Shibboleth: - the Importance of Little Defects, Faults, Etc
Judges 12:5, 6
And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said…

This not absolute, but relative.


1. In what they suggest or reveal. A slip in accidence, or a blunder in the statement of matter of fact, may discredit the pretended scholar. A difference in tone or manner may mean indifference or enmity or hypocrisy. Temporary neglect of a child may prove want of real parental affection. Neglect of private or public prayer may be little in itself, but it may spring from the alienation of the soul from God. The glib utterance of a "white lie" may make us doubt the whole moral character of the speaker. Grave diseases often declare themselves by comparatively slight symptoms, as leprosy, paralytic ataxia, etc.

2. We see it in the order of life as a whole. In the vegetable and animal world the law of the:' survival of the fittest" often works through comparatively slight organic adaptations. In human life the advantage and ultimate success of men often depends upon their slight superiority to other competitors. A little ignorance, extravagance, carelessness, etc. may work ruin. "A stitch in time saves nine." "Ready, aye ready," is a noble motto. Great discoveries have been made by men who were just a little in advance of their fellows.

3. A critical occasion may give a trifle an unlooked-for importance. The cackling of geese saved Rome, according to the myth. Peter's uncouth accent occasioned the observation of the maid, and his emphatic denial of Christ. Vessels have been wrecked because of a little carelessness in taking observations when mists have suddenly arisen, or rocks were in the course. Souls have been lost through impressions produced by the inconsistencies of professing Christians.

II. OUR DUTY WITH RESPECT TO THEM. "Of course it is to correct them, to get rid of them," you say. Yes; but how? Sometimes they are so related to us that we cannot remove them. It is necessary then that we should do all in our power to compensate for them by cultivating other qualities, etc., or to neutralise their influence by timely explanations and clear proofs of our real intention, spirit, character, etc. Mere punctilio, or the scrupulosity of the martinet will not do. We must beware of the folly of those who "strain at a gnat and swallow a camel." Let the whole life be emphatic in contradiction, and let the spirit of Christ so shine through us that men will learn to know us in spite of those failings and defects which give us the lie. "Not far from the kingdom of heaven" may be worse than entire alienation from it. Tests: their good and evil. As a means of discovering the Ephraimite, the device was highly natural and ingenious. In the main and roughly it was successful. Some such method was evidently required. There was no time to enter into minute detail or examination. But, on the other hand, it was quite possible that some who were not Ephraimites were slain by mistake. So in determining fitness for Church membership, office, or spiritual responsibility -

I. TESTS MAY BE NECESSARY. There are times when it is of the utmost importance for us to know who are God's people and who are not. We are to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." From the unholy, disorderly, unbelieving we are commanded to withdraw ourselves. But this injunction were impossible of fulfilment were the distinction between saints and sinners not capable of being made. Christ has happily supplied a test - "By their fruits ye shall know them." The confession of the lips is another element, but it must not be dissociated from the former. So in the life of every day we require to know men, and accordingly have to form our opinions and judgments of them. This is so vital and necessary to safety and happiness, that we do it almost automatically, unconsciously. The honest and the dishonest, the true and the false, the friend and the enemy, we learn to distinguish by actions and words, and the course of their conduct It is foolish, therefore, for persons to object to tests - they are necessary throughout the whole range of life, temporal and spiritual. But -

II. THEY MAY MISLEAD. In the nature of things they must be superficial, local, accidental, etc. They are observed and interpreted by fallible men. Trifling differences may acquire factitious importance. A man is not to be condemned for a word; a careful study should be made of the whole conduct and character of the man. The Christian life has many "notes," and where one is not forthcoming another may be present. The Epistles have, therefore, a variety of points upon which Christians may test themselves and others. God alone knoweth the heart, and in Christ he will judge the world by infallible judgment. It is better to err on the side of leniency to offenders than on that of severity. It matters not how we may commend ourselves to men, our condition in the sight of God is of chief account. - M.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay;

WEB: The Gileadites took the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. It was so, that when [any of] the fugitives of Ephraim said, Let me go over, the men of Gilead said to him, "Are you an Ephraimite?" If he said, "No;"

The Reproach of the Righteous
Top of Page
Top of Page