They have stiffened their necks. 

The word “stiff-necked” originally referred to oxen who were slow to turn their necks when goaded to change direction. An ox that was stubborn or difficult to control was “hard of neck”—exactly what the Lord calls the people in today’s first reading from the prophet Jeremiah (7:26). What frustration God must have felt with those who did not “listen to the voice of the Lord . . . or take correction” (7:28)!

But why didn’t the Israelites listen to God? Why did they continue to worship false gods and transgress his laws after he had repeatedly warned them what would happen if they didn’t change their ways?

There are many reasons, but at the root of it was pride. They thought they knew better than God. They thought his laws didn’t apply to them. And they thought they would escape the consequences and prosper in spite of their disobedience.

Pride is one of those vices that often finds a way into our hearts without our even being aware of it. It might go by another name, like stubbornness or disobedience. But pride is considered the first of the seven deadly sins for a reason. It was what brought down our first parents and what led to Israel’s defeat and exile. And if we’re not careful, it can be our downfall as well.

To combat pride, we first have to see where it might be subtly operating in our lives. Maybe we think we know better than God what’s best for our lives. Maybe we have found a way to rationalize some sinful behavior. Or maybe God is speaking to us through the advice of a spouse or good friend, but we refuse to listen; we think that we will somehow escape the consequences of our actions.

Today, try to examine your heart to see if you are being “stiff-necked” in some way or another. If you notice something, repent. As he did for the Israelites, God will forgive you—not just once, but every time you turn to him. Not only that, but he will give you the humility to follow him more closely, even in those times that you’d rather go your own way!

“Father, you always know what’s best for me. Help me to become more docile to you and your ways.”

Jeremiah 7:23-28
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
Luke 11:14-23


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