We recently did a Bible study where the term “stiff necked” came up. Many people asked what does it mean to be “stiff necked”? Jokingly, I told them I am stiff necked, hence the reason I see a chiropractor. The truth is, yes, I have a stiff neck that needed extensive therapy. My lower back and my neck were the worst. But I am also stiff necked in the biblical sense of the term.
So what does this actually mean? If we would know about oxen and plowing, we would have a better understanding. When a fellow was working the plow, he would have his oxen in order, and he would use one hand on the plow and the other holding a large pole. Usually there would be two oxen together. The man who was working the field, would use the pole to touch the back of the feet of the oxen, or to touch the necks of the oxen. They did these things so that the oxen would know when to change speed, when to go straight, and when to turn. There were some stubborn oxen who didn’t like to listen. When they would have their necks poked, they would not move as ordered. They were known as hard of neck or “stiff necked.”
I admit I am stiff necked. There are times when I don’t want to move when God gives me a poke. There are moments when I chose to try to control a situation instead of giving it to God. There are times when I am supposed to turn, but I go on a different way. Today, ask God to reveal to you any areas in your life that may cause you to earn the name “stiff necked.” Chances are, like me, you are stiff necked. Don’t worry—we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Thankfully Jesus Christ has made a way so that we can find forgiveness despite our stiff necked issues.
“So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” – Deuteronomy 10:16 [NASB]
“Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. – 2 Chronicles 30:8 [ESV]
When Hezekiah was speaking to the Levites, the people chosen by God to be set apart for God’s work, he was set on purifying the Temple. After years of neglect the Temple doors were opened, repairs were made and the Levites were prepared. Hezekiah said to them, “This is your life work; make sure you do it and do it well.”
None of us have this same job position as the Levites, but it doesn’t mean we should not do it well. We all have a position, a title, whether it be banker, homemaker, doctor, cashier, salesman, teacher, customer service representative, janitor, etc. We all have a position.
Colossians 3 says that whatever we do, we do it for God. Whatever we do. Everything. Do it all for God’s glory. Paul again wrote in 1 Corinthians to do it all for the glory of God. So again and again we read about doing things and doing them well—about doing everything for the glory of God. Today, no matter what you are assigned to do, no matter what position you hold, “do it and do it well.” You are there for a reason—shine the light and make the best of it!
“I have decided to make a covenant with the God of Israel and turn history around so that God will no longer be angry with us. Children, don’t drag your feet in this! God has chosen you to take your place before him to serve in conducting and leading worship—this is your life work; make sure you do it and do it well.”
-2 Chronicles 29:10-11 [MSG]
Whenever there is something that needs to be done, I always try my best to be prepared. When planning for a trip, I make a list of all the needs for packing. For my finances, I have my budget organized in Excel, outlined meticulously after having some amazing training from Dave Ramsey. Even when I take my dog Max for a walk, I have things I do to prepare. I like being prepared.
In 2 Chronicles we read of groups of people who did not prepare themselves properly for the Passover meal. As a result they did not partake of the meal. Hezekiah prayed for forgiveness for these people who pretty much missed the boat.
Today, I challenge you with your preparedness with God. Do you prepare yourself in the morning by reading God’s Word and by praying? Do you prepare yourself for worship? Do you prepare yourself before Communion? Remember the Parable of the Ten Virgins, with the five women who had no oil for their lamps. Are you prepared for Jesus’ return? Are you prepared to share your faith? Remember what Peter said, to always be prepared to share the reason for your hope. Are you prepared?
“There were a lot of people, especially those from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, who did not eat the Passover meal because they had not prepared themselves adequately. Hezekiah prayed for these as follows: ‘May God who is all good, pardon and forgive everyone who sincerely desires God, the God of our ancestors. Even—especially!—these who do not meet the literal conditions stated for access to The Temple.’”
-2 Chronicles 30:18-19 [MSG]
We see many people not hold back. Many times it is when someone is having a tantrum or voicing an opinion. Then there are those who don’t hold back at the all-you-can-eat buffet. There are those who don’t hold back when they are racing or competing in sports. Not holding back means doing it all. It could be eating it all, giving it all, saying it all.
In today’s passage, we read about the Israelites who responded to Hezekiah’s command with generous hands. “They didn’t hold back, turning over a tithe of everything,” the Bible says. They gave the firstfruits of everything—EVERYTHING! There was so much stuff that was dedicated to God that it was piled in mounds. Look at the time involved—over three months of piling items. Talk about not holding back.
When I read of this it brings me great joy. I always love to read about people who are so generous and giving. It is such a special thing to give; it is a gift to give. I always get more joy from giving than from keeping. Sadly the statistics show that most people hold back a lot. I have heard it said if everyone tithed without holding back, giving the ten percent, people would be cared for and there would not be all of the situations we see all around the world. You might think that ten percent is a lot. You might think you cannot do it. But trust me, when you do it, God sees you through. You always have just what you need. So don’t hold back. Live with your hands open.
“As soon as Hezekiah’s orders had gone out, the Israelites responded generously: firstfruits of the grain harvest, new wine, oil, honey—everything they grew. They didn’t hold back, turning over a tithe of everything. They also brought in a tithe of their cattle, sheep, and anything else they owned that had been dedicated to God. Everything was sorted and piled in mounds. They started doing this in the third month and didn’t finish until the seventh month.”
