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June 27, 2012

I was recently listening to an audio recording of a pastor who, in the course of his sermon, referred to “stiff-necked” people.  I’ve heard the description plenty of times before.  It comes straight out of the scriptures, where God used the term in the book of Exodus to refer to the Israelites.

He was rather ticked off.

The term shows up in the book of Acts, too, when Stephen gave the elders and leaders of the synagogue a fine history lesson in the form of a sermon that stripped them naked and painted them blue on the spot.  They were a tad put out, and promptly stoned him to death.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it is not a compliment to be called stiff-necked.

When I was young I was told that the definition of the term was “stubborn”, or as we were more likely to call it in my family, “bull-headed”.  That made sense.  But in time I began to find that definition incomplete.  Being stiff-necked is far more than being stubborn.

Stiff-necked people do not lift their faces to heaven.

Stiff-necked people do not bow their heads in humility.

Stiff-necked people do not turn their heads from side-to-side to engage in what is happening with others around them.

Stiff-necked people focus on what is in front of them, and little else.

No seeking God.  No humility.  No regard for fellow humans.  Just me me me.

Yeah, I can see how God would be miffed.

Over the past few days I’ve found myself engaging God in a conversation about why I do not want to do something.  It’s not that He’s directly asked me to do this thing, but I suspect He’s going to and so I’ve pretty much preemptively begun telling Him the reasons I really don’t want to.  He is patiently letting me get it out of my system.  He knows that the more I blather on, the more I will talk myself into do exactly what He wants me to do anyway.  I’m not sure how it ends up working that way, but it usually does.

I don’t want to be stiff-necked about anything, even things I don’t want to do.  I don’t want to forget that if I talk, He’ll listen, and if I ask, He’ll answer, and if I hold out for Him, He’ll come through.  I don’t want to forget that being a royal daughter of heaven bestows upon me not only magnificent rights, but somber responsibilities that I cannot fulfill without the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through me.  And I certainly don’t want to forget that the world is full of people in need, and what they need is often in my hands, or my mouth.

I believe the anger of God was satisfied though Jesus, and that those who trust Him to cover their stiff-necked, bull-headed, self-centered, sin-lovin’ nature really are indeed covered.  If I decide to be stiff-necked, He’s not going to get torked off and smite me the way He threatened to smite the Israelites, though I will be in line for some discipline.  But oh…the blessings we miss when we choose anything over Him and His ways.  The promotions of maturity.  The glorious privilege of His manifest presence.  The peace of knowing that we are walking in the center of His power and love.  A neck that moves without restriction.

Who knew the Great Physician was also a chiropractor?

 

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