“Therefore understand that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Deuteronomy 9:6).
Moses believed in telling it like it is. He reminds the children of Israel that God was not giving them the Promised Land because they were such a good people and deserved it. Their righteousness certainly didn’t “measure up”. He calls them a “stiff-necked people”. He then goes on to remind the Israelites of their great failure when while he, Moses, was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the law, they were down at the base of the mountain worshipping the golden calf (Deuteronomy 9:7-21).
Moses was not telling them these things to lay some kind of a “guilt trip” on them. He was simply helping them to understand their own weaknesses and how easy it had been for them to forsake God in the past. As he continues to speak to them, He reminds them that God loves them in spite of their weaknesses: “The Lord delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 10:15). Moses then encourages them to strive to keep their hearts soft towards God even though they have a tendency to struggle with being “stiff-necked”: “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer” (Deuteronomy 10:16).
Today, our society seems so concerned with everyone having a “positive self-image” that we are afraid to take an honest inventory of ourselves. It is good to have a healthy self-esteem. However, are afraid to look inward and see that often we do struggle with evil thoughts or that we at other times act out in rebellion towards God and His Word? I am concerned that sometimes we are afraid to call our evil actions “sin”. Instead, we cover them up with euphemisms such as saying we made a “mistake” or we “fell short”.
God is not afraid to say we have sinned! All of us have (Romans 3:23). Actually, there is something liberating when I acknowledge that I do struggle with sin. Certainly at different times in my Christian life I have felt a desire to rebel against God. I have been “stiff-necked”!
This does not condone my sin. I am not encouraging us to be “stiff-necked”. I am only encouraging us to take an honest inventory of ourselves. As we do so we must remember the important truth, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God loves me anyway! God understands I am not justified by my own righteousness. My own righteousness looks like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). I am justified by Christ. Praise God that God is able to save a stiff-necked soul like me through His precious Son Jesus Christ!
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:8-9).