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, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they would take him and kill him at the fords of the Jordan. Judges 12:5-6
Your Speech Betrays You
This story in Judges recounts an event when Jephthah, a leader of Israel went to battle against the tribe of Ephraim. In order to identify the enemy more easily, they stood at the water’s edge and stopped all those who sought to cross over. “Say, ‘Shibboleth’!” they would say and because the Ephraimites could not pronounce the word correctly they were effortlessly separated. Their speech betrayed them.
How’s This Applicable Us?
Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 23:22-23
In this passage in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is fundamentally telling us that unless our pronunciation is right; that is to say except we pronounce and proclaim His name, we are not saved. That should give every individual pause. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 10:9…
‘If you confess’ [here] does not just mean owning-up to your sins, but to declare and speak freely about Jesus Christ with other human beings. In other words, if from the moment of rebirth, to the moment of death, we remain silent or worse yet, mispronounce the name of Jesus, we are not saved. I confess this was a wake-up call for me and I pray it is a wake-up call for those who need to hear it today.
We all know what silence looks like, but what does mispronunciation look like? If we are saying, or if we harbor any other notion that Jesus is not the Only way towards salvation, that He alone is Lord and Savior, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we are articulating a falsehood and we are not saved. We must know the truth and share the truth we know.
The good news is that if we’re in error, all we need do is stop; all we need do is correct our speech. Simply ask the Lord to restore your sight through His Holy Spirit—the very sight that He allowed satan to take away. It’s true; satan blinded us all and God allowed him; the god of this age satan, to do it.
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 2 Corinthians 4:3
Therefore, it is only God who can reveal the truth to us and restore our sight.
Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3
Again, if this is you, the key is to not become offended (like the tribe of Ephraim), but to accept the conviction of the Holy Spirit and seek restoration from the only One who can provide it. At this point, anger only serves towards a man’s destruction, while humility on the other hand leads to salvation. Are you not pronouncing the name of Jesus correctly—then let Him heal you. If you are pronouncing His name, see it and share it for the miracle it truly is—we were blind and now we see!