Judges 12 - Part 2QUESTION: Impediments to Speech - 2ANSWER:Judges 12 - Part 2
by Pastor Nathan Shepherd (Dive Chapel, Candle Key, Florida)
“We have to be very, very careful about characterizing Jephthah as a bramble, mainly because God places him in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11. I want to put before you all that Judges 12 has little to do with Jephthah. My subtitle for this chapter is, ‘God wipes out the complainers’. Hmmmm. Let’s look at that one. We, as human beings, have a built-in, automatic complaint mechanism. You’ve probably seen those T-shirts that say, ‘Want some cheese with that whine?’ At various times, that can be aimed at any of us.
“As we started our study in Judges, if you’ll remember, I talked about the problems that the children of Israel had because they did not obey God. He told them to rid the Promised Land of all the “ites” and they didn’t. Just like them, when we are saved, we need to rid our “Promised Land” of our sins, our flesh. But we don’t. We talked about the Amorites of gossip and the Philistines of compromise, remember? Well, the Israelites are about to find out about some internal “ites”. At some point, we’ll all encounter the internal group of sinners, the Ephraimites of complaining.
“As leaders, when we hear complaints, we need to ascertain whether the complaints are warranted. It may be that the Lord has sent someone to draw our attention to an area of our life or ministry that we need to correct. If it is from the Lord our God it will be carried out in a humble, orderly, respectful manner.
“But most of the time, it seems complaining is rooted in bitterness. The complainers want attention and will bark, scrap, and backbite to get it.
“Turn back to Judges 8, verse 1 where Gideon has wiped out the Midianites. Some dudes come out to bark at him. They are upset because he didn’t take them with him when he went to fight, they weren’t in the 300 men God used to rout the 135,000-man army. Note who these bitter complainers are: the men of Ephraim. Now, if you’ll remember, Gideon was very diplomatic with them and averted a hassle.
“Back in chapter 12, these same sorry jokers come complaining again, this time to Jephthah. Well, the Lord does not tolerate dissention and neither did General Jeff. Look at what the Ephraimites say in verse 1: ‘Why did you cross over to fight against the people of Ammon, and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house down on you with fire!’
“They weren’t happy with Jeff’s leadership and wanted to fire him – literally. Well, Jephthah wasn’t having any. He said, ‘Look, I called you guys to come help in the battle and you refused. Now you are verbally attacking and threatening me. That’s it! You want a fight, you got it.’ In verse four, Jeff and the Gileadites – great name for a punk band if you’re listening – whipped the complainers, the men of Ephraim.
“But they went beyond that. After they slaughtered and chased the grumbling Ephraimites across the Jordan river, they captured the fords on the river. Then, as people tried to cross the Jordan, they asked them to say the word ‘Shibboleth’ which means ‘crossing’ or ‘flowing stream’. The Ephraimites, had an accent and mispronounced the word as ‘Sibboleth’. When a man trying to cross the river used the Ephraimite pronunciation, the Gileadites killed him. One word brought their death. Verse 6 tells us that 42,000 men were killed because of the way they said ‘crossing’.
“Wow. The complainers were identified by their accents. This is not unheard of. Today, many people from the Pacific Rim have trouble pronouncing the ‘r’ sound in American. I have a friend from Anchorage, Alaska who told me in that town, there are no streets that start with the letter ‘J’ because the original settlers couldn’t pronounce the English language ‘j’ sound. Isn’t it amazing that speech patterns so easily identify people groups?
“That leads us to a model for how powerful our words, either encouraging or discouraging, joyful or woeful, better or bitter can be. Write down James 3:5-8. That passage says, ‘Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.’
“Wow! I’m pretty sure that means that God does not like for us to misuse our tongues. And I’m at the top of the list when it comes to people who need to repent of their words.
“So, to me, the message, the lesson, from Judges 12 is that God will destroy chronic, self-centered complainers. And, that a bramble-leader will be characterized by a fiery tongue. He will use words that burn and destroy everything around him. Oh, Great Father, forgive us when we fail You with our words!”Judges 13 – Go!