What a Stiff Neck! #6

Friday, April 5, 2019

“For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?” (Deuteronomy 31:27 KJV).

A Christian lady was expressing her frustration over her unsaved family members being “stubborn” as concerning believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Or, in Bible terms, they are “stiffnecked.”

The Scriptures say, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Mankind refuses that truth: he resolutely believes he is good. Here, the lost person sees Jesus Christ as unnecessary. Commandments are viewed as “help” to get to God and merit His favor. A sinner, instead of realizing his or her “lostness,” stubbornly cleaves to works-religion. Man does not see himself as the evil monster he really is; he just cannot agree with God and take a negative view of himself. Falling for the strange delusion that he can keep God’s laws perfectly, his efforts replace (!) Christ’s finished crosswork. It is truly a miracle when the unsaved escape such trickery: that enlightenment comes through the Scriptures to a sincere heart.

God’s Word pronounces, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Christ’s finished crosswork offends the Christian’s flesh (sin nature) as it upsets the lost person’s flesh (see above). Christians also obstinately cling to works-religion: they come to faith in Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone, knowing Calvary alone can save them, but then they labor to please God for rewards (material blessings, physical health, et cetera). It is truly a miracle when the Christian escapes such deception: that enlightenment comes through the Scriptures to a sincere heart.

Honestly, God does not want our “good works;” He desires our trust in Christ. Grace not works! Jesus Christ gave His life to us, not for us to then use a legalistic system to simulate it, but for Him to live it in and through us as we believe His words to us. It is our faith in His faith—His faithfulness not ours, His crosswork not ours, His efforts not ours! Let us cease being “stiffnecked!”

What a Stiff Neck! #5

Thursday, April 4, 2019

“For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?” (Deuteronomy 31:27 KJV).

A Christian lady was expressing her frustration over her unsaved family members being “stubborn” as concerning believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Or, in Bible terms, they are “stiffnecked.”

Scripture provides a portrait of the “stiff neck,” and it is anything but flattering. Firstly, it is antonymous to “yield yourself unto the LORD” (2 Chronicles 30:8; cf. 2 Chronicles 36:13). Secondly, it means to “resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51)—refusing to listen to His words and obey them (Jeremiah 17:23). Thirdly, it stems from the heart, an internal sin nature that is contrary to how God designed Adam to function before he fell in sin (Deuteronomy 10:16; cf. Jeremiah 17:9). Fourthly, it originates iniquitous and sinful deeds or actions (Exodus 34:9; cf. Mark 7:20-23). Lastly, it results in God’s judgment (Exodus 33:5).

On one hand, whenever God observes anything that fails to meet His righteous standard, He must act to enforce a penalty. He cannot look at sin (Habakkuk 1:13). On the other hand, He is merciful, gracious, and forgiving toward the sinner (Exodus 34:6,7). He can hold back the wrath they deserve, He can give them pity that they do not deserve, and He can cancel the spiritual debt they have incurred. If we study the above verses as to how “stiffnecked” Israel behaved, and His responses, we see both realities on full display.

When they sinned, when they drew back from His leading, when they did the exact opposite of His commandments, there was chastisement to reform them (if they were willing to listen). Yet, He never completely wiped them off the face of the Earth, did He? Many times they deserved it, but He spared them. Despite all they have done against Him, He still has a plan for them even now, to make them His own and bless them beyond belief!!!

Let us conclude this devotionals arc by seeing a parallel concerning God’s dealings with individuals today….

What a Stiff Neck! #4

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

“For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?” (Deuteronomy 31:27 KJV).

A Christian lady was expressing her frustration over her unsaved family members being “stubborn” as concerning believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Or, in Bible terms, they are “stiffnecked.”

Isaiah 53:6 contains the greatest definition of the word “sin:” “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus Christ, as the context shows, died for sinners. Sheep going astray, each one turning to his own way, is a graphic illustration of how sinful man (whether Jew or Gentile) drifts from his Creator. Man’s self-will stems from his desire to be independent, wanting to be his own “god,” a being wishing to decide for himself what is right and what is wrong. (Genesis 3:5).

Reflecting on Israel’s history in chapter 9, Moses commented in chapter 10 and verse 16: “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.” As he learned from God, there was a heart problem underlying Israel’s sins. Fifteen centuries later, Stephen said to Israel in Acts 7:51, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” Man’s nature is thoroughly corrupt, as the Lord Jesus observed in Mark chapter 7: “[20] And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. [21] For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, [22] Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: [23] All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”

If a sinner is to be not “stiffnecked,” he or she must undergo a spiritual circumcision. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). There must be a cutting off of the flesh, the sin nature passed down from our father (going all the way back to Adam). Herein is the realm where God works on the sinner’s behalf….

What a Stiff Neck! #3

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

“For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?” (Deuteronomy 31:27 KJV).

A Christian lady was expressing her frustration over her unsaved family members being “stubborn” as concerning believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Or, in Bible terms, they are “stiffnecked.”

Israel could never (!) brag about how JEHOVAH God brought her into the Promised Land because of her “goodness.” Rather, it was because of the evil of the Gentiles living in the Promised Land that God was bringing in Israel. Israel was wholly unworthy. Listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to them through Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 9:

“[4] Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. [5] Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. [6] Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people…. [13] Furthermore the LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:….”

