Grace for Stubborn People

Imagine that you work in human relations and are responsible for hiring prospective job applicants. One reference question states: “Check all that apply. The applicant is . . .”

— Bullheaded

— Unreasonable

— Willful

— Rigid

— Self-willed

— Insubordinate

— Rebellious

Before you is a reference for a prospective employee and every one of the above characteristics is checked.

Would you hire this candidate for your company?

God and Stubborn People

Was there something wrong with God’s human relations department when he selected the Hebrew people to live in a special relationship with him?

A few short weeks after God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, they demonstrated how they checked all of the “boxes” in the above hypothetical illustration.

Moses reminded them of this fact, as they prepared to enter the promised land.

Deuteronomy 9.6-12 “Know, then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people.

“Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness; you have been rebellious against the Lord from the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place.

“Even at Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you.

“When I went up the mountain to receive the stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water.

“And the Lord gave me the two stone tablets written with the finger of God; on them were all the words that the Lord had spoken to you at the mountain out of the fire on the day of the assembly.

“At the end of forty days and forty nights the Lord gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant.

“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Get up, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have been quick to turn from the way that I commanded them; they have cast an image for themselves.’

“Furthermore the Lord said to me, ‘I have seen that this people is indeed a stubborn people.'”

While Moses was engaged in the most intense time of communion with God of his life, the Hebrews were busy constructing a golden calf.

The Book of Exodus records a conversation between God and Moses about the chosen people.

Exodus 32.7-9The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely;

“They have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said,

‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”

The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are.”

We can be shocked at how quickly the people turned away from God. Yet, in some ways, I am grateful for the story of God’s ancient people.

Their flaws and character problems give me hope because I frequently resemble their attitudes and actions.

A Stubborn King

When King Saul disobeyed God’s direct orders to destroy the Amalekites, Samuel said, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?” (1 Samuel 15.19).

As the prophet Samuel removed Saul from office, he said:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obedience to the voice of the Lord?
Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed than the fat of rams.

“For rebellion is no less a sin than divination,
and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”
(1 Samuel 15.22-23)

Stubbornness is described as iniquity and idolatry because it rejects God’s direction. Our willful rebellion becomes the substitute for obedience.

Jeremiah recounted the history of Israel’s stubborn rebellion.

Jeremiah 7.23-26But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.”

Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward.

From the day that your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day;

Yet they did not listen to me, or pay attention, but they stiffened their necks. They did worse than their ancestors did.

Let’s pay close attention to the subject of stubbornness.

(1) God’s directions are direct and easy to understand.

(2) Stubborn people refuse to obey God’s guidance.

(3) The people follow their evil will and their own counsels.

(4) A frequent problem of stubborn people is an unwillingness to listen or pay attention to God’s guidance.

It is important to ask ourselves how we are like the “bad guys” in these passages about stubborn people.

All of Grace

Most of this article features the stubborn tendencies of humans. Our stiff-necked nature is the backdrop for God’s grace.

Paul understood the issue of sin and grace. He wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2.8-9).

The Hebrew people stood at the entrance to the promised land because of God’s grace.

The rebellious Israelites returned from the Exile because of God’s grace.

Sinful humanity is freed from sin and afforded a personal relationship with God because of his grace.

May God’s grace elicit praise from us today. May we be filled with gratitude for God’s grace toward stubborn and stiff-necked people.

About This Blog

Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel today. Rudy has many excellent insights into this passage. I hope you will take the time to listen to our conversation.

Please email your prayer requests to or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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