noun: shibboleth; plural noun: shibboleths

  1. a custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, especially a long-standing one regarded as outmoded or no longer important.

I stumbled across this word. In Judges 12, the Ephraimites fought with Jephthah, God’s appointed judge. They tried to disguise themselves and Jephthah had one test for them: pronounce “shibboleth.” The Ephraimites couldn’t pronounce the word! They couldn’t make the “sh” sound and pronounced it “sibboleth.” It’s a simple word meaning corn, but it’s hard to pronounce. Talk about a spelling bee with a price–when they couldn’t pronounce it they were killed for trying to infiltrate God’s people!

Today would be impostors still try to infiltrate God’s people. I call them the “If-thens.” If God is good, then why…? If God is loving, then why…? If God is just, then why…?

Let me provide you with 3 modern-day shibboleths.

  • God will do whatever you need for as long as you need because He loves you. In Deuteronomy 31:6 Moses is encouraging his protege Joshua: Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Whatever or whoever is assailing you, God is with you.  He promises His presence and provision always.
  • God will only ask of you what is good for you and what is glorious for himOr which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Jesus, Matthew 6:9-11) God knows what we need better than we do and will only give us what is ultimately good for us. I confess that I struggle at times to see the goodness in the path carved out for me. But it is a shibboleth I hold onto.
  • God will make all things right. When I struggle with the injustice and unfairness in the world, I cling to this. In Psalm 58 David is crying out to God against evildoers. His last words ring loud: Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.” In a sentence David is saying that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. This life cannot serve as a measure of fairness or justice. The wicked sometimes prosper and the righteous sometimes suffer. One day it will all be made right.

I carry these three statements in my planner. Every week I pull them out and read them.  I need to be reminded.  I’m writing to remind you today.