Follow the Leader - In Ways that Honor God

A short Bible study looking at two situations, one in the life of Sarah and one in the life of David. One followed bad advice and one rejected it.

Before doing this study, please read the one-minute Introduction: Follow the Leader.

It explains that we must be careful not to follow ungodly leaders. We're called to respect leaders in the church, but we still must test their teaching with God's Word to make sure we aren't mislead. 

The two examples below give us more insight into godly and ungodly "following."

1. For the most part Sarah was a good example of a submissive wife. But this is one of several times she failed.

Genesis 20:1-5: Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, 2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her. 3 But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.” 4 Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? 5 Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.” 

Sarah was a bad follower in this situation, doing something ungodly for Abraham when she should have respectfully refused. Even though wives are supposed to submit to their husbands, submission never involves violating God's laws. Note the wording of Colossians 3:18Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Sarah would have been forced into an adulterous sexual relationship with Abimelek if God had not rescued her. 

This principle is true of a soldier and his commanding officer, an employee and her boss, Church members and their pastor, and a child and their parents. Scripture tells us to respect those in authority, but we are never to violate God's commands in the process. God's authority is always supreme.

Then, later in the chapter (verses 11-13) when Abimelek asked Abraham why he deceived him:

11 Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. 13 And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”

Abraham's plan was foolish, dishonest, and lacking in faith. He used a half-truth (i.e. half-lie) to protect himself instead of trusting God. It's interesting that the pagan Abimelek showed more faith than Abraham in this passage - God spoke to Abimelek and he listened!

2. David committed some serious sins, but he understood authority better than most.

1 Samuel 24:1-7: After Saul returned from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. 2 So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats. 3 At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave! 4 “Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. 5 But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.” 7 So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul. (NLT) 

David finds his enemy Saul in a compromised position. Saul would have killed David if he'd found him in a similar situation. From a human standpoint, Saul certainly deserved to be killed considering the way he had violated God's commands and was intent on murdering David. In addition, David's men told him God had given him this opportunity and he should take it.

But David had a faith-filled understanding of God's commands to respect those in authority. He knew God would deal with Saul in his own way and in his own time, so David refused to harm Saul and even felt remorse for taking a piece of his robe.  

David was a godly follower in this situation--he overcame peer pressure and personal offense to do the right thing. This is one of many reasons that, despite his serious sins, David was a man who had a heart for God. To read more about what set David apart, see 8 Elements of Repentance and Restoration and if you're married, I encourage you to read another devotion that addresses David's attitude toward Saul: Having God's Heart for Your Mother-in-law. (That last one should pique your curiosity 😊)

 © Gail Burton Purath,, 2015, updated in 2024

A short Bible study looking at two situations, one in the life of Sarah and one in the life of David. One followed bad advice and one rejected it.

A short Bible study looking at two situations, one in the life of Sarah and one in the life of David. One followed bad advice and one rejected it.

A short Bible study looking at two situations, one in the life of Sarah and one in the life of David. One followed bad advice and one rejected it.

Fight the Good Fight

Take a look at these interesting insights into the life of Miriam and make sure you don't make the same mistakes she made.

As an introduction to this study, please read the 1-minute devotion Miriam Didn't Finish Her Life Well.

Miriam did a great many godly things in her lifetime, but her last recorded actions in Scripture are petty, jealous criticisms of her younger brother, Moses.

Let's see what truths we can learn from her life.

1. What insights does this passage give us about young Miriam who was guarding her baby brother Moses as he floated near the bank of the Nile?

Exodus 2:4-8: His sister [Miriam] stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. 5 Then Pharaoh's daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. "This is one of the Hebrew babies," she said. 7 Then his sister [Miriam] asked Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?" 8 "Yes, go," she answered. And the girl went and got the baby's mother.  

In this passage we can see that God was already at work in young Miriam's life, preparing her for the faith adventures that lay ahead.

We don't know how old she was at this time, but  she was remarkably clever to ask Pharaoh's daughter if she wanted her to find someone to nurse the baby. Imagine how relieved and happy Moses' mother felt when she heard baby Moses was safe and she would be part of his young life. 