-2 Chronicles 31:5-7 [MSG]
Pride is poison. For most people, it slowly seeps in without much notice until it is too late. Uzziah became strong because of all of the machines he had for protection. They used the machines on the towers and on the corners to shoot arrows and big stones at enemies.
Uzziah sought the Lord and God prospered him. He had this great protection, but the safety and security bore pride in him. Uzziah was famous because of God. Uzziah was protected because of God. But then he became “arrogant and proud, he fell.” Things went to his head just like they go to our heads.
As pride got the best of him, Uzziah went into the Temple and he acted “like he owned it and took over.” This was the place God’s name resided. This was the Temple of God. There were rules. There were priests consecrated for this work. But Uzziah walked in there like he could do anything. He ended up being “unfaithful and a disgrace.” He forgot God prospered him. He forgot God is holy. He forgot all of this because he was full of himself. Remember my friend, you don’t own it—you don’t own anything. Continue to be thankful for how God has prospered you and never forget we are to be humble servants. No one is better than another—and only God deserves honor and praise.
“But then the strength and success went to his head. Arrogant and proud, he fell. One day, contemptuous of God, he walked into The Temple of God like he owned it and took over, burning incense on the Incense Altar. The priest Azariah, backed up by eighty brave priests of God, tried to prevent him. They confronted Uzziah: ‘You must not, you cannot do this, Uzziah—only the Aaronite priests, especially consecrated for the work, are permitted to burn incense. Get out of God’s Temple; you are unfaithful and a disgrace!’”
– 2 Chronicles 26:16-18 [MSG]
King Aram told his commanders not to fight with anyone except Ahab king of Israel but King Ahab had a plan to foil any possible injury. He decided he would wear a disguise in battle. To throw the people off of him, he told Jehoshaphat to still wear his royal robes. Off they went into battle.
When first reading this one would bet that King Ahab would get away with this deception and King Jehoshaphat would meet his doom. It has the perfect storyline for a television or movie action sequence with the antagonist plot and this somewhat innocent ally. But God intervenes. The commanders see that they were chasing the wrong man. Even more, someone randomly, yes randomly, hit the king of Israel, right between the breastplate and his scale armor. That is not an easy shot.
What does this say to us? The prophet Micaiah spoke out against Ahab, prophesying doom when asked if the kings should go to war against Ramoth Gilead. The Word of God stands always. There is no hiding from the Truth. God will see His work to completion.
“When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they said, ‘There he is! The king of Israel!’ and took after him. Jehoshaphat yelled out, and the chariot commanders realized they had the wrong man—it wasn’t the king of Israel after all. God intervened and they let him go.”
-2 Chronicles 18:31-32 [MSG]
When you yell at the top of your lungs, people pay attention. It is loud. It is usually uninhibited. When I think of someone screaming at the top of their lungs, I consider two things: screaming in delight after receiving some great news or screaming in fear when in danger. These moments are typically moments we do not forget.
When all of Judah and Jerusalem followed Jehoshaphat’s actions, worshiping God together, the Bible says that the Levites were on their feet praising God. How did they praise Him? They praised God “at the top of their lungs.”
This reminds me of my car rides when I have the windows down and I am in the middle of uninhibited worship. I am praising God. I have one hand off the steering wheel raised (which is a no no). I get loud but I don’t care. Once I was even yelled at by a young boy to quiet down. But I kept praising Him for He alone deserves honor and glory and praise. Today I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone. Praise God at the top of your lungs. Aren’t you delighted by Him? Let us jump to our feet and shout! Thank you Lord! Praise you Lord!
“Then Jehoshaphat knelt down, bowing with his face to the ground. All Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping God. The Levites (both Kohathites and Korahites) stood to their feet to praise God, the God of Israel; they praised at the top of their lungs!”
-2 Chronicles 20:18-19 [MSG]
Have you ever begged for something? Perhaps when you were a child, you begged your parents for a trending toy. When you neared driving age, you begged to learn how to drive and then when you passed your test, you begged to borrow the family car. Have you ever begged God for something?
Some people beg God for selfish requests. We do not always see it as such, but when things are uncovered, it is very self-centered. We also beg for particular things like healing because we do not see God’s bigger plan. I know I’ve begged for my pain to go away, and yet my pain has taught me patience and humility. I am all the better because of my pain.
In today’s verse, we read that Jehoshaphat was terrified knowing that there was a large group approaching via the sea. He was afraid and he immediately turned his attention to God. He begged Him for guidance. Have you ever begged God for guidance? Have you ever wanted His guidance that bad? Have you ever approached Him with that humility?
“Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the LORD for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting.” – 2 Chronicles 20:3 [NLT]
In 2 Chronicles, it says that the people would “not even need to fight.” They were to “stand still and watch the LORD’s victory.” Sometimes we do not like to “stand still.” Most people are okay with watching television, but when it comes to our own lives, we think we have to do something. We have to do something to fix everything. Look around and you’ll see the evidence.
In this verse the people are told to take their positions. They were to be ready. But they were not going to have to do anything. They would be watching the Lord as He did great things. They simply had to watch with eyes open and see the victory.
For every situation in life, it is not always going to be the same. You will not always need to be fighting and keeping busy toward the goal. There are times when God will have you slow down for a moment so He can show you His great power and control. When you are to stand still, be sure to stand still. Open your eyes and see what the Lord has done.
“But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!” – 2 Chronicles 20:17 [NLT]