Vaclav's picture

Judges 12:1-7

The Gileadites came from Ephraim and Manasseh -- they were family. They were accused by their family with these words: "You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh." Family politics never work out. Because of this accusation, Gilead killed all of Ephraim and took over the borders, so if there was any survivor from Ephraim he would also be killed.

There was not much difference between the family of Gilead and that of Ephraim except the pronunciation of one word: "Sibboleth". It doesn't seem like an important word, its meaning is "torrent of water". But this one word is used till this day as a distinguishing mark between peoples, groups, members and non-members of organizations.

For example, here are two thoughts: the sovereignty of God and the human free will. These two truths are very important, but often they are used as Shibboleths which distinguish two groups/camps, one from the other, Calvinists from Arminians.

Ok, so was it right for Gilead to treat Ephraim in this way? Couldn't he just let go of his bitterness and forgive Ephraim because of the accusation? Was Gilead right in exterminating and committing a genocide against the Ephraimites? We know the answer to that! It was horrible what Gilead did and we have horrible examples of it from our times.

But is there a lesson from this story for us for the church today? Yes!

Back to the Calvinist and Arminian example. Both groups have done enough harm to each other in the past few hundred years, and all that in view of the watching world. How shameful, and more than that, how disregarding of the words of our Lord Jesus, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35).

Is it by our sacred shibboleths, our distinguishing marks like sovereign, free will, Calvin or Wesley by which we as Christians are to be recognized, distinguished and remembered? Sure they are important words and people, but what did Jesus say? How would the world know that we are his? Not by naming our shibboleths, but by our love for each other.

I like what Count Zinzendorf the leader of my people group the Moravian missionaries said in 1700s, "In essentials unity, in non essentials liberty, in all things charity (love)."