Stiff-neck?

You know when God tells you the same thing a few times in the space of a few hours?

Last night I had a massage appointment with a client who was having a lot of tension in her back and neck. I shared with her that many of us have tension in our shoulders because we try to carry a “yoke” that doesn’t belong to us (see Matthew 11:28-30). Steve Murrell recently wrote a blog post about how sometimes the Spirit leads us where we don’t want to go. Then this morning my Bible reading was from Deuteronomy 9.

Stiff-necked people

Here, a new generation of Israelites is getting ready to go into the promised land. God has assured them that He will go across ahead of them “like a devouring fire” and that He will destroy their enemies and “subdue them” before them (v. 3). All that’s left for the Israelites to do is trust God and drive their enemies out. God does most of the work and the Israelites rely on Him and obey Him to finish the job. Isn’t it amazing that God can do it all by Himself but He invites us to be a part of what He’s doing?

His promise of victory comes with a caveat.

He urges them not to turn away from Him or His ways like they did when they created a golden calf after Moses had been on the mountain talking to God for 40 days. He describes them as a “stiff-necked people” (v. 13).

Don’t be an ass!

When I was about 13, I had horse-riding lessons. I started off on ponies because they were smaller. If I fell, it was only a short distance! To say they were stubborn would be an understatement! In order to get them to go anywhere, you had to pull on the reins and hit them with the riding crop. Even then, they would often change their minds and go their own way. As I pulled on the reins, they would stiffen their necks and pull in the opposite direction. One day, all of the ponies were taken so I got to ride a horse.

At the slightest nudge of the rein the horse eagerly followed my lead. She seemed to anticipate my every prompt and never resisted me. She simply trusted me to lead her safely and securely. It was a joy to work with her!

Psalm 32:9 urges us,
“Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle, or they will not come to you.”

My horse must have been the exception, but I take the point. Am I like a mule when I feel the gentle nudge of God’s leading? Or am I easily led? Do I trust Him to lead me in the way I should go? Or do I stubbornly resist Him, insisting that I know better?

God’s unfailing love

God’s motives for leading me are His love, as we see when we read Psalm 32:9 in context:

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him. Psalm 32:8-10

His heart towards me is rich in unfailing love, how could I fail to trust?!

Lord, let me not be a stiff-necked person but one who is easily led by the gentlest of Your nudges. Then I will be able to join with those who: “Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing all you who are upright in heart!” (v. 11)

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