Thursday, September 7, 2017
Stiff Necks and Hard Hearts
Stiff necks and Hard hearts
2 Chronicles 36:11-14
Reign of Zedekiah
Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign; he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God. He did not humble himself before the prophet Jeremiah who spoke from the mouth of the Lord. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God; he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord, the God of Israel. All the leading priests and the people also were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations; and they polluted the house of the Lord that he had consecrated in Jerusalem.
The comments about Zedekiah reflected the attitude of those who lived in Jerusalem. They had no regard for God, or the things of God. Zedekiah refused to listen to the words of the prophets and chose to do his own thing. He didn't seem to care that he was taking many people with him as he led them down the road of destruction.
Not only did Zedekiah refuse to listen to God, his divine leader, but he rebelled against the most powerful military force in his world. What we read is that Nebuchadnezzar had more respect for God than did God's people. At least Nebuchadnezzar thought that if you took an oath before God it actually meant something!
Refusing to listen or take advice from anyone, Zedekiah then dug in and continued to go in his own direction. He stiffened his neck, unwilling to be turned in any other direction and intentionally hardened his heart. He knew the right thing to do but would not do it. He became a role model for the priests and other leaders who followed him right into abomination and complete desecration of the house of God.
I hear people complain that when reading the Old Testament God doesn't appear to be all that compassionate, and seems bent on destruction. I would like to suggest that when we react in this way we are focusing on the wrong thing. If you read today's passage closely you discover an exceedingly patient and loving God who put up with horribly disobedient people for a long time. This was a covenantal relationship in which both sides had promised fidelity. The Israelites openly flaunted their infidelity, breaking the heart of God.
This is a story of stiff necks and hard hearts, and sadly more chapters continue to be written today. Our loving heavenly Father continually reaches out to us, trying to draw us back into a covenantal relationship where the image of God will be restored in our lives. Sadly, just like Zedekiah, we can become stubborn. No one has said that it's easy to humble yourself before God, but that is the call. Jesus was the ultimate role model, the exact opposite of Zedekiah. He bowed his head and with a tender heart gave up everything for the sake of us all. Refusal to submit to God's leading only hurts us. When God speaks and we don't listen, we will suffer the consequences. God, in love, is trying to lead us to a generous place in which we can thrive.
What is it that God may be asking us to do, and we are choosing not to listen? Every facet of our lives should be lived out in complete submission to the holy love of God. It is only then that we begin to understand the Apostle Paul when he says to follow him as he follows Christ. It is Spirit-transformed individuals who reveal to us the antithesis of Zedekiah and therein we find great hope. We don't have to be stiff necked. We can humbly bow our heads in loving service to God and others. It is in this place that we will discover the incredible compassion of a Messiah who continues to offer redemption for his bride.
Lord, I want to continually seek your face. Please, gently remind me when my neck begins to stiffen and my heart harden. Amen.