Stiff-necked, hard-hearted, and unfaithful. That’s what the people of God can be at times. All of us. You and me. Jeremiah says we can be so stiff-necked and hard-hearted when it comes to listening to the voice of God that we don’t pay any attention to what God is telling us or take any correction. We are unfaithful to God when we don’t listen. Let’s face it, sometimes we adults behave like the adolescents we all were, and maybe sometimes still are. I remember getting lectures from my mother that sounded like something right out of the Old Testament. “When I speak you don’t listen, when I call you, you don’t answer!” There was a problem, for awhile, when I was in junior high when I didn’t like to obey, nor did I want to heed what she said. I wasn’t really ever that bad, but I had to test the limits of her authority. For me, it mostly meant ignoring her as much as possible. That only made her more persistent. I suppose most parents go through this at some point with their children. And God, our parent, goes through this all