Someone recently asked me what was the meaning of the word “Shibboleth” when it came to politics or divisive issues. In Hebrew, the term means “a flowing stream.” But because of what took place between the Ephraimites and the Gileadites in the Old Testament, a new meaning had come about for this ancient word. It now means something that divides two groups of people.
Here is the Biblical reference from Judges 12:
The Gileadites seized the fords of the Jordan before the Ephraimites arrived. And when anyAre you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” 6 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. There fell at that time forty-two thousand Ephraimites. Ephraimite who escaped said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would say to him.
You can see that because of their dialect, the Ephraimites were easily detected and discovered not to be of the men of Gilead because their accent prevented them from pronouncing the word correctly. This lead to their death, which is a good reason to make sure you children know how to pronounce their words correctly!
But, I digress. Now the word means whatever we use to divide ourselves from those we do not wish to be associated with. I recently discovered that the word “Foxnews” has become a Shibboleth of the left. They use it in this context when they are losing a debate: “Well, at least I don’t watch Foxnews.” It is supposed to mean that because they won’t watch a news channel that actually strives to be fair and balanced, that somehow, they are more enlightened than the rest of us. This merely proves that there are a lot of stupid and uninformed people on the Left.
I’ve even seen some use the term “liberal” in this way, as in, “I’m liberal, but you need to ask me what I mean by that, because I’m so unique in my thought processes that I can be liberal and not be like all the other liberals on the face of the earth.” This makes them just like all the other liberals on the face of the earth. They all think and believe they have come to their daft positions by some unique thought process on their own part.
In theological circles, the words “inerrancy” and “infallable” have become Shibboleths. This is how evangelicals and theological liberals divide themselves, with the liberals taking the position that the Bible is not inerrant or infallable. This leads to all manner of stupidity on their part, but again, liberalism always does. The moment that you distance yourself from these two position involving Scripture is the moment you open yourself up to believing whatever you want. It is how the gay community can insist that being gay is OK, even though the Bible condemns the sin every time it’s mentioned.
This is why there has been such a fight over the issue of inerrancy. To remove it from how we view the Bible is to remove the Bible’s authority. This is never good, because authority is shifted away from its rightful place and person, God, and places it on us. When we understand that God’s word is authoritative and all our freedoms come from Him, then we are wise and prudent. However when we throw off His authority, the authority then shifts to something other than God and His word, and ends up in the hands of corrupt and fallen men. This is what has taken place in our country over the past 75 years. The more and more we distance ourselves from God’s truth, the farther and farther our country will fall into wretchedness, which will and does lead to the loss of freedoms.
The sad truth is that this has really opened up for something like Islam. Everyone inherently knows that there are problems in our country. But instead of turning to the Living and True God, through Jesus Christ, man will take on a false god in allah and Islam, thinking that we have made some sort of social progression because with Islam, comes the chains of religion. Freedom dies with Islam and man’s religion. Only through the gospel of Jesus Christ can there be true freedom. All other religions do nothing more than bind the soul.
I believe that the term “Christian” will become a Shibboleth as well. It will be a dividing point in culture, as it has been for God’s Kingdom all along. Those of us who bear the name will have the true honor of standing for Christ as our culture moves more and more away from the light. As Christians, we must be ready for this reality. Some see this as doom and gloom. But I see it as an opportunity. The more the term becomes a Shibboleth, the more that the Holy Spirit will use it to draw those who truly belong to the Father, to Himself. What a blessing. Let’s look forward to taking advantage of it.