Do Our Words Betray Us?
By Gary Amirault
In the Book of Judges in the twelfth chapter is an account of a war between different tribes of Israel. The men of Gilead won the fight and were rounding up those that escaped. They stationed themselves at the fords of the Jordan river, places where the refugees would go to cross over to escape. If a man came to the Jordan, the Gileads would ask the man to say the word "Shibboleth." Apparently, the Ephraimites had a slightly different dialect from the Gileadites, different enough to be noticeable. Many languages have sounds which are very difficult for someone who has not been raised with that language to pronounce. Being born in Germany, it took me many years to be able to speak a word with the letter "W" without an accent. My mother, a German, to this day has problems with "W" and "Th." Her accent is very strong even though she has been in the United States most of her life.
The Ephraimites probably could not make an "Sh" sound and used an "S" sound. Even today, there are Ashkenazi Jews and Sephardic Jews. Each handle a couple of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet differently. So then, the Gileadites could discern an Ephraimite just by the words spoken.
In the twenty-second chapter of Luke, we have another fight between two bands of Israelites, the Galilean followers of Jesus and the Judaean Sadducees and Pharisees. It appeared the Galilean leader was just condemned and His band of mighty men of valor were in retreat. Peter was trying to stay near Jesus, but incognito. A servant girl accused him of being one of the band. And Peter opened his mouth and said, "Woman, I do not know him." Three times he was confronted, the last time using enough words to give away his accent which prompted someone to say, "Surely, this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean." His accent gave him away. A Galilean spoke Syriac Aramaic while a Jew from Jerusalem would speak Palestinian Aramaic. A modern counterpart to this may be like the difference in accent or pronunciation of words between someone from New England versus someone from Atlanta, Georgia. Each could tell what region they came from just by the accent.
So why do I bring up this subject? There are many "tribes" of Christians. Some are of the Methodist tribe. Others from the Baptist, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Charismatic, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian tribes. There are far too many to list in this short article. Having actually been in many of these different denominations or having studied the tenents, customs, and traditions of various denominations and "non-denominational" denominations, I have discovered that I can very often tell what denomination a Christian is in by just letting them talk about their beliefs for a few moments. Without them naming their denomination, it is often not difficult to find out to which "tribe" they belong. Their language, their speech, their vocabulary gives them away. Each tribe seems to major on a handful of doctrines, or rituals and it usually isn't too long before they begin to talk about the center of their beliefs.
There is an account in the book of Acts where all the tribes of Israel got together for the feast of Pentecost. Jews from all over the Mediterranean came into Jerusalem for that feast. A group of Galileans gathered together in a room and tongues of fire came down upon their heads. They entered into the streets and boldly began to speak "the wonderful works of God." Now the Jews from these other nations could still tell that these Jews were from Galilee. Their accent was still there, but the power of what was going on overpowered the fact that they were Galileans. After all, they all knew nothing good could come from Galilee, for it was the "Circuit of the Gentiles." What God was manifesting in them overrode their prejudices, which under normal circumstances, would have divided them.
In the fourth chapter of Acts we see another gathering of the tribes of Israel. Peter and John filled with the Holy Spirit spoke the to people and the Jewish leadership. "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus."
When our conversation with other people begins to enter the realm of religion, does the audience recognize what denomination, sect, or movement of Christianity we represent? Does our conversation give away the fact that we are a dyed in the wool Baptist or Pentecostal or whatever? Do people first notice that we are Galilaeans? Do they recognize by the words, prejudices, rules, dress, etc. what kind of a Christian we are? Or do they realize that we have been with Jesus!?
Now I thought I was through with this article, but today, a book came in the mail from some friends, Robert and Peggy Wilson, entitled The Tabernacle by Henry Soltau. My wife has been working on a Bible study on the incense in the Temple worship. I thought I would look up "incense" to see if there was anything there for her which she didn't already have. On page 433 of this book, published by Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids, MI., I found these words:
The cloud of incense beaten small, as it wafted itself up to God, attracted with its singular perfume that Gentile soldier. Purity and holiness are not to be found here except in one whose graces were fully displayed before God.
The incense was compounded of three sweet spices besides franchincense, "stacte, onycha, and galbanum." The two last are not known; but the stacte is both in the Hebrew, and in the Greek translation. A sweet spice that spontaneously dropped from the tree which produced it. Another emblem of the grace of the Lord Jesus, the Son of Man. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. His paths dropped fatness; wherever He went, true love, sympathy and pity flowed from His heart towards the weak, the weary, and the afflicted. He was the true Man in the midst of falsehood and deceit in human beings all around Him. True in His affection; true in His words; true in His sympathies; true in His rebukes of evil as well as in His forgiveness of sin. It is blessed to turn from the hypocrisies of our own hearts, and of men around us, and contemplate Him 'who did no violence,' 'neither was guile found in His mouth.' (Isaiah 53:9; 1 Peter 2:22) There was no effort in Him; He simply lived, manifesting life in all He did and said. There was no affection of spirituality; He was what He appeared to be. Thus His words and ways were not forced. His sanctity was not assumed. He had nothing to lay aside when He came into the presence of others. He put on nothing to gain their admiration. He was always Himself, living in the presence of God, ever pleasing God Blessed contrast with men who have to assume religiousness to hide their own evil, who think that roughness is sincerity, and who are unnatural oft-times even in the very presence of God.
The incense 'tempered together pure and holy' may have reference to the sweet fragrance which the Man Christ Jesus ever presented to God. The Israelites were forbidden to make a perfume like it, 'to smell thereto.' Christ is not to be imitated by a false humility to gratify one's own self-conceit. There may be a shew of wisdom and humility by which men satisfy their own flesh, but this is like an imitation of the holy perfume to smell thereto. If we are imitators indeed of Him we must first have been washed in His precious blood, and be born of God. To follow Him would involve self-crucifixion instead of self-admiration.
As I contemplated these words, my thoughts went back to a phone conversation I had with a lady the day before. It was a polite conversation. I said all the "right" things someone in ministry should say to a caller. But when I hung up the phone, I felt I was unreal. I was putting on an act. I didn't mean to put on an act, but I found myself there anyway. I was pretending. I thank God I see it and I know through honest prayer our Father will bring me closer to expressing His heart in which is no need for pretense.
Only by abiding in Him can His presence overpower the camps we normally live (abide in). He alone manifests truth without hypocrisy. All the Bible study, church services, articles of faith, etc., in the world will not manifest the perfume of Christ's life. We must learn to live in Him and as we walk this earth, His fragrance will follow. And then the world will remember that you have been with Jesus. May His fragrance permeate your whole life and sweeten the place where you have been planted.
Thank you, Jesus.