October 8, 2009

A Pain In The Neck?

"And the LORD said to me, "I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed!" Deut 9:13 NIV

 Recently after missing several weeks of physical therapy, I was very happy to find out that I had not lost any of the range of motion that I had slowly gained over the previous six months. Always excited by a new challenge I was happy to start some new exercises that seemed like a cinch to me. My therapist insisted emphasized that I only do repetitions of three, which sounded boring too easy to me. So, of course, I did more. Several hours later I began to understand why she had cautioned me. I was paying for my lack of obedience.

Not only did I have a headache on one side of my head and neck, I also had such a stiff neck that I could not turn my head either way. In order to see something that was not in my direct line of sight, I had to turn my whole body.

As I was working at my computer, my tattered Bible in front of me, I suddenly remembered that the term, "stiff-necked" had been used by God to describe His people more than once. In at least one case, the term "stiff-necked" was replaced by the word, "stubborn" and accompanied by the word, "rebellious." One thing that I know for certain, being classified as "stiff-necked" was not a compliment from God.

When a person has a stiff neck, they are only able to see what is directly in front of them. They can not turn to the left or the right to see what is happening around them. Input is kept to a minimum due to their condition, and unless they have the energy to turn their entire body, they miss out on much of what is going on around them. Though in this case my condition was physical, there is spiritual application as well.

So often, we are judgemental critical of the Israelites. They were the "chosen people of God" yet they did many things that we would not expect those so beloved of God to do--or at least that is they way that we think. But, what about us, "the redeemed of God?" Are we not also guilty of being "stiff-necked" at times?

We often have a plan in mind and will not deviate from it. Then when God does not perform according to our plan, we get ticked pretty upset. That is because we see things only one way and that way is our way very straight forward. Very cut and dried. It does not occur to us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways, and we are unwilling and unyielding to His attempts to show us something other than what is right in front of us. Why? Because we are lazy unwilling to expend the energy that is necessary to spiritually turn ourselves around to see other options and or what is going on around us.

When we stubbornly refuse to open the eyes of our hearts that is where rebellion comes into our lives. Rebellion is defined as, "opposition to one in authority or dominance." Often words like, "disobedience" accompany it. It is also "resistance to treatment or management."

It becomes easier to see why God told the Israelites that they were a "stiff-necked" stubborn and rebellious nation when you consider these definitions. It also becomes apparent that we are often guilty of the same behavior as well.

Perhaps it is not something overt that is easily seen to others, but rather covert like when God speaks to our hearts about something that we need to do or need to stop doing--and we refuse do not obey. We do not see that He has reasons for pointing these things out to us. What we see is what effect the changes might have upon our wants and wishes, and our dreams and goals.

We rebel when we refuse to listen to anyone but ourselves. We revolt when God lays out for us a plan regarding circumstances and situations in our lives, and we choose not to follow Him. Whether it is laid out in a scripture to which the Holy Spirit leads us or He softly speaks to us, because we often do not immediately see the benefit of His "treatment plan and management," what we see in front of us seems to be all we want need. If only we would expend the energy to turn our heads and see what God longs for us to see? I often wonder what we miss by looking at things our way instead of His. We fail to see so many things including our own lack of obedience and how we offend God.

Why do you think that the heart of God is offended by our stiff-necked, stubborn, and rebellious ways? I do not believe it is because He is on some kind of "power trip" and just has to have it His way. I believe it is because He knows what is best for us, and He also knows that when we resist and refuse His way, in the end we only kill hurt ourselves. We miss out on the blessings of God and His perfect plan for our lives just as the Israelites did.

Many died in the desert never entering into the Promised Land that God had so graciously given them. I often wonder how many extra trips we make around our "Promised Land" simply because we are following our messed up map rather than listening and obeying His plan.

I do not know about you, but I have found my physical stiff-neck to be very painful. After reflecting on my spiritual walk, I see the many times that I have been stiff-necked and they bring pain to me as well.

Thank God, He never gives up on us! Just as eventually the Israelites came into their land of inheritance, I believe that we can do the same. God help us to learn something from their behavior that will save us years on our journey and allow us to truly enjoy fully the blessings He has in store for those who obey Him.


Anonymous said...

Melinda, this is awesome! I'm so glad you decided to add it to the carnival.

And yes...stiff-necks can be very painful, both physically and spiritually!

Peter P said...

Wow. That's a great post on obedience!

Thank you for joining the blog carnival!

I look forward to reading more of what God teaches you!

Helen said...

Great description of stiff neckedness .

Theresa said...

I really enjoyed this! Great reminder to us that when we are asking God Why?the answer alot of times is that we are stiff necked. If we had done His will to begin with it all would have gone well.

I pray that He keeps reminding me so I don't stay in the wilderness forever.

Colleen Foshee said...

It's a big step when we get to the place where we consistently realize God's way IS the best way. Finding I'm drifting less these days - glad cause I hate stiff necks!

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