“Jephthah captured the shallow crossings of the Jordan River, and whenever a fugitive from Ephraim tried to go back across, the men of Gilead would challenge him. “Are you a member of the tribe of Ephraim?” they would ask. If the man said, “No, I’m not,” 6 they would tell him to say “Shibboleth.” If he was from Ephraim, he would say “Sibboleth,” because people from Ephraim cannot pronounce the word correctly. Then they would take him and kill him at the shallow crossings of the Jordan. In all, 42,000 Ephraimites were killed at that time.” Jug 12:5-6
The story of Ephraim in the bible is very interesting. Ephraim was the second son of Joseph, Manasseh was his elder brother. Maybe because when Jacob was in his mother’s womb God had said the older will serve the younger and it came to pass in that the lineage of Abraham, through Isaac was established through the twelve Son’s of Jacob.
Jacob carried this mentality( I almost said rascality) to cross hands when he was about to die to favour Ephraim over Manasseh even when Joseph protested vehemently. “But Jacob crossed his arms as he reached out to lay his hands on the boys’ heads. He put his right hand on the head of Ephraim, though he was the younger boy, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, though he was the firstborn. But Joseph was upset when he saw that his father placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head. So Joseph lifted it to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 “No, my father,” he said. “This one is the firstborn. Put your right hand on his head.” Gen 48:14,18.
This favoured declaration motivated the family of Ephraim to start well. But the lineage of Ephraim soon betrayed and misused the favour shown to them by their grandfather.
What betrayed them was more than the ability or inability to correctly pronounce “S” or” Sh” in Siboleth or Shibboleths, as seen in the scripture above. It was their pride, arrogance and preference for idol worship.
Let me give you two examples. When Gideon went to fight the Midianites, Ephraimites were nowhere to be found but they came to accuse Gideon of ignoring them. “Then the people of Ephraim asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us this way? Why didn’t you send for us when you first went out to fight the Midianites?” And they argued heatedly with Gideon.” Judge 8:1. Gideon used wisdom to pamper their ego, but not Jephthah when they made the same arrogant statement to Jephthah.
This is what happened. “Then the people of Ephraim mobilized an army and crossed over the Jordan River to Zaphon. They sent this message to Jephthah: “Why didn’t you call for us to help you fight against the Ammonites? We are going to burn down your house with you in it!” The people of Ephraim responded, “You men of Gilead are nothing more than fugitives from Ephraim and Manasseh.” So Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and attacked the men of Ephraim and defeated them. Jud 12:1,4. The question that will be in your mind should be why is the favoured Ephraim misbehaving? Prophet Hosea gives us an idea- “Leave Israel alone,because she is married to idolatry.” Another translation says” Ephraim is joined to idols, Let him alone.” Hosea 4:17.
What the Holy Spirit is asking you this morning is what betrays you? What is it that reveals your true nature? Whatever drives you from within will surely betray you. Men, parents, society, can favour you, extol you, but what will betray you is who you are, your character not your charisma.The ideology you cherish, the philosophy you carry, your belief system. Who is your God? No Matter how many people cross hands to help you and lift you up, no matter how many sliver spoons you were born with, if you continue to wallow in pride and arrogance you will be a casualty. The wisest man in the Bible said- “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.,”Pro 6:16-19
What betrays you is not your colour, sex or accent, it is your relationship with either God or idols. It is not whether you were born into a Christian home or not. It is not whether you went to church or not, gave offering or not. It is not uncommon in our time to see people commit murder, rape people, cheat others, steal and misappropriate funds unabated after their forefathers crossed hands to lift them up.
However, to behave appropriately, when you are born, you need to give yourself a rebirth. Jesus, when he addressed that erudite lawyer Nicodemus, also used the opportunity to talk to humanity- You must be Born Again! John 3:3. You must be born of Water( the word of God) and the Spirit of God. Jesus says I am the way the truth and the life! You don’t have to always confuse S and Sh, sin and grace, holiness and perversion, godly character with devilish character. What you need is Jesus, the son of God who died for you on the cross. Are you Born Again or Against?
Conclusion: There will be a gate where you will be asked how you have lived your life- It is called the gate of heaven. There will be a book there – called the book of life. “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” Rev 20:15. The answer will be more than accurate pronunciation of S or Sh it will be how have you used the opportunity given to you.
Notice that according to the book of revelation, Manasseh, even though the left hand was crossed over him showed up in heaven. Rev 7:6b says “Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.” Ephraim with the right hand crossed on him, right connection, right position was conspicuously missing in the book of life. Ephraim was not able to “bully” his way to heaven and no one else will be able, no matter how they try! You will never enter heaven by killing people. Invite J- E-S-U-S to your life today, tomorrow may be too late. Shalom
O taste and see that the Lord is good.(Psalm 34:8). I have tasted and found that the Lord is good. I do testify that the Lord is good.Join me to taste him.