Authority and Submission, by Watchman Nee


In Numbers 12:7, God said, “My servant Moses…is faithful in all My house.” This word is later quoted in the New Testament book of Hebrews. Hebrews shows us that Moses, as a type of Christ the Son of God, was faithful in all God’s house (3:2). God seemed to be hinting at Aaron and Miriam, saying, “Moses might not have been altogether faithful in your house when he married a Cushite woman. But he serves My people and is faithful in all My house. You spoke against him because his wife may not have been a good sister-in-law in your house, but he is My servant. Why are you not afraid when you speak against My servant Moses?”

God called Moses His servant. For me to be God’s servant means that I belong to God. I am God’s inheritance, and I have been sold to God. If I ever become lost, it will be God’s loss, not my loss. Those who own servants lose their property when they lose their servants. Moses was God’s servant, which means that he was God’s property, and when anyone spoke against His servant, God surely had to step forward to speak for him. We do not have to defend ourselves, and there is no need for us to build up our own authority. This is God’s business. I am His servant, and when I am spoken against, God will step forward. If God does not step forward, what use would there be for me to step forward myself? Why is there the need to build up my own authority at all? If God is the One who appoints me to be the authority, I should not do anything to establish myself; I should only allow revelation to vindicate me. If I find revelation and supply in others also, it proves that God has not vindicated me. But if God has established me, He will seal up others as a vindication for me. If you are a deputy authority and others dispute this, they are disputing God. If they have any life in them at all, they will experience a closed heaven, and they will bow to you and acknowledge your authority.

I hope that no one would stand up to claim that he is the authority. You should allow time and revelation to vindicate you. Revelation is the best vindication. Suppose you say that God has chosen you and that you have revelation and authority. If others oppose and rebel against you, and if they go to God and also receive revelation, it means that God has not vindicated you or backed you up. In that case it would be useless to speak for yourself. If you are faithful in all of God’s house and put everything you have into His house, and if you find Him sealing up others, it means that He has appointed you to be His authority. Authority is something in God’s hand; it does not depend on you. The greatest problem today is man’s self. If you understand what is God’s authority and God’s way, you will realize what I have been saying repeatedly, that is, when others argue with you, they are arguing with God, because you are God’s possession. As soon as others touch you, God seals up their heaven, and they have no choice but to turn and repent, acknowledging you as God’s authority. Hence, there is no need to build up your own authority. Everything depends on God’s vindication. If God seals up others, it means that He has appointed you to be the authority.


At the end of verse 8 God said, “Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?” God knows that there are some things to be fearful of. God is God; He knows what love is, what light is, what glory is, and what holiness is. God even knows what fear is because He feared for Aaron and Miriam. He asked, “Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?” God is afraid of nothing, but He told Aaron and Miriam that speaking against Moses was a fearful thing. To God this was a matter to be feared. Unless they were altogether in darkness, ignorance, and senselessness, they should have been afraid. At this point God stopped. He did not execute His judgment yet, but He departed, His anger burning against them (v. 9).

God expends much energy to maintain His authority. Let me solemnly repeat this: God maintains His own authority; He does not maintain Moses’ authority. We can say respectfully that when God’s servant commits a mistake, it is God’s business alone. God did not say, “You have spoken against Moses;” rather, He said that they had spoken against “My servant, against Moses.” It so happened that in this case, God’s servant was Moses. But if it had been someone else, it would have been the same; it would have been “My servant,” plus the name of the servant. God was here maintaining His own authority; He was not maintaining Moses’ authority. God would not allow anyone to infringe on His authority. As soon as man rebels against His authority, He turns away in wrath.

As soon as God left, the cloud was removed from over the tent (v. 10). The cloud represents God’s presence. For the cloud to leave means that God’s presence was removed. Typically, when the cloud moved on, God moved on, and the tabernacle moved on as well. But when the cloud moved this time, Miriam became leprous. Typically, the moving of the cloud marked the start of the Israelites’ journey. But on that day, they could not journey on, because rebellion had broken out. When Aaron saw this he was afraid, because he had partaken of this rebellion. Since Miriam had taken the lead in this rebellion, she was the one who became leprous.

Moses did not open his mouth. As long as the tabernacle did not communicate any revelation, Moses did not open his mouth. He had learned his lesson. Although he was eloquent, he kept his mouth shut and did not open it until Aaron pleaded for forgiveness. Those whose hearts and mouths are not bridled are not qualified to be the authority. Those who have God’s authority surely have it in their heart as well as their mouth. When Aaron pleaded with Moses, he cried to Jehovah. Before that time, Moses was a bystander. There was no murmuring in him. There was no rebuke or criticism in him. When Aaron pleaded with him, he prayed. This is the cross. Here we find that Moses was a person who did not have any personal feeling. When he saw Miriam becoming leprous and Aaron pleading out of fear, he immediately cried to God. He did not say coldly, “All right, as a favor to you I will perhaps try to plead with God for you.” No! Moses cried to God immediately. He did not have any feeling of his own. He had no thought of justification or punishment. When God’s purpose was fulfilled, he forgave immediately. Authority is for executing God’s command; it is not for uplifting oneself. A deputy authority should bring the presence of God to God’s children, not the presence of himself. We are here to bring others under God’s authority, not our authority. It is a small thing for us to be rejected. In verse 13 Moses prayed, “Heal her, O God, I beg You.” Here was a man who was truly qualified to be an authority because he had no feeling of his own. May the Lord deliver us from our personal feelings. Once a man is entangled with his personal feelings, God’s business suffers and He becomes restricted.

Moses did not take pleasure in Aaron and Miriam’s suffering. On the contrary, he asked God for mercy and prayed for Miriam’s healing. Had Moses not received mercy and had he been ignorant of God’s grace, he would have said to Aaron, “Since you have said that God should speak to you also, why don’t you pray to God yourself?” Or he could have said to God, “If You do not vindicate me, I will quit.” It seems that God was giving Moses a chance to vindicate himself. Moses did not ask for such a chance; it came by itself. Moses could have said: “Had God been silent, I could not have done anything. But now that God has done something, I can take this opportunity to vindicate myself.” But he did not take the opportunity to vindicate or revenge. He could have said to God, “My brother and sister are criticizing me. If You do not do anything for me, I will quit.” It is easy for a man to seize the moment of God’s vindication to vindicate himself and take revenge. But Moses did not justify himself, nor did he take advantage of God’s vindication. He did not have any feeling of his own; he was a person who was not living in his self. Such criticism seemed very insignificant to him. Moses’ flesh had been completely dealt with. He did not revenge. On the contrary, he prayed for God to heal Miriam. This is like Christ praying on the cross for His persecutors (Luke 23:34). Some people think that it is an easy thing to be God’s deputy authority. But it is not an easy thing. One has to empty himself completely before he can be a deputy authority.

Moses was indeed a true representative of the Son of God. He was able to act as God’s deputy authority because he truly represented God. He was not touched by the flesh, and he did not protect himself or vindicate himself. He did not take revenge on his attackers. This is why God’s authority could flow through him unhindered. We can say that he truly was a man who had met God’s authority. He was not touched by the flesh, the carnal man, or the self at all. As such, he was qualified to be God’s deputy authority.

(Authority and Submission, Chapter 13, by Watchman Nee)