If you can’t say it properly, and instead say ‘sibboleth,’ you die.
Jephthah defeated the Ammonites and all was wonderful and happy again, right?
Across the Jordan come the people of Ephraim wondering why they didn’t get to join in the victory. Since Jephthah didn’t include them, they’re going to burn his house down. Jephthah points out that he did actually give these guys a call, but they just let it go to voicemail. So, in their absence, off he went with what he had and defeated the Ammonites. So he brings his men up as well and there’s a big fight with the people of Ephraim – and Jephthah and his men win.
They captured the crossings of the Jordan river and started doing tests – somewhat like the soothsayer in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, except instead of having to answer what your name and favourite colour (Blue… No! Yelloooooooooow!), you just have to say the password.
Apparently, the people from the other side of the river said it wrong, so if they didn’t say it right, they’d be killed. Forty two thousand of them were killed.
To be honest, I find the Shibboleth / Sibboleth thing kind of amusing. As I was reading it I imagined the Jordan River being the Tasman Sea. Imagine if every time someone landed in Australia they had to say “Fish and Chips.” You say “Fush and chups,” and you get killed on the spot. Sounds like a perfect way to determine whether someone should live or die, right?
Anyway, that’s not really my point.
I was thinking about the Ephraimites, and how they suddenly came over to attack Jephthah because he left them out of the victorious battle against the Ammonites. Except that according to Jephthah, he did actually ask them to come by. The beacons were lit. Jephthah calls for aid! The problem was that the Ephraimites ignored the call, and continued going on about their own business.
Seemingly, that is, until they realized that Jephthah actually won. Suddenly there was credit to be shared around, probably loot to be divvied up and celebrations to be held. Up comes Ephraim to join in on the party and stake their claim on the spoils of war.
I’ll admit that I’ve been on both sides of this coin at different stages of my life. I know that there have been times when I’ve come in at the end of something being done and made sure that I received some of the credit for doing it. On the other hand, I’ve worked hard at other things, only to have some other person come along at the last minute and take the credit for it. Let me tell you something, the latter option has made me livid before. Maybe I wouldn’t go so far as to kill them or go to war, but hey…
The thing is, don’t do it, and not just because someone will start throwing passwords in your direction and killing you if you say Shibboleth wrong.
Last night I was watching an episode of Supernatural – in which the main characters come across a Faith Healer. Story aside, I was struck by a comment that was made in the closing moments of the episode.
“If you’re going to have faith, you can’t just have it when the miracles happen. You have to have it when they don’t.”
Since then I’ve been giving a lot of thought to faith. As I’m wont to do, I went first of all to the dictionary and came across the following:
- Belief and trust in and loyalty to God;
- Belief in the traditional doctrines of religion;
- Firm belief in something for which there is no proof;
- Complete trust.
The question that I want to ask is what it actually means to have faith. We all know some of the most famous verses on Faith, including what Jesus said.
“…Assuredly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” ~ Matthew 17:20
And of course…
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. ~ Hebrews 11:1
I don’t think faith is quantifiable. I grew up hearing Matthew 17:20 with the terminology that faith should be the size of a mustard seed; but here it says that our faith should simply be as a mustard seed. It’s not talking about quantity, but rather characteristics. When I read this verse, I don’t see Jesus telling me how big (or small) my faith needs to be, but rather what my faith needs to be like.
So what are the characteristics of a mustard seed?
A mustard seed is usually only a millimetre or two in size, but some plants can grow two well over two metres tall. The funny thing that’s coming to mind as I write this is Paul Kelly’s song, “From Little Things Big Things Grow,” (and the Australian Industry Super Fund ads!). This, though, is the imagery that comes to mind while I ponder this ‘definition,’ so to speak, of faith.
See, what I’m visualising isn’t the size or measure of faith, but the potential that is held within it. We’re talking about how much can be achieved. Why, though, Jesus talked about throwing a mountain (or a mulberry tree, in Luke) into the sea, though, I don’t know. Perhaps he was just picking an illustration that really pointed out, ‘impossible.’
The thing with looking at it this way means that you stop looking at faith as a quantifiable thing and instead look at the results.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. ~ James 2:18
Notice that James doesn’t say that he’ll show the size of his faith by his works, just his faith.
I feel that we need to shift our mentality on faith as being this muscle, that if we exercise it enough it will get stronger and we’ll see bigger and better miracles happen. When the woman with bleeding touched Jesus’ cloak, He didn’t tell her that the size of her faith had made her well, simply that it had made her well. The Bible says that she believed – if we constitute faith by this ‘size’ concept, then would that imply that there was some ‘belief scale’ that she had to reach a certain point on before it would work? If she’d been lower on the belief scale, would she not have been healed?
Our faith will always be the mustard seed. What we look for is the size of the plant that grows from it. When you look at a mustard seed, you don’t see the plant, do you? You see nothing but the seed. Faith is the evidence of things not seen – you know – you just know that this seed can grow into a spectacular plant!
Faith is the seed from which miracles grow.
I have one day of work left in Wellington, and then my obligatory time here is done. 8:30 until 5PM tomorrow and then I’m free for the next 46 hours before coming back home again.
I’m terrible at doing this, focussing on the end of the trip too soon. So I’ll stop.
Tonight I went to Te Papa Museum, the National Museum here in Wellington; and I have to say it was quite an experience. They have these rides, for a start, where you get to experience a variety of more exciting sports and adventures while sitting on a seat that throws you around. They also have another one that’s an underwater expedition to Brothers Volcano in the Pacific Ocean; an underwater volcano on the fault line that runs between the Australia plate and the Pacific plate.
