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  • Writer's pictureMuyiwa Mepaiyeda

The Pass Mark

DAYLA AND MARTY couldn’t have been more in a wrong place when they found themselves in the suburb of Montreal.

They had driven hundreds of kilometres to visit friends in New York State and were returning to Toronto.

Early that morning, Dayla entered their trip into the Global Positioning System (GPS) while Marty moved things into the car.

They chatted as they drove through the cities and unlived-in places.

In the late afternoon, they were concerned that the journey seemed longer than usual. The GPS had taken them through a longer route, so they stopped to grab a bite.

The couple struggled to communicate in the local language, but Marty came up with the magic words, and Dayla gave him a pass mark.

They bought some food and left for the car. Dayla and Marty were happy to be on the last leg of their journey.

Over time, language difference has been a source of conflict and sometimes, an accent is a part of it. This assertion is true of a story in the Bible.

The Narrative

IN THE TIME OF THE JUDGES, the people of Ephraim accused the Gileadites of going to fight the Ammorites without them. However, Jephthah was mystified because he had called them, and they didn’t respond.

This assertion upset the people of Gilead. They crossed over and fought the Ephraimites and took the fords of Jordan from them.

Accents at Play

THE PEOPLE OF GILEAD put men in place to prevent the Ephraimites from sneaking back into the land that they took from them.

They captured the shallow crossings of the Jordan River leading back to Ephraim. And whenever a fugitive from Ephraim said, “Let me cross,” the men of Gilead would ask, “Are you from Ephraim?” If he answered, “No,” they would tell him, “Say the word shibboleth.” If the fugitive would say sibboleth, because he couldn’t pronounce the word correctly, they would grab him and kill him at the shallow crossings of the Jordan River. At that time 42,000 men from Ephraim died. (Judges 12:5-6)

The tribes lived on different sides of River Jordan. They were separated for so long. There were differences in their accents and languages.

The Gileadites used these differences to fish out those who were Ephraimites. Accents became a source of bias.

Honestly speaking, we are all holstered in stereotypes.

Consequence not far-fetched

THE WORD “Shibboleth” was used to differentiate faithful followers from those who were not. Those who pronounced the word correctly lived, while others who couldn’t, lost their lives. Some got a pass mark while others failed.

Our Lives

EVEN AS THE PEOPLE had to pronounce a word to save their lives, we all have our Shibboleth –our pronouncements of faith. These are scriptures that we hold on to and build our confidence upon.

Our words

THERE IS MORE to who we are than our words. Jesus demonstrated this; he wouldn’t entrust himself unto men’s words.

Jesus, however, was wary of these believers. He understood people and didn’t need anyone to tell him about human nature. He knew what people were really like. (John 2:24-25)

The truth is who God says we are, and it’s demonstrated in our shibboleth, our confession of faith. This is saying what God says about us. This was demonstrated in Martha's encounter with Jesus Christ.

The Revelation

LAZARUS HAD BEEN DEAD for four days. And when Martha heard that Jesus was in town, she went to Him.

Martha said, “Lord if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” (John 11:21-22)

She saw Jesus as the intermediary who could get the Father to do his bidding, but that wasn’t sufficient.

Humans have a shallow understanding of God and relate to Him that way. Nevertheless, you cannot remain in your limited bandwidth of wisdom and expect God's miracle.


You cannot remain in your limited bandwidth of wisdom and expect God's miracle


Martha believed that Lazarus would rise again. (John 11:24) But Jesus took her into a more in-depth understanding.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Martha answered in the affirmative.


IN THIS NARRATIVE, Jesus assisted Martha to get to her shibboleth, and He raised Lazarus to life.

I may not know it, but He knows it. I may not have it, but Jesus has it. I will trust Him because He tells the truth. After all, He is the TRUTH. (John 14:6) Have a great week.

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