“… The prophets who were before you.”
"Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also (Numbers 12: 1)?" This was Miriam’s complaint. Though the English text tells us that both Miriam and Aaron complained, the Hebrew text uses the verb in the feminine form.
The complaint had to do with prophecy, but also with Moses’ Cushite (Ethiopian) wife. The Torah is not very generous on details concerning the situation with the Cushite woman, but we can certainly read in the text an issue of jealousy concerning Moses’ prophetic gift and elevated position in the camp. Right away God solved the issue by establishing what I would coin as the ‘hierarchy of prophecy’ (Numbers 12:6-8).
Similar problems seem to prevail in congregations today. To understand the issue, we must understand the nature, function, and property of prophet and prophecy. A prophet is not someone who tells the future or who is given messages for the benefit of everybody else. A prophet is simply someone who hears God to a certain extent. Samuel started his career as a prophet when he heard God in the middle of the night; because all Israel hear the Voice on the mountain they were all prophets; Yeshua called His disciples ‘prophets' cause they heard Him (1 Samuel 3:4; Exodus 20:18; Matthew 5:12). Prophecy is also part of the ‘earnest of the spirit’ each one receives as believers, just as Peter reminded us using the prophet Joel’s prophecy (2 Corinthians 1:22 KJV; Acts 2:16-18). But whereas everybody has the ability to hear God’s Voice either in a dream, vision, through the reading of Scripture, or even in a Voice in their hearts, doesn’t mean that they should strut around as teachers and prophets saying 'the Lord told me' to give weight to their personal views and opinions. Only certain ones are given the divine command to share a message with the body and even when that happens, the congregation is to weigh the message (1Corinthians 14:29).
In this sense, Miriam was right in her question to Moses. The issue here was that in her misplaced jealousy she did not recognize Moses’ status. Maybe as his older sister, she was a bit familiar with him. God seemed to communicate with Moses like with no-one else before. Whereas everybody else was given riddles, dreams and visions to decipher, God’s communication with Moses was less ambiguous. The Torah tells us, with him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD (Numbers 12:8). Yeshua is prophesied as the ‘prophet like Moses’ (Deuteronomy 18:15). That is because as Moses, the Master had open communications with God.
In their innate craving for self importance people often ignore these principles of prophecy and thus like Miriam cause many problems in congregations. To ‘drop’ God’s Name to share a personal opinion or view on something is very dangerous and akin to ‘using the Name of God in vain’.
May we remember that while Paul spoke highly of the gift of prophecy, he also said that something was higher than prophecy: Love (1 Corinthians 12:31; 13).