Miriam had a choice--to let God use her as Moses's sister or to become jealous of her brother who now would be raised in the lap of luxury while she lived as a slave. Did the jealousy she exhibited in later life start here? We don't know. 

2. What does this passage tell us about Miriam after the Red Sea miracle?

Exodus 15:20-21: Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.”
Find Moses' song in verses 1-19 of this chapter. 

Micah 6:4 tells us that Miriam was called to be a helper to her brother Moses along with Aaron. This passage refers to her as a prophetess meaning she had an important role in speaking truth to God's people. 

We don't know what her role involved because this act of celebration is the only specific act mentioned in Scripture. But we do know that her role and Aaron's role were never equal to the role of Moses. He was the leader of leaders who spoke directly to God. Even her act of celebration followed Moses' lead. See Exodus 12:8 below.

3. What does this passage tell us about Miriam near the end of her life?

Numbers 12:1-15: Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 "Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?" they asked. "Hasn't he also spoken through us?" And the LORD heard this. 3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.) 4 At once the LORD said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, "Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you." So the three of them came out. 5 Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, 6 he said, "Listen to my words: "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. 7 But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" 9 The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them. 10 When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam--leprous, like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy; 11 and he said to Moses, "Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother's womb with its flesh half eaten away." 13 So Moses cried out to the LORD, "O God, please heal her!" 14 The LORD replied to Moses, "If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back." 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back. 

What can we learn from these passages that applies to our lives? 

This situation may have started because of ethnic and racial bigotry since the Cushites were non-Jews and probably dark skinned. It is comforting to know that God did not stand for this kind of bigotry. I once heard a pastor say that he imagined that God was saying, "So you only like white skin, Miriam. Then I'll give you very white skin!" (i.e. leprosy).

But the motivation behind Miriam and Aaron's criticism of Moses was jealousy. They thought they should be just as important as Moses and they weren't. 

 God rebuked both Miriam and Aaron, but he punished Miriam. While Scripture doesn't explain, it seems likely that Miriam was the instigator of this event, influencing Aaron to join her. It is also significant that Aaron repented, but no apology from Miriam is recorded in Scripture.

This passage is a good warning to us to be satisfied with whatever role God has assigned us without coveting the positions of others. I cannot help but wonder if the reason Miriam is not mentioned again in Scripture is because her attitude never changed and her ministry to God's people ended. I hope that is not the case, but the choice was hers.

Miriam's name occurs three other times in Scripture:
  • Micah 6:4 explains that Moses, Aaron and Miriam lead God's people in the Exodus.
  • Deuteronomy 24:9 mentions Miriam's disobedience.
  • Numbers 20:1 simply says: "Miriam died and was buried." 

I encourage you to check out the Wisdom for Life Devotional. It contains 100 one-minute devotions to challenge, encourage, instruct, and inspire your love for God's Word. Read the story behind Wisdom for Life HERE. And find out about the 
two free Bible studies with purchase HERE.

copyright 2015, Gail Burton Purath,, edited and updated in 2024

Take a look at these interesting insights into the life of Miriam and make sure you don't make the same mistakes she made.

Moses to the Rescue Bible Study

This short Bible study explains what God looks for in a leader, and it might surprise you!

Before doing this study, please read the one-minute introduction Moses to the Rescue. It explains that God didn't use Moses when he was young and self-confident. He waited until Moses was able to trust God instead of trusting himself.

1. What does Jesus say about our ability to do great things?

John 15:4-5: Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Remaining in Christ means depending on His wisdom and strength, not our own. It means fulfilling His purposes, not our own. See John 14:21 and Ephesians 2:10 for additional insights. 

This short Bible study explains what God looks for in a leader, and it might surprise you!
2. What does Paul say about his abilities?

1 Corinthians 2:1-5: When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Paul makes it clear that he is merely a messenger. It's interesting (in light of Moses' excuses in Exodus 4:1-17) that Paul specifically says it isn't "eloquence" or "wise and persuasive words" that matter. 

3. What key insights are found in these two passages?

1 Peter 5:5b-6:  All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 

Numbers 12:3: Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.

Imagine this! God's Word says Moses was more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. That's the kind of leader God wants!

copyright, 2015, Gail Burton Purath,, edited and updated in 2024

This short Bible study explains what God looks for in a leader, and it might surprise you!