There was a time when all the earth was of one language, and one speech (Genesis 11:1). Men consulted and said, “Let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” Though this device was in their hearts, the counsel of the LORD stood, their language was confounded, and they were scattered abroad upin the face of all the earth. Since then there has been a multiplicity of languages; and even within one nation there is such a diversity that a person accustomed to one particular dialect may be hardly able to understand a person from a different region.
In Peter’s case, his denial of having been with Jesus of Nazareth did not convince those that stood by, for they said, “Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.”
Likewise with the escaping Ephraimites who were questioned by the men of Gilead at the passages of Jordan. When an Ephraimite sought to cross over Jordan he was asked, “Art thou an Ephraimite?” If he denied it, the Gileadite said, “Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth; for he could not frame to pronounce it right.” How small s difference that would seem to be; yet it was vitally important, for “they took him, and shew him at the passages of Jordan.” And in religion, to be “nearly right” is to be wrong.
These Ephraimites were incapable of pronouncing the word that would have kept them safe. Remembering their destruction, how much we need to bw enabled to do what can never do by ourselves. Jesus said, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for our of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” And he added, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” The sinner who, like Hart, can claim no merit of his own, and feels himself to be in heart, in lip, in life depraved will feel himself to be dependant upon the LORD, and will dread being left to speak to his own condemnation. To almost pronounce Shobboleth was not enough to save an Ephraimite feom death.
Zephaniah had to prophesy of the LORD bringing His judgment to light and pouring upon the nations His indignation and fierce anger, but the LORD added, “Then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one consent.” (Zephaniah 3:9) In Nehemiah’s day the jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon and of Moab gad children that spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jew’s language; which was a great reproach on them, for it was an impure language.
But good words and fair speech may deceive men. Joshus and the man of Israel were deceived by the inhabitants of Gibeon. God, to whom all things are naked and open, is not deceived; and God is not mocked. A right form of words – whether of confession, prayer or praise – will not be right in the sight of God unless the words come from the heart. For example, we read of the LORD’s admonition spoken through Jeremiah to the remnant of Judah: “Ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the LORD your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God; according unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it.” (Jeremiah 42:20) This solemn profession was nit fulfilled. Their hearts were not sincere. Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” Paul in writing to the Romans declared, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” So then it is language that comes from the heart, without dissembling, that needs to be right.
How suitable and needful them the Psalmist’s prayer, “Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a decietful tongue.”
“May we never, never dare,
What we’re not to say we are.”
Again, we read, “The preperations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.” (Psalm 120:2)
May our prayer, without dissembling, be “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)