In this verse, Stephen is rebuking the Sanhedrin, the supreme council of the Jewish nation, for being blind to the prophecy of Christ and not seeing Jesus for who He is. He calls them stiff-necked with hearts and ears that are uncircumcised; and then he compares them to their ancestors of the Old Testament.
You stiff necked people! I can only imagine Stephen shouting this in complete aggravation at this point. But I want us to understand that this word was not one that Stephen pulled out of the air. No, God used this word often when talking to the ancestors of the Sanhedrin.
Pull out your bible and look at these verses:
· Exodus 32:9
· Exodus 34:9
· Exodus 33:3,5
· Deuteronomy 9:6, 13
In each of these verses, the word stiff-necked is derived from two words in Hebrew. One is to be obstinate and stubborn, implying rebellion, and the other means to be hard, harsh or difficult. One commentary I read compared this stiff-neck to be like unresponsive oxen or horses. As I considered all of this and asked God to show me what I needed to hear from this word, I couldn’t help but think about that unresponsive ox! The yoke is on his neck and his master is pulling the reigns of that yoke to give him direction; direction that will cause the work of the day to be done. If the ox does not respond, the work is not done. And think about the work yoked oxen typically do ~ plowing a field to make it ready for planting and harvesting.
Oh my, what a thought. God is calling us to do His work but how often are we stiff-necked? We are called by God to help prepare, plant and bring in the harvest of His fruits, but if we are stubborn or obstinate we are not responding to his leading. The Hebrew word used for stiff-necked said it also implies rebellion. God shows me here that when I am stubborn and don’t immediately yield to His leading, I am rebelling against Him.
Stephen doesn’t stop at calling them stiff necked though! He has a few more harsh words for these stubborn oxen when he says, “Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised.”
Stephen is again referring to a word given to the ancestors. In Deuteronomy 10:16 it says, “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff necked no longer.” Here the ancestors were told to not be stiff necked, but instead to circumcise the foreskin of their hearts. Circumcising our heart is an act signifying a consecration to the Lord. Consecration means to devote our self irrevocably to the worship of God. That is a powerful thought. To be so devoted to the worship of God that it is not possible to take it back. This means a full commitment to the worship of God; not a commitment of convenience but commitment of a lifetime. This concept is repeated in 2 Chronicles 30:8 ~ “Now do not be stiff necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord…”
Webster says that to yield is ‘to surrender oneself to another; giving up on claims to the physical control of another.’ If I give up my claim to something, I can never take it back.
A girlfriend is a commitment of conveniences.
~As long as this relationship fills my needs and fits in my schedule I have time for partner
A Bride is a commitment of a lifetime.
~This relationship is here to stay and it is no longer just about me. I will need to make time for my Bridegroom to keep the relationship solid
Girlfriend is a life enhancing commitment
~I have a person to share things with and do things with. It feels good to have this person here, but nothing has changed in my life. I am still my own person.
Bride is a life changing commitment
~I have a person to share things with and do thing with and my life will never be the same. I have a new name, I have a new home; everything I used to do alone I now do together.
A life in Christ is a commitment. Just as a bride and groom commit to one another. God is fully committed to our salvation and He asks the same of us in our commitment to Him. And while we are comparing this commitment of a bride and bride groom, consider this. We’ve all experienced those ‘stiff-necked’ moments between a bride and her bridegroom, either personally or in observing others. Typically both are stiff-necked or stubborn about an opinion or decision. Neither has any intentions of yielding to the other on the topic of the moment, but both is sure they will get the other to yield to them. One of 2 things now happens.
1. Eventually someone does yield and the relationship grows to a new level of understanding OR
2. Neither yields and the relationship experiences one more deteriorating blow.
For there to be growth in the relationship, one of the 2 people has to decide it is better to yield than to be stubborn or even right. The difference between our earthly bride and groom relationships and our heavenly relationship is that scripture is very clear on who is to do the yielding. US! We don’t have to wonder who is right. God is right and every time we yield, our relationship grows stronger and deeper.Here is another one. Picture a bride and groom dancing. If the bride yields to the leading of the groom, the dance is smooth and beautiful. However, if the bride cannot let the groom lead and tries to do the leading herself, the movements are stiff and even painful as toes are stepped on over and over.
Why does a bride struggle with letting the groom lead the movements of the dance? Many times the bride does not trust the groom’s ability to lead. Sometimes the bride wants the dance to take a different direction or feels the groom is not keeping up with the pace of the dance.
Someone once shared this word picture with me:
When we listen to the GUIDANCE of our Father, we ‘dance’! It’s a beautiful dance when we respond to the Lord’s leading! But it’s hard to dance when you have a stiff neck! Stiff-neck, stubborn, set in my ways; I have been known to be unresponsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit at times in my life. However, just like a couple that wants to dance together but is tired of stepping on each other’s toes, I have been taking dancing lessons! We learn from the consequences of those unresponsive moments. The Holy Spirit is always speaking, but we have to choose to listen and respond. And when we do, the result is a fulfilling relationship.
Our recipe today is for Dancing with God
The ingredients are from Acts 7:51
The directions are to yield to the Holy Spirit and DANCE!
God of all, I come to praise You. Your encouraging words of scripture are like music that leads my soul to dance in obedience! And what a glorious dance it is! Let me not rebel with a stiff neck, unable to move to the leading of Your Holy Spirit. I confess any stubborn ways to You Lord, so that I may receive Your outpouring of forgiveness and mercy provided at the cross. Lord, I renew my commitment to You; the lifetime, irrevocable commitment made at the point of my salvation. I am humbled as I think that You stay true to Your word even as I have treated our relationship as one of convenience at times. I am reminded that in this relationship I have a new name, a new home and everything I do I do with You. I am never alone. Thank You Lord, for Your unfailing love. I come to you in the name of my precious Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.