Judges 12:1-7 (Part 2) – Easy to Identify As A Southern Boy But…

Posted: September 13, 2017 in Book of Judges
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Judges 12:1-7 (Part 2 of 2)
Ephraim Fights with Jephthah

When I am kidding around with friends (with my own particular brand of corny and/or sophomoric humor for which I am either infamous or notorious, not sure which), I tell them that “I am a redneck with two masters degrees!” I am a Southern boy through and through. I have traveled the world because mainly of my secular job but also because of personal trips and mission trips. However, you can take the boy out of the South but you can’t take the South out of the boy. I love where I am from. I am not ashamed of the heritage of my homeland. Just as anywhere else in the country or world, there are portions of our histories of which we are not proud and cannot explain away. Certainly, the concept of unwilling, forced slavery and later enforced and institutional racism is that part of Southern history of which I cannot explain away or put a spin on it. However, there are things about Southern culture I would not change. There is a sense of community here and pride of where you are from that is not present in the same way elsewhere. Race relations are vastly improved, at least in South Carolina, and both blacks and whites today in the South will tell you with pride what state, what region of the state, and what town they are from with pride.

Friday nights are football battles for town pride one over another. Football Friday nights are social gatherings where you make connections and be seen as much as you are there to watch your local high school team play. And, ah, Saturdays down South are a thing to behold. College football is king here. Nobody cares about the Patriots, the Packers, the Bears here. The Panthers and the Falcons play second fiddle to Clemson and the University of South Carolina for people’s passions. Sunday football is the background noise for Sunday afternoon naps. But college football, oh man, that’s the stuff. If you are at home, watching games of your team and watching other games that may affect your team brings out passion in Southerners that is unparalleled. Yelling at the TV during games is part of the deal. If you are lucky enough to have tickets to your favorite college team’s home games, it is an all day affair with a whole day of hanging with friends, wearing your school colors, having a few adult beverages, satellite dishes, generators, big screen TVs under tents with your team’s logo on them. It is a social event with 120,000 of your best friends (even though only 85,000 get to actually go into the game). Some are fans that just like to go tailgate and then watch the game on the big screen at their car and continue the party. College football create allegiances that run deep and stir up passions that can even lead to slanderous comments about your wife and then it’s on! Differing school allegiances have ended friendships…for real!

Our women are the most wonderful thing about the South. They are the most beautiful women in the world without a doubt. They enjoy being ladies. They enjoy being different from men. They still enjoy having doors opened for them. They can be the most professional of women but they will wait for a man to open a door for them. They have the quirkiest sayings. They love to get dressed up to the nines, as the old saying goes (not sure where it came from but it means getting all dressed up). Southern girls redefine girls night out. Southern girls love the beach and laying out in the sun but never getting in the water. They never drink beer at a social gathering without a solo cup, a cup with your college team log on it, or a coozie. Drinking unabashedly from an uncovered can or bottle is not propah. Everything a Southern girl needed to know growing up was exemplified on Designing Women. And they don’t sweat and they must avoid it at all costs (unless of course you are at the gym but then you can only sweat from your forehead). Those youtube videos about “#$%& Southern Women Say” is so funny because it is only slightly exaggerated but yet so true. It is true with Southern women that “bless your heart” can mean “aww, I am sorry to hear that you had to go through that” In that instance, it is supportive. But “bless your heart” can also be derogatory. It can mean, “oh I feel sorry for him, he’s just about the stupidest person in the world and should be pitied!”

Then the South is full of the quirky twists on the English language. We don’t speak English, we speak Southern. And I am probably among the most Southern. When at work, where I most of my coworkers are from somewhere else, I purposefully have to avoid Southern slang and other Southern idioms of our particular brand of English. And enunciating the words and not running them together, I have to be very conscious of. Jeff Foxworthy, a Southern boy through and through himself, talked about how we mash our words together into a single word. Did you eat yet turns into “juheetyet” What’s the matter is ‘s’matter as in Smatterwidyou, buddy? My wife who, though she was born and raised in the South, is of Cuban-Venezuelan heritage. She and her brothers are first generation Americans. Because her parents had learned English, as their second language, while living elsewhere, they learned proper English – the way it is spoken elsewhere outside the South. So, she was raised to speak succinct and proper English. So, she speaks very clearly and enunciates her words perfectly. When she talks (or tawks as I would say), she uses a lot of, as I call them, “expensive words” – you know multi-syllabic words that are not part of the normal Southern vernacular. I think she makes me repeat myself with my mashed up words just so I will have to separate my words. She says it’s because she’s hard of hearing, but she’s only 56 so…But our Southern drawls, our Southern culture, our Southern women, our Southern way of knowing how to take it easy, our Southern vernacular, our Southern everything. I just love it and am proud of it. I may be called away from the South, but this home, this is where I will return and this is where I will die. And I do not care who makes fun of us, “bless their hearts!”

