Devotional on Judges

2014 – Grand Canyon, AZ

How’s your accent?
Judges 12: Say “Shibboleth.” But he would always say “Sibboleth” – he couldn’t say it right.
Following Jephthah’s victory over the Ammonites the people of Ephraim are insulted that they weren’t called in to be a part of the army. Apparently, there was some kind of mix up in which Jephthah did call for their help but they didn’t get the message. The result is a skirmish and then all-out war between the forces of Gilead and those of Ephraim. Before long, Ephraim is routed by their foes. In disarray they flee and attempt to cross back over the Jordan to their own territory. However, Jephthah’s army has tasted blood and takes control of the most likely fords of the river. There are no uniforms, the soldiers on both sides look alike, and they speak the same language. It seems that the defeated Ephraimites will be able to claim to be with Gilead and escape. However, there’s one difference. The people of Ephraim, living across the river for several generations have developed their own accent. A challenged soldier is required to say “Shibboleth” (I think it means “river”). However the “h” sound is missing from their accent, so he says “Sibboleth” instead. For the lack of an “h” he is executed. On this day thousands of Ephraimites die at the hands of their relatives. As I read this I’m reminded of the New Testament statement that when Jesus comes back that “every knee will bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Everyone will say the right thing, but some will be commanded to “depart.” Why? The wrong accent of life! It takes more than lip service to be connected to the Lord.
Take Away: Just saying the right things isn’t good enough.

Devotional on Isaiah

Taking it out of the church and into McDonald’s
Isaiah 48: But do you mean it? Do you live like it?
I don’t know how a pastor ought to look but apparently I don’t fit the part very well. Because of that through the years I’ve surprised people. I’ll be taking to a man about something, maybe a business deal, and his language will have words and phrases that Christians don’t use. Then, when he finds out I’m a pastor it all changes. I’ve even had people who started off using God’s name in some inappropriate way shift clear over to telling me how good God has been to them. Needless to say, I’m not impressed by such a sudden change of language. In this passage, the Lord’s complaint against Israel isn’t that they refuse to speak the language of God or that they’ve forsaken prayer. In fact, they say and do a lot of the right things. The problem is that none of it is backed up in their lives. They give God lip service and then turn back to their chosen life style. There’s a caution in this for all of us. It isn’t just a potty-mouthed used car salesman or a backslidden Israelite who should be concerned here. I talk the language of “Zion” a lot and that’s as it should be. However, when I’m not being “spiritual” what is it that I do and say? The measure of religion isn’t how loudly I sing in church. All that “religious stuff” has to translate into how I relate to people when I am standing in line at McDonald’s or driving in traffic during rush hour.
Take Away: What we say and do at church needs to be translated into what we say and do outside of church.