(Proverbs 29:1 ESV) He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.
Have you ever known anyone who was so stubborn they would rather suffer a negative consequence than admit they are wrong? I have. In fact, my wife tells me that I have a tendency to be stubborn too! Unfortunately, it is more common than we would like to admit.
In Scripture, stubbornness is described as being “stiff-necked.” We see it used on many occasions such as when the writer of Acts says, “You stubborn (stiff-necked) people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! (Acts 7:51)
In Bible times, the plow was usually drawn by two oxen. As the plowman required but one hand to guide the plow, he carried in the other an “ox-goad.” This was a light pole with an iron spike. With this he would prick the oxen on the hind legs to increase their speed, and on the neck to turn, or to keep a straight course. If an ox was hard to control or stubborn, it was “hard of neck,” or stiff-necked. Hence, the figure was used in the Scriptures to express the stubborn spirit of a people not responsive to divine direction. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
As I read this proverb, I was impacted by the severe consequences that are inevitable when one refuses to accept wisdom and change course. The writer is referring to individuals who have been warned often, yet because they have stiffened their neck (refused counsel), they are in danger of irreversible damage (beyond healing).
When a medical doctor determines that an illness is terminal, they are diagnosing a condition that is “predicted to lead to death, especially slowly; incurable.” (Dictionary) Sadly, a stubborn spirit often leads to physical weakness, emotional instability, and ultimately, spiritual death.
But, there is good news! Being stubborn is a choice. By consistently choosing to interact with Scripture, and other godly people, I can equip myself with wisdom. And, by acknowledging the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence, I can can direct my energy to proper thoughts, and actions that will allow me to make proper decisions.
PRAYER: Father, I realize that being stubborn is a mindset that thwarts my ability to see things from your perspective. Since I do not have unlimited knowledge, it is important that I consider the opinions of others who may have additional insight, and greater knowledge than I do. Help me Lord, to soften my heart, to control my compulsion to always have my way, and to realize that many times the answer I need is found in the wisdom of others. Amen.