May 8, 2023
“The Gileadites seized the fords of the Jordan before the Ephraimites arrived. And when any Ephraimite who escaped said, ‘Let me cross over,’ the men of Gilead would say to him...”
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“The Gileadites seized the fords of the Jordan before the Ephraimites arrived. And when any Ephraimite who escaped said, ‘Let me cross over,’ the men of Gilead would say to him, ‘Are you an Ephraimite?’ If he said, ‘No,’ then they would say to him, ‘Then say, Shibboleth!’ And he would say, ‘Shibboleth,’ 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 12:5-6 (NKJV)
Some people are not content to sit at the right hand or the left of the Kingdom but insist on occupying the throne itself! That describes Ephraim perfectly. After having brushed-off Jephthah’s plea for help in the fight against Ammon, Ephraim has the nerve to charge Jephthah, “Why didn’t you call us to go with you?” In their pride, they are “somebodies,” and you don’t treat somebodies like that.
Jephthah (having been a nobody - 11:1-3) was not impressed with somebodies. Jephthah reminds Ephraim that he had, in fact, summoned Ephraim, and they had left him in the lurch. However, what Ephraim failed to do, the Lord did!
Perhaps, Ephraim was expecting the psychology of Gideon (8:1-3). What they got was the sword of Jephthah! The whole thing escalated when the Ephraimites began flinging racial slurs at Jephthah’s Gileadite men. Jephthah returns the gesture with a little prejudice of his own. All of a sudden, the “high classed” prideful Ephraimite dialect becomes a death signal. This is much the same way the genteel Virginia accent must have been detectable to the Pennsylvania Yankee soldier during the American Civil War, where privileged plantation owners might have tried to deny their allegiance when confronted by a Union soldier.
Basically, we have an indictment against pride. And it is not unique to ancient Ephraim. The human spirit that feels it must dominate, must control, and be recognized is alive and well in our culture. It flourishes in our Church culture; how we want to be the ones on Jesus’ varsity squad! How difficult it is for us to rejoice in God’s saving work when we are not a celebrity in the middle of it. We don’t like to play the game unless people will appropriately stroke our egos for doing so.
So, we must fight against taking credit for accomplishing what can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit. We must remain humble and remind ourselves that, while we may be co-inheritors with Messiah, we are also “slaves” with a Master. And we are nothing apart from the redeeming atonement of Messiah Jesus.
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©Steve Wiggins 2021