“… ‘Then say, ‘Shibboleth’!’ And he would say, ‘Sibboleth,’ for he could not pronounce it right. Then they would take him and kill him at the fords of the Jordan. There fell at that time forty-two thousand Ephraimites.”  (Judges 12:6)

Although we Americans have a common language we all have accents that show our origins to a discerning ear.  The above incident demonstrates how thousands of years ago different regional accents caused the death of 42,000 people.

There had been a civil war among people of the same ethnicity.  As the victors captured survivors, the only way to tell if they were the enemy was to force them to say “Shiboleth.”  When prisoners could not pronounce the “sh” sound because of their regional accents, 42,000 of them were executed.

What does all this have to do with us today?  Metaphorically speaking, when we meet people we often have a hidden theological agenda.  If they do not say that which agrees with our hidden agenda we hit the reject button.  The sad thing is that they never even know why we have rejected them.

As a pastor since 1956, I have been greatly blessed by people who did not have the same precise theological agenda as mine.  While meeting recently with two of the founders of the church where I am now Pastor Emeritus, we thanked God that we did not miss the blessings of our relationships over the past 35 years.  Coming from diverse theological backgrounds, we could have hit the reject button when we met in 1979 if we each had tried to push our theological agendas.

As Christ prayed that we might be one as He is one with the Father, may we watch out for Shibboleths that divide us.  Instead, let’s focus on Jesus Christ and the supernatural unity we have in  Him.

5 Responses to Shibboleths

  1. Clarke Morledge says:

    Sibbolet…Scibbolet..Smibboleth… Aaargh!

    Dave T.! Dick T.! Can you help a brother out???

  2. Cindy Kranich says:

    This is one of your strengths and something you’ve been intentional about for a long time. I know how much it saddens you to see the body of Christ divided over nonessential issues of faith. You used to say a church will split over whether offering plates should be wood or brass. Often it comes down to pride and an unforgiving spirit. I love the scripture that states, “what do we have that we didn’t receive!” It should cause every believer to be humble before judging others!

  3. annamatzeder says:

    Jerry! Forgot to mention my number one life teacher! Dick Woodward! The LRD has chosen this humble Hampton, VA, man’s “Mini Bible College” (aka MBC, a free app and website) to be translated into 34 languages (and still counting!) and go around the world in audio format on solar powered “G-d Pods!” the MBC’s survey of the Hebrew Scriptures has an amazing anointing! The 28 min episodes can be downloaded to listen to while driving and stuff. <3+

  4. John Paine says:

    Reblogged this on Veracity and commented:
    Doctrine that’s right in our wheelhouse! Want to see what systematized theology looks like in person? Here’s an example of the power of the “Fifth Gospel.” HT: Bobby Conway

  5. Rob says:

    Thank you for a great post, Pastor Woodward. I am reminded of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden before his crucifixion as recorded in the Gospel of John 17. 1. Even with the overwhelming sacrificed that faced Him, I love that His thoughts and prayers were on us. His final prayers for us were centered around that we be “one” united together as God is one.

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