You Stiff-Necked People!
Read Exodus Chapter 33
Ex 33:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” 4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’ ”
Look at verse 5. Have you ever been there? I have. Over the past few decades, we have been taught so much of God’s love and grace that we tend to forget that sometimes He has to get tough with His children. It doesn’t make Him a “mean” God, it instead demonstrates how deep is His concern for His people. Of course, He had no intention of abandoning the Israelites. His long-range plan and His promises to Abraham would not be thwarted by the rebellion and stubbornness of His people.
But, He had every intention of disciplining them as a way of gaining their undivided attention. So, through Moses He spoke these seemingly harsh words: “You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you.” Our Father is a perfect Father. Everything He does to us and for us is for our benefit. Back to our original thoughts, I have been there. I have been a stiff-necked Christian. God has at times been forced to deal with me harshly in order to gain my undivided attention. I have had to take off my “ornaments,” while He put me in a corner wearing my dunce hat. It is a sign of His perfect parenting that He will not allow His children to wander away from Him in willful disobedience.
When I have experienced this kind of disciplining, I have had to pull back from my strong-willed attitude and humbly submit to His will. We are very fortunate to have Him as our Lord. There are promises all throughout His word which can provide us with comfort during our times of disciplining. Here are a few.
Dt 31:8 The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Ps 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
Heb 12:5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.”
When God gets our attention and calls us to repentance, we should do just as the Israelites did in this passage from Exodus. We humble ourselves before Him, consider our rebellious ways, repent of them, and then rejoice over our great good fortune. We have not been allowed to continue down a road of destruction and despair. We have been diverted off the road which leads to death.
Prayer: Thank You for Your faithfulness to halt us in our tracks when we are disobedient. We admit that we are stiff-necked. We cycle back and forth between obedience and rebellion, just as the Israelites did. Forgive us, and strengthen us, that we will soon stay firmly in Your shadow and not need this kind of discipline.