Todays readings… 2 Chronicles 26&27, Daniel 7, Acts 7
“YOU STIFF NECKED PEOPLE”
What is a “stiff neck”? What does this phrase mean? It implies that those who develop a “stiff neck” cannot look around to get what they see – in balance; they have blinkers on their eyes, like a horse in harness!
Sadly, indeed tragically, this is the case today, so many have their minds fixed on the belief there is no God – that everything that exists, with its many marvels, in some ‘magic’ way, created itself! We encountered the word “stiff necked” in the book of Acts. Who was accusing people – and which people – of being “stiff necked”? Yesterday we read ch. 6 and today ch. 7 – chapters which need to be read in con-junction.
We learn in ch. 6 that, to assist the disciples in the rapidly growing Jerusalem ecclesia “they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” [v.5] and six others to assist the disciples in the functioning of the now massive ecclesia. Jews from many parts were visiting Jerusalem for Pentecost, which was 7 Sabbaths after the Passover and “those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen.” [v.9] Cilicia is where Paul was from (Acts 21 v.39) Stephen is “seized … and brought him before the council,” [v.12].
Today’s ch. 7 starts with the High Priest asking him “are these things so?” – that is, that “Jesus would destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered” [6 v.14]
Stephen’s speech is recorded in detail, over 50 verses. We note how many times he says, God did this and said that! It is all about what God caused to happen in the past – with Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon. Up to a point they knew these things – but they missed the point of what the past was leading up to! Similarly today, so many ‘christians’ are missing the point that the present is leading up to the return of Christ – with the wondrous result of the kingdom of God being established on earth.
Stephen’s speech reaches its climax with the challenge; “”You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered…” [v.51,52]
There is no Stephen today to denounce today’s ways as “stiff necked” thinking. – Actually minds are even more “stiff necked” than they were then! They are now totally blind to the reality – that there is a Creator.
As they “cast him out of the city and stoned him.”[v,58] Stephen “gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” [v.55]
How soon now before we gaze into the heavens and we will see “the Lord himself will descend from heaven … with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” [1 Thess 4 v.16]