Three things I never want to be: Stiff-necked. Hardened in heart. Resistant to the Holy Spirit.
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart & ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? & they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed & murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels & did not keep it.” Acts 7:51-53
Reading over this section of Scripture, I keep getting stuck on verse 51.
Stiff-necked. Uncircumcised hearts. Resisters of the Holy Spirit.
These are strong & prophetic words from Stephen, who reached into Israel’s history to challenge & rebuke the Jewish Religious Council for their opposition to God’s purposes. The hardest thing for the Jewish leaders to hear had to be that their actions were just the latest round of thousands of years of stubborn, hard-hearted resistance to God. And the bizarre thing was, they professed to be diligently & faithfully serving the very One who was correcting them through Stephen.
Several things stand out to me:
• As Stephen is being dragged to the place of execution, the Jewish leaders have covered up their ears as though by doing so, they can keep from hearing anything else Stephen says. Their response to his prophetic challenge graphically portrays the state of their hearts & minds that Stephen was testifying to.
• To be stiff-necked is to be unteachable. Stubborn & hardened. Resistant to correction. Proud. Each time this phrase is used in the scriptures, it refers to a willful, determined disobedience to God’s specific commands, directions, and ways.
• Stubborn resistance to God’s purposes & plans originates in our own hearts, minds, & will, but it is hellishly motivated as well. This is evidenced by the vicious & murderous responses to the prophets & to Christ that Stephen recounts from Israel’s history.
I want to be teachable, set apart to God in words & deeds so that I can be easily be directed by & responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. This requires that I keep a close watch on my heart – that I cultivate humility & a lifestyle of repentance. And that I never forget that no matter how long I’ve followed the LORD, I never get to the spot where I don’t desperately need His guidance, direction, & grace.