I actually learned quite a lot about the Maori people, New Zealand’s history and things like this while I was walking through the museum, it was great. I just hope some of it sticks!
Photography was allowed, so I managed to get a whole heap more photos from the evening. Walked back to the hotel along the waterfront and got a few more photos in the fading light from there too. All in all, another nice day.
One of the lesser favourites when it comes to bible stories, is that of Balaam and his donkey.
I like this story, it’s cute, but when we look at it there’s a few things to bring out of it.
The first thing that I noticed, was that while God had chosen the Israelites as his people, as those he would dwell amongst – he evidently wasn’t exclusive toward them. Here’s Balaam, who God speaks directly to.
However I do notice that suddenly God is referred to as God. Whenever he speaks to Moses or the Israelites, it seems to be consistently, “The LORD” speaking to them; yet here, with Balaam, it’s suddenly God. I can’t help feeling like there’s a point there. I know that when it came to God, using ‘the Name’ was forbidden, so perhaps this is a literary technique that separates, again, the relationship between God and and the Israelites, and God and others?
This is all speculation, obviously.
Balaam gets sent for, though, to curse the Israelites, by Balak, king of Moab. After consulting with God, though, Balaam says no.
And as kings seem wont to do, Balak doesn’t like this so he sends for Balaam again. This time, God says that he can go with the men, but seemingly changes his mind the next day.
I can’t help thinking there’s something more to the story. Perhaps Balaam got caught up in the rewards being offered by Balak, and so when God said to go, he figured he could get away with whatever he wanted, even though he’d been told to keep his ears on God and say only what he was told to say. The reason I think there’s something more, is because suddenly God’s mad at him, and an angel keeps standing in front of them as they make their way to Moab.
So Balaam beats him.
Then the donkey turns to him and asks why.
I don’t know about you, but I’d stop what I was doing pretty quickly if a donkey spoke to me.
When we start to venture off the path that God has for us, he does tend to put roadblocks up for us. Sometimes it’s actually really hard to continue on and walk further away from him; but with persistence, we can do it. In those instances, nothing is going to end up turning us back onto the right path, and that’s when we really have walked away from God.
But he does try to stop us.
So, tonight’s adventures in Wellington involved a journey to Lower Hutt.
Dave Strassman, the comedian and ventriloquist did a show here in Wellington which I have on DVD, and makes a joke about Lower Hutt, so while I was here I just had to make sure that I got down there and had a look at it. Hutt City is actually quite a pleasant little place. It has a nice river running through it, clean streets, and some wonderful parkland.
That’s actually one thing that I’ve noticed about New Zealand – at least, Wellington region anyway – they really like the presentation. There’s a lot of parkland around, lots of greenery and places to just walk and relax.
Tonight I got pizza, and sat under a tree on this nice lawn area and just relaxed for a while, before walking from Lower Hutt to Petone. It was a nice long walk, and then walked along Petone beach, too, and out along the jetty they have there. Got some good photos on the way and along the beach and jetty too.
The thing about walking and catching buses is that you get to see a lot of the scenery – often times, things that you probably wouldn’t see otherwise. I was sitting on the bus coming back to Wellington from Petone, and realised just how much the landscape reminded me of Hong Kong. We were on a motorway, the water on one side of us, only about twenty metres away, if that; and on the other side of the road were these extraordinarily steep mountains, just covered in greenery, it’s absolutely beautiful.
Anyway, though. Two more days of work and then another day and a half in NZ before I head home on Sunday.
And so start the battles.
Queue my excitement.
This is the stuff that I love reading about, the battles, the wars, the excitement. This is where I can let my imagination run wild with stories of warriors cutting down dozens of enemies. The Israelites are wandering about, enjoying their long journey that they’re only just starting out on, when this guy, the king of Arad, from the Negev, decides to send out his entire army to take them out. The Israelites cry out to God, he backs them up, and they destroy everyone. This king’s name isn’t even remembered any more, he was only the King of Arad, but his name is lost.
Well, it would seem so from this passage anyway.
Then, the next couple of verses, the Israelites get impatient and once again revert back to the same lines that they’ve used over and over again already. Why should they die in the desert, they were better off in Egypt, blah blah, woof woof. There really is very seldom anything original to our complaints, is there?
This time, its vipers; and Moses has to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole, then anyone bitten by a snake manages to live if they look at it.
Funnily enough, I remember being told several years ago that this symbols is still used today. The idea of a snake wrapped around a pole is still used in some health services and ambulance services. Quite astonishing, really.
Then we finally get into the part that really intrigues me. First of all we’re reading about the Israelites wandering the border of Moab and the land of the Amorites – and there’s reference to the “Book of the Wars of the LORD”. What a book that would be to find. When I get back home I must look this up because it sounds interesting. I wonder if it still exists.
Tbhen we come to the Amorites actually attacking the Israelites. Again, the Israelites ask permission to walk through his land, stipulating that they will remain on the main road, and not actually take anything from the land, but he doesn’t believe them and marches his army out against them. The Israelites defeat him and take over the land of the Amorites, inhabiting their cities etcetera.
Which of course begs the question, how come they kept wandering? I’m keen to see how the rest of this story pans out. I don’t think I have ever actually read the entire story of the Israelites wandering in the desert.