That idea of being identified by your speech and how it cost the Ephraimites their lives got me to thinking about Southerners and how our speech easily identifies us as being from the American South. At the same time, it got me thinking about how easily can you and I be identified as Christ followers. Let’s read through the passage with that in the back of your mind. Here, it was easy to identify the Ephraimites:

12 Then the people of Ephraim mobilized an army and crossed over the Jordan River to Zaphon. They sent this message to Jephthah: “Why didn’t you call for us to help you fight against the Ammonites? We are going to burn down your house with you in it!”

2 Jephthah replied, “I summoned you at the beginning of the dispute, but you refused to come! You failed to help us in our struggle against Ammon. 3 So when I realized you weren’t coming, I risked my life and went to battle without you, and the Lord gave me victory over the Ammonites. So why have you now come to fight me?”

4 The people of Ephraim responded, “You men of Gilead are nothing more than fugitives from Ephraim and Manasseh.” So Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and attacked the men of Ephraim and defeated them.

5 Jephthah captured the shallow crossings of the Jordan River, and whenever a fugitive from Ephraim tried to go back across, the men of Gilead would challenge him. “Are you a member of the tribe of Ephraim?” they would ask. If the man said, “No, I’m not,” 6 they would tell him to say “Shibboleth.” If he was from Ephraim, he would say “Sibboleth,” because people from Ephraim cannot pronounce the word correctly. Then they would take him and kill him at the shallow crossings of the Jordan. In all, 42,000 Ephraimites were killed at that time.

7 Jephthah judged Israel for six years. When he died, he was buried in one of the towns of Gilead.

Here, in this passage, we see that the Jephthah was able to identify his fellow Israelites from Ephraim as his enemies though they looked otherwise like his own people by their speech. He used a pronunciation test that easily identified where the Ephraimites were from. The Ephraimites had develop a linguistic peculiarity in their regional dialect of Hebrew where they pronounced anything that had the “sh” sound with a silent “h”. That was something that they could not hide. They could act and dress like other Israelites but they had this peculiarity in their speech pattern that could not be hidden. I can identify with that because my speech patterns are so engrained from years of growing up in small town South Carolina as the son of a Methodist preacher that it is hard to hide my Southern-ness. I just naturally without thinking, for example, will mash words together into a single word or leave the “g” off any word that ends in “ing”. It’s just who I am and I cannot hide it or change it. I can write with the best of them and use expensive words when I do, but to hear me “tawk” you hear a Southern boy. I have quit worrying about it and revel in my Southern nature and have learned to be proud of it and not apologize for it. Just call me a redneck with two masters degrees if you like! Soon (within the next two years), it will be a redneck with two masters degrees and a doctoral degree.

That then becomes a question that I need to ask myself as well as you. Sure I am easily identifiable as a Southern boy. That’s a no brainer for anyone who encounters me. It shows. It’s hard to hide. And I, for one, am unashamed of my Southern nature. But, can you as easily identify me as a Christian, as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Does my life speak of Jesus Christ in systemic way that is just my nature? Do I exude Jesus Christ just by opening my mouth? Can people pick me out as a Christian from a crowd? Does my speech easily identify me as a Christian? Is what I say and how I say it so engrained in me that I cannot, just by my nature, deny Jesus Christ? Do I speak of Jesus Christ without thinking about it? Do I mash up the love of Christ in everything that I do? Can I be killed by the evidence that is undeniable and unchangeable about me that I am a Christian. The Ephraimites were killed by their speech patterns that they could not change and could not deny. Likewise, am I just so a disciple of Christ that I don’t even think it odd that I am different from the rest of the world. Am I so in love with Jesus that I do not care what other people think about how I sound and what I am saying? Am I such a Christ follower that I would rather die than change? These are the questions that I need to ask myself and these are questions you need to ask yourself.

Although I am proud to be Southern and unashamed to show it, am I the same way about being a disciple of Christ?

Amen and Amen.

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