The Password Is Shibboleth
 
 
There is a tragic and interesting story found in Judges 12, a passage that I recently discovered. In a chapter from the history of the people of Israel, a feud developed between two of the tribes. The Ephraimites had insulted the Gileadites, a clan of the tribe of Manasseh. Even though both were descendants (“brethren”) of the sons of Joseph, serious conflict erupted.
 
The Gileadites soundly defeated their brethren from the tribe of Ephraim and captured the passages that lead across the Jordan River. They developed a unique method of identifying the fugitives who were trying to escape. Since all those involved were Israelites and the tribe affiliation could not be determined by mere appearance, the men of Gilead developed a password system.
 
The men of Gilead made the men of Ephraim pronounce the Hebrew word shibboleth, which means “stream”, as they attempted to cross over the Jordan River. The men of Ephraim, due to a peculiarity of their dialect and manner of speech, could not say the sh sound and therefore pronounced the word incorrectly. So shibboleth came out sibboleth. Immediately upon failing the pronunciation test, they were slain by their brethren from the tribe of Gilead! In fact, forty-two thousand Ephraimites, bothers slaying brothers, were killed because they did not know how to pronounce the password!
 
As tragic as that story seems, it appears that the people of God today have learned very little about body unity. During passing periods of church history, some “tribe” or “clan” within the kingdom will, for the moment, gain control of the passages of the stream. They will demand that all other brethren frame their words in a certain way or face immediate execution. Instead of a sword, the preferred instrument of death is the tongue. With precision, the sword is drawn... criticism and slander come forth slaying those who fail the test. 
 
Ever since Judges 12, the word shibboleth has come to stand for any catchword, buzzword, key phrase or pet doctrine by which Christians not only disagree, but use as a basis for destroying their one another. I assure you that shibboleths abound in the kingdom today. They serve as subtle passwords, by which Christians identify, brand, label and alienate one another.
 
If we fail to learn the lesson of shibboleth, then we are destined to repeat it. When we detect and reject the brethren who are different from us, then we, like the men of Gilead, are guilty of slaying our own brethren simply because they don’t frame their words the way we do. The simple lesson is this: slaying your own brothers is always senseless!
 
Certainly, the person who seriously pursues unity within the Body of Christ should not be expected to abandon the convictions handed to him by the Spirit. Man-made unity, like that which existed in ancient Babylon, is demonic not Godly! The Father is not interested in “a spirit of unity” (ecumenicalism) but “the unity of the Spirit” which comes from Him. Those believers who have been captured by convictions have come to see the beauty in diversity, and appreciate the brethren instead of critically quizzing and examining them to see if they can frame the sh sound.
 
On the other hand, there are far too many kingdom citizens today who are controlled by concepts, which they often mistake for a conviction, and as a result make the horrible mistake of identifying the brethren as the enemy. They demand, “Say Shibboleth if you want to cross the river!” 
 
I long for the day in which the Spirit replies, “The River doesn’t belong to you! It belongs to the Father. The password is Jesus. He is The Stream!”. 
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