and his armies came charging toward them, determined to either capture or kill their escaped slaves.
And then, as suddenly as it all began, it was over. The terror that had gripped Miriam’s heart since they had all escaped from Egypt began to loosen. Was it really over? Were they free?
Miriam turned; the people were waiting. Waiting for direction, for encouragement, for assurance that they were really and truly free.
Then a familiar voice, a voice she had known since childhood, spoke into her heart.
“Lord?” she murmured quietly.
“Sing, my child,” the voice said again, “Sing. Help them know they are free.”
Miriam dropped instantly to her knees and rummaged quickly through her bag, searching. She grasped the sought after object and pulled it jingling from the bag.
Stepping apart from her brothers, she lifted the tambourine high over her head and shook it. The eyes of the multitude turned towards her. Slowly, the jingling sound began to grow as more women reached into their own bags and joined their tambourines to Miriam’s until the earth seemed to shake with the glorious cacophony.
As the sound reached its zenith, Miriam clapped her hand against her tambourine and dropped it quickly to her side. The other women followed, and a great silence stretched out again over the people.
Miriam drew in a deep breath, closed her eyes, and began to sing.
For a moment, all was silent as her clear, melodious voice spread over the crowd. Slowly, as she sang, the sound of cheering began to spread. Tambourines began to shake again and those without instruments began to clap their hands. Then the entire multitude seemed to break at once into shouts of relief and joy.
“Sing with me,” she cried out at last, “Sing, because we are free!”
Questions to ponder
What was your favorite part of the story?
Where did you see God in the story?
What is God inviting you to try on today in light of the story?
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