Select Wisdom Brand

Two Sides of Stubbornness

Deuteronomy 9:6-7
“Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess 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.”

As I ponder this statement from our LORD and walk down the corridors of insight that follow from it, each leading to a different but equally significant opening into a wonderland of theophany, the phrase “for you are a stubborn people” sweeps me up like a gust of divine breath and carries me upward.

What does it mean to be stubborn? We call a child stubborn when she spits out her green beans all over the floor despite threats of punishment and offers of reward. We call a general stubborn for continuing to employ his strategy even when the war is being lost and the casualty count is rising. We call a soccer teammate stubborn when he dribbles down the field and refuses to pass the ball. Yet, in all these cases, what’s the fundamental source of stubbornness? What’s the power in our humanity that enables even the weakest among us, even infants, to be stubborn? Free will. Think of it: we can only act stubbornly toward God because He created us with the ability to choose.

That’s precisely why stubbornness can also be a virtuous thing on the other end. For instance, a pastor who staunchly preaches Scripture in defiance of a politically correct society, and parents who protect their children from bad ideologies, perhaps even leaving public school to start a Christan co-op at church, are stubborn to the right end. In other words, we shouldn’t imagine as we read God decry Israel’s stiff-heartedness that He regrets making such spirited individuals, that perhaps He bemoans giving us too much will-power, seeing how often we go astray by it, but rather that He desires for us, in our agency, to be stubborn after righteousness instead. To be stiff-necked not against God’s truth but for it.

The people of Israel are stubborn in the wrong way, leaning on their own understanding rather than the wisdom of Almighty God. Oh, that we today would be distinguished in our world as the most free- spirited, stiff-necked people of all: saints stubborn for the glory of Christ alone!