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Stick-necked or Soft-hearted?

My neck is stiff today, as it often is.

A chronic neurological condition can crank things up pretty quickly, spinally speaking, particularly during a summer heat wave. Yesterday, the top half of my vertebral column suddenly seized up, as if an unseen force had slammed my sensory doors shut. Those proverbial passageways have still not reopened.

Nearly numb, my hands and feet tingle, although the outside temperature reads nearly 100 degrees (F). And my neck is locked up still.

Still, I’m not sure that’s what the Bible means, when it talks about stiff necks.

"I have seen these people,"
the LORD said to Moses,
"and they are a stiff-necked people.”
(Exodus 32:9, NIV)

Whoa! That sounds like a slam against stiff-necked people?

As usual, the secret lies in the context.

Consider the scene. Moses has just climbed the mountain to receive the laws of the Lord, when God reveals to the prophetic patriarch how the people are worshipping the golden calf down below.

En route to the Promised Land, those folks may have melted down all their golden chokers and other treasures to mold the idol. But they were likely more stiff-necked than ever.

Look at these additional translations of the same verse:

Then the LORD said,
"I have seen
how stubborn and rebellious
these people are.”

The LORD said to Moses,
"I have seen this people,
and behold, they are an obstinate people.”

God said to Moses,
"I look at this people—
Oh! What a stubborn, hard-headed people!”

Stiff-necked-ness, so to speak, seems to be something offensive to God, at least in a spiritual sense.

Scriptural synonyms for “stiff-necked” include:



Perhaps it has something to do with our willingness to turn towards Him and to keep our eyes focused in the right direction. Maybe it’s about pride and determination, as opposed to humble faith and obedience to the One who deserves all honor.

Is it possible to have a stiff neck and a soft heart at the same time?

Yes, my neck is stiff today, but for medical reasons. I only pray my mind is open and my heart is soft, even as the nerves around my upper vertebrae are clenched.

Pass the Ben-Gay ... and the Bible, would you, please?

From: The Book of Snobs
By William Makepeace Thackaray
Public Domain/Copyright Expired
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