And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Exodus 32:9 NKJV
I must admit, I find it hard to read this account of the children of Israel without seeing in my mind a large group of people wandering through the wilderness, hopelessly lost because their necks were too stiff to look around and discover the right way to go. What goes through your mind when you think of the term “stiff-necked”? As I thought about it, I began to come up with quite a few adjectives that would describe someone who could also be called stiff-necked, but after a few minutes, I thought it might be better to see exactly what God had in mind when He chose to use this term when describing His own children.
qâsheh; hard, cruel, severe, obstinate, hard, difficult, severe, fierce, intense, vehement, stubborn, stiff of neck, stiff-necked, rigorous (of battle). Also, severe…churlish, cruel, grievous, hard((-hearted), thing), heavy, impudent, obstinate, prevailed, rough(-ly), sore, sorrowful, stiff(necked), stubborn, in trouble.
Now after reading this, my initial reaction was to believe this was a rather harsh description. Yet when I began to consider the reasons behind the passage from Exodus, it became clear to me that the basic problem was the refusal of the people to submit to God’s will for them. This despite the fact that God had provided more than enough proof of His love by the number of miracles He had performed for their benefit, not only during their captivity, but especially after they had left Egypt and began their journey to the promised land.
With that in mind, I began to better understand not only the anger God had towards these people, but the frustration He must have felt as well. I began to wonder if the thought went through the Father’s mind, “what do I have to do to get through to these people?”. It was at that point that the thought occurred to me that circumstances haven’t changed much in the past four thousand years or so. As we take a good look around us at the world as it is today, especially here in our own country with some of the changes society is trying to force upon us, I wonder if the term “stiff-necked” could appropriately be applied to many today?
“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Acts 7:51 NKJV
What was, and is, God’s reaction to those who choose to stubbornly refuse to accept His guidance and follow His laws concerning our life on this earth? The Word of God answers that question quite plainly.
So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, To walk in their own counsels. Psalm 81:12 NKJV
Looking at the “change” that has occurred in this country in recent years, do you think we are seeing this very thing playing out all around us? How many of the decisions made recently are in line with what is revealed in God’s Word? How many laws have been passed in accordance to God’s revealed will for our lives? Quite the opposite, thinking they are smarter than God, society writes its own laws without understanding what they are really doing is revealing their own ignorance.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. Romans 8:7 NKJV
For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. Romans 10:3 NKJV
Unfortunately for myself, I couldn’t walk too far down the road of self-righteousness without the Spirit reminding me that I too, have often been stubborn when it comes to listening to His advice for me. So I decided to look at what the opposite of stiff-necked could be, and if as a believer I might somehow be exhibiting the character expected of someone who claims to follow God’s will for their life. So some antonyms for stiff-necked are;
flexible, irresolute, kind, nice, pliable, pliant, reasonable, soft, submissive, surrendering, weak, willing, yielding, broad-minded, complacent, compliant, giving.
Not surprisingly, a few of these jumped out at me as being traits expected of us as believers who have chosen to accept Christ as the master of our lives, and to allow the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and actions in an unbelieving world. So as I sat and asked myself the question; do I really strive to exhibit these in my daily walk with God, I looked up a few passages that came to mind regarding some of these traits.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Romans 12:1 NKJV
I have always loved this verse because Paul has a way of coming across at times in a way which reminds me of Mr.Spock of Star Trek. In this case, the word reasonable is the Greek word logikos, which is where we get the word logic. In other words, accepting Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, and giving our lives over to Him to use as He will is simply “logical”.
Logikos; pertaining to speech or speaking, pertaining to the reason or logic, spiritual, pertaining to the soul, agreeable to reason, following reason, reasonable, logical.
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 NKJV
When I asked myself if my thoughts towards those who are advocating the change we see in our society today were kind, I failed miserably. Being kind to those who reject Christ and His message is an extremely difficult thing to do, but it is what is expected of us.
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7 NKJV
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5 NKJV
If I had to pick the one trait most believers struggle with it would have to be submission. It seems most of us would rather have our own way than give in to others, yet that is an act of pride, and God has some definite thoughts on how He chooses to deal with pride. Jesus humbled Himself to the cross. Can we do no less? Just as in the Old Testament, many today could be described as stiff-necked because of their stubbornness in regards to God and His laws. Leave judgment to God, for His promise to us is that He will in fact; judge the world for their stubbornness. If you see things as many believers do today, that time of judgment is almost upon us.