Nehemiah 9:16-21 – “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies.
“Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.
Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness.
Have you ever felt abandoned? Was it true? I know that for me there was a time when I felt abandoned. It was around October and November of 2001. Just after the tragedy of September 11. My husband was overseas, and I was home in Tucson (thousands of miles away from my parents and sister), with my twin 2 1/2-year-old boys. The boys wouldn’t sleep. I was worn out. The events in September had drained the country, and I was no different. I was sure the country would go to war quickly, meaning my husband wouldn’t be coming home on time, and I would be stuck with these boys who never sleep. Then it happened. I began to have the symptoms I would later find out were from Multiple Sclerosis. I felt like I was abandoned in the desert. I felt like my husband wasn’t there when I needed him, and my family too was far away. I felt like I was going it alone. Those who should be there for me weren’t. But during that time, the Lord revealed himself to me, and helped me to see I needed to rely on Him, not my husband or family. He sent me great friends who helped me through that time (Kara and Sharon). I believe now, the time in the desert was a truly transforming time for me. Drawing me closer not further away from God.
But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands.
When you are a Stiff Necked person, you are said to be arrogant or stubborn. I also see it as not being able to change your ways or be flexible. I can think of a lot of times in my life where I was being stubborn or arrogant. I may have thought I didn’t have as many sins as someone else, or that the Lord blessed me more, because of something I did, or didn’t do, but the truth is we’re all stiff-necked at times. Denying the Lord and what he has done for us. We think we know better than God and ask like the Israelites to go back into captivity. We romanticized the past and think that if only we could go back to high school or college. Those were the days. But the truth is all of our problems would follow us through space and time, because they are part of who we are. But God doesn’t hold our stiff-necked ways against us. He is compassionate and slow to anger.
Last night in our Bible Study, we were looking at Nehemiah 8-10, and discussed this portion for quite some time. One of the things we heard from a commentary was that we can not escape God’s discipline, but we also can not exhaust God’s Patience. I found that to be a truly comforting statement. That yes sometimes I get myself into a mess of trouble. That sometimes I find myself wandering around in the desert, seemingly going around in circles. But God is still there. He’s still ready to help me, console me and save me from my sins.
You gave your good Spirit to instruct them.
Lord, You have given me so much. I have been blessed even when I didn’t recognize it at the time. It is true that you have our best interest at heart, and that you will bring us through whatever desert we’re crossing. You’ll provide what we need. Lord send your Spirit to guide me and instruct me as I go forward in life trying to serve you.
Are you stiff-necked?