“Stiff necked?” That doesn’t sound very “Jesus with long, flowing hair, holding a little lamb and playing with children” warm and fuzzy… I thought God was love and He loved me enough to send Jesus to die for me. Now, He’s calling His chosen people “stiff necked”?
It means “stubborn” and, yes, Israel was being stubborn. You and I are often stubborn. Often, we take more credit for things that God does through us than we ought to. God makes it very clear not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New, that He has a plan and is set out on reconciling the lost to Him, wiping out wickedness not because of the righteousness of those He is pursuing, but because of His own righteousness. God… is… Holy. Without Christ’s substitutionary death (and resurrection), we’re not. Not holy. Ouch, is right. (Read on, this isn’t a permanent stiff neck…)
Even after we become Christians (justification & salvation), we’re still not perfect. We have a new identity in Christ, but we’re not fully mature and glorified. Be encouraged. Despite our best efforts, God will accomplish what He has planned. The wicked will be punished eternally through separation from God. We who are considered “righteous by faith” will even forfeit some eternal rewards for our own wickedness. God is still sovereign. You are adopted into His family not by your own merit, but by His righteousness (see also, Eph. 2.8)
Let’s Loosen That Neck
God is on track, pursuing an oft stubborn, off track and proud traitor race. This is not a license to do whatever we want – it is freedom from the condemnation the enemy of God would crush us with when we do falter. The great news is – God is sovereign regardless of our shortcomings and He is at work in us, giving us both the strength and the desire to do His work (see previous verse).
Today, may you keep a healthy perspective that you and I are not the reason why things work out well when they do. Yet, you and I are not hopeless when things don’t work out. You and I are not the solution to every problem, no matter how talented or in the zone we are. God Himself is the only one worthy of the name “I Am”, making us worthy of the name “I am not” (HT: Louie Giglio). I would only add “I Am Not, and That’s Okay” to the name-tag.
May the great “I Am” strengthen you in confidence when you are in doubt, not because you are all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips, but because He is already and always on track with His perfect plan. May He encourage you throughout your day when the Accuser comes calling to tell you that you’re stiff necked and that’s all you’ll ever be. May you be in your circumstances, but not defined by your circumstances.