Lest Israel forget the countless grievous sins she had committed against the LORD God, Moses spends verses 7-29 reviewing her 40-year history (all the way back to her deliverance from Egypt). This new generation of Jews present in Deuteronomy must learn the lessons their ancestors did not. Yet, they too will be negligent, as 2 Chronicles 30:8 remarks centuries later, “Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the LORD, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.”

Now, we reveal the cause of that stiff neck….

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What a Stiff Neck! #2

Monday, April 1, 2019

“For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?” (Deuteronomy 31:27 KJV).

A Christian lady was expressing her frustration over her unsaved family members being “stubborn” as concerning believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Or, in Bible terms, they are “stiffnecked.”

Moses had a ministry to sinners—millions of sinners. He knew them all too well, and for far too long (over 40 years). When he first attempted to minister to the nation Israel, his brethren, they rejected him. One asked him, “Who made thee a prince and judge over us?” (Exodus 2:14). Decades later, they accepted him, and he led them for 40 years from Egypt, across the Red Sea, through the wilderness of Sinai, and all the way to northeast of the Dead Sea. Over and over, he had witnessed their ingratitude to God, their worshipping idols, and their willfulness in doing their own thing (to name a few, Exodus 15:24, Exodus 16:2-8, Exodus 17:1-3, Exodus 32:1-35, Leviticus 10:1-3, Numbers 11:1-3, Numbers 12:1-16, and Numbers chapters 13–14).

Therefore, Moses remarked in today’s Scripture, “For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?” He knew exactly what Israel would do after he would pass into eternity. We can read the rest of the Old Testament to see how tragic Israel’s post-Moses history turned out. Some 850 years after Moses’ death, thus arises the fifth course of chastisement—the final round of punishment God brought on Israel because of her breaking His Old Covenant (Law) by worshipping and serving pagan idols.

Jerusalem and Judah’s last king epitomized the Jews. King Zedekiah, a descendant of David, “stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel” (2 Chronicles 36:13). Having a “stiffened neck” was true of all 12 tribes of Israel; hence, they were all now in Gentile captivity/exile! “But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction” (Jeremiah 17:23). Over 2,600 years later, and human nature has not changed a bit….

Bible Q&A #595: “Is it disrespectful to call it the ‘Old Testament?’

Praise and Thanks to the LORD

Thursday, June 30, 2016

“And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid” (Ezra 3:11 KJV).

Just imagine Israel’s joy as the Temple is being reconstructed!

The Babylonian armies had come many decades earlier and destroyed Jerusalem. Solomon’s Temple, the house of the LORD, the magnificent center of Israel’s religious life, was burned to the ground! The Jews of the southern kingdom (Judah) were violently carried away to Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-21; 2 Chronicles 36:14-21).

JEHOVAH God commissioned Persian King Cyrus the Great to rebuild His Temple (Isaiah 44:28—written nearly two centuries previous to Cyrus!). Obeying Cyrus’ decree, Zerubbabel leads some of his Jewish brethren from Babylon back to Jerusalem to begin the construction (2 Chronicles 36:22,23; Ezra 1:1-11). These Jews have given of their material riches to construct the Temple. As chapter 2 of Ezra says: “[68] And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the LORD which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place: [69] They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments.”

In today’s Scripture, they are excited that they have now laid the foundation for this new Temple. Literally, they are “re-laying the groundwork” for their Mosaic religion. They want JEHOVAH’S presence to return to them. They desire for Him to dwell in Jerusalem with them as He did before their Babylonian captivity/exile. It is a very emotional time. The older men, those who had seen Solomon’s Temple before it was destroyed over 50 years earlier, observe the construction of this new Temple’s foundation and they “wept with a loud voice” (verse 12)! They recognize that they had sinned (leading to their punishment in the captivity) but their God has been faithful in bringing them back into the Promised Land. Not because of their faithfulness, but because of His!

Praying Like Elijah #15

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

“Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months” (James 5:17 KJV).

Why did Elijah pray like this, what was so special about his prayer that God answered it, and how can we have our prayers answered of God?

Many precious Christians all around the world, suffering various difficult circumstances, are fervently praying for God to remove those tribulations (remember Paul?). Yet, the troubles remain (remember Paul?). They wonder, “Does God love me? Do I have enough faith? Is there unconfessed sin hindering my prayers? Am I even really saved?” Such disappointment, misery, and confusion!

Beloved, remember, prayer is talking to God in light of His Word to you. The most basic fallacy in modern-day prayer-practice and prayer-preaching is to grab God’s Word to Israel, and make it apply to us. Whether it is “the Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13), or “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do” (John 14:14), or “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:19), none of these verses apply to us. God the Holy Spirit never gave us the Church the Body of Christ any such verses in Romans through Philemon. In fact, as we already saw in Paul’s epistles (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), we find God saying “No” three times to Paul’s prayer for deliverance.

Surely, God’s dealings with Israel and God’s dealings are different. In Israel’s program, calamity was a sign of disobedience and God’s punishment of it. However, when we come to this the Dispensation of Grace, problems are not something to flee. God is not mad at us; we are forgiven and accepted in Christ. We suffer trouble in this fallen creation, but we need to always be mindful that God promises to get us through our trying times, not take us out of them. In difficult circumstances, we need to repeat to Him in prayer what He told us in Scripture….