Today’s Reading: Judges 12-14
Today’s Reflection: Judges 12:5-6
5) And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,” 6) they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell.
The half tribe of Ephraim took issue with their brothers to the east of the Jordan—Jephthah and the men of Gilead—for waging war against the Ammonites without their involvement. Ephraim attacked them, but God gave Jephthah and Gilead victory and control over all of the Jordan river crossings. When the men of Ephraim who had managed to escape tried to escape and make their way across the river, men of Gilead were posted there and administering a test to distinguish between friend and foe—the test of speaking the word ‘shibboleth’. The men of Ephraim tried in vain to pass as Gileadites but failed, and paid for that failure with their lives.
We’ve learned a lot about the acquisition of language in recent years. It turns out all babies, regardless of nation of origin, make the exact same sounds at birth. These foundational sounds are able to develop into any known spoken language, but as babies grow they lose the ability to make sounds that are not part of the languages or dialects they experience. The test the Ephramites were exposed to was a test of experience. The Gileadites were used to pronouncing the word with a hard ‘sh’ sound, while their brothers across the river pronounced it with a softer ‘si’ sound. The men of Ephraim didn’t have the foundational experience to pronounce the ‘sh’ sound, marking them clearly as enemies and sealing their destruction.
Our experience marks us as well, but in an even more profound way. Our experiences shape our character and behaviour. There are those of us who genuinely seek to know God for ourselves and to have a personal relationship with Him. Who recognize our shortcomings, our need for a saviour and accept the salvation offered through and by Jesus Christ. Who acknowledge our inability to change on our own and receive the conviction and power from the Holy Spirit to transform our lives. Then there are those who create their own version of God. Who desire a convenient God that fits their lifestyle rather than a God who requires they change their lifestyle. Who want a God that serves them rather than a God that requires their transformation to serve Him. Either set of experiences will shape that person’s character and their ability to pass the tests of life.
Unlike the language skills of a helpless baby, when it comes to the type of character we develop we have a choice. Though how we are raised in infancy, childhood and adolescence influences our early direction, we each reach a point of maturity where we have to decide the type of life we want to live and choose to surround ourselves with friends, influences and experiences accordingly. Once we’ve made our decisions we have to live with the consequences, for judgment will come for each of us. When the time comes some of us will be able to point to our relationship with God and be accepted by Him. Others who have chosen not to have that experience with God will attempt to fake it. And they will fail.
21) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22) On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23) And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Choose This: A real, honest experience with God that you can build a relationship and reliance upon leading to eternal life.
Not That: A self-serving experience that will leave you trying in vain to fake a life with God you never had.