“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft…”; however, if we are not careful, we overlook the continuation, “…and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry…” 1 Samuel 15:23
Stubbornness. It’s a trait that we tend to excuse, perhaps even admire, yet God says it’s a serious sin. While rebellion is usually outward, visible, and fairly easy to identify, stubbornness is more inward and subtle. It is vital that we recognize that if rebellion is fruit, then stubbornness is the root. God connects stubbornness and rebellion throughout the Scriptures. Stubbornness is the attitude and rebellion is the action. When we set our hearts and minds to go our own way and do our own will, we will eventually act in rebellion. In this passage (I Sam. 15), God links our wills with our worship. He says that rebellion is as the sin as witchcraft and stubbornness is as idolatry. We are fooling ourselves if we think that we are worshiping God without yielding our wills to Him. As long as we persist in being stubborn, God says that we are harboring idolatry in our hearts. How so? Because we are exalting our own will above God’s Word.
Some other words in the Bible for stubbornness are being obstinate, stiff-necked, and hard (Isa. 48:4; Jer. 17:23; Deut. 31:27; Ex. 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9). Stubbornness is when my will resists God’s will. It is when I reject instruction and correction. It is when I harden my heart against His reproof. It is the opposite of a heart that is tender and yielded to God and His Word. God’s Word is very descriptive. His words give us a mental image of stubborn people when He speaks of how they stiffen their necks and harden their countenance (Pro. 21:29; 29:1). I can almost see a clenched jaw, crossed arms, and defiant posture when I read those verses.
By contrast, when God speaks of wise people, He describes how they incline or bow their ear to hear instruction and correction (Pro. 2:2; 4:20; Ps. 78:1; Pro. 5:1; 22:17). Can you not picture someone bending down, tilting their head, and intentionally making an effort to hear every word spoken to them? Can you see the open, receptive look on their face?
We need to take some time to consider this truth. When God gives us His Word – by reading, preaching, instruction from parents or authorities – how do we respond? How does He see us? Does He see us as a humble servant, an obedient child – intently seeking to know His desires and directives? Or does He see raised eyebrows, tossed heads, and planted feet? Does He see us as headstrong and stiff-necked – unwilling to go His way or to even consider His will? How we need to guard against the sin of stubbornness! We need to correct it in our children and condemn it in ourselves.
The next time we are tempted to be stubborn, let’;s remind ourselves that God says that stubbornness is idolatry, and the idol we are worshipping is self. May we put away that idol and worship humbly, willingly, and obediently at the feet of our Savior.
Mrs. Niki Lott
Christian Mother, Author, composer, and pastor’s wife