Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mirror Mirror on the Wall


Mirror Mirror on the Wall

 

Then the men of Ephraim gathered together, crossed over toward Zaphon, and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the people of Ammon, and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house down on you with fire!” – Judges 12:1

There’s no fight like a family fight!  I don’t know why God has brought this up today, but we’ll just roll with it and see where it goes.  I don’t often talk about my family because I respect their privacy, but I have to respect God’s lead to a greater extent.  My family story is an example I think MANY can relate to.
Years ago when my grandmother died, my Dad was made her sole beneficiary and executor of her will.  This would seem right to most since he was her closest surviving relative, but she had also adopted and raised my two cousins.  Their father had died when they were three and five years old.  My grandmother raised them from that point on.   The younger of the two and I were best friends growing up.  Yet I haven’t seen her in years because of what happened at the reading of my grandmothers will.

Unknown to my cousin, my grandmother had rewritten her will while she was sick with cancer, and turned everything over to my dad except a few household things that she listed as to who they should go.  Originally, her possessions, as meager as they were, would have been split between my Dad and my two cousins, allowing them to inherit their deceased father’s share.  But after the will was rewritten, she would only receive a large gold framed mirror that had always hung in my grandmother’s house, and I believe that was all.  I managed to stay out of the fuss enough that I don’t have all the details.  But I remember the mirror even as a child.  It was something my grandmother cherished. 
I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I know there were harsh words said on both sides, and my cousin never came to get the mirror.  Now years later, I don’t even know where she is.  That truly breaks my heart.  Growing up she was one of my closest friends.  We would play in my grandmother’s house, sleeping upstairs in feather beds and jumping from one to the other!  We climbed trees, went fishing, road bikes, and had all sorts of adventures.  I remember the mirror being part of our play as we would dress up, stand in front of it and recite the words from Snow White, “Mirror, mirror, on the Wall, who is the fairest of them all?”  In the end, there was no fairness to be found.

Now I don’t even have a phone number or address for her, all because of a STUPID family fight over possessions.  There was wrong on both sides, so no one was without blame.  As happens in most family fights, both sides lost.  They lost the greatest gift of all – family.  I don’t know why my grandmother kept the rewrite of her will secret.  But if she had seen this coming, I know for sure she would have sold everything she owned before she died!    
In Judges 12 we read of a family fight.  The fight is between cousins.  Manasseh and Ephraim were the sons of Joseph.  Jephthah was from the tribe of Manasseh.  In Judges 12, Jephthah has fought the Ammonites, returned home, and has been home for at least two months.  He has already demobilized his army when the tribe of Ephraim, his cousins from across the Jordan River, came for a visit.  They were angry because Jephthah had not called them to come and fight with him.

Now to understand why that would make them angry, you have to know that in those days war had its reward.  Those that died in war left behind possessions.  These were plundered and taken by the victors of war, which in this case were Jephthah and his army.  Ephraim wasn’t so much upset that they hadn’t gotten a chance to fight, but that they hadn’t gotten to receive any of the spoils of war.
This is the second time the tribe of Ephraim had pulled this number.  They had made the same complaint of not being called into war to Gideon when he fought the Midianites in Judges 8:1-3. Ephraim seems to have had a pattern of wanting something for nothing.  When Gideon was faced with their spirit of entitlement, he subdued them with diplomacy. But Jephthah wasn’t like Gideon.  He was born a fighter and at odds with his family.  Having been the illegitimate son of Gilead, born to a prostitute, he was use to family fights and having to defend himself. 

He didn’t back down from Ephraim.  In Judges 12:2-3 he says “My people and I were in a great struggle with the people of Ammon; and when I called you, you did not deliver me out of their hands. So when I saw that you would not deliver me, I took my life in my hands and crossed over against the people of Ammon; and the Lord delivered them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?” Jephthah immediately remobilized his army and fought against Ephraim. 
During that fight they had to have a way to determine who was from the tribe of Ephraim, and who was a Gildeadite.  Cousins look alike.  Being separated by the Jordon River, they had grown different speech dialects, and Jephthah used this as a means to determine who was who.  After having seized the fords (shallow places for crossing) of the Jordan River, they would ask anyone wanting to cross “Are you an Ephraimite?”  If they said “No”, they would make them prove it by saying the word “Shibboleth”. The Ephraimites were unable to pronounce the "sh," pronouncing it as "s" instead.  If the person could not pronounce “Shibboleth”, they would kill him. 

Forty-two thousand lost their lives during this civil war between cousins, and over what?  A bunch of stuff that would later rot, rust and decay.  Forty-two thousand people would have had their own ancestors, their own families.  How great could the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh become had this war not occurred.
Family fights are senseless, and cost more than any other conflict we can have.  We often say that blood is thicker than water, meaning family ties are stronger than any other.  But when it comes to respect, we give those that are not kin to us far more than we do our own family.  We take family for granted because we have this unconscious belief that the tie cannot be broken. 

Be careful what you say or do to your family in haste or anger.  Choose your words and actions carefully, considering them as if you were on the receiving end.  In the end, you stand to lose far more than a fight.  You can lose your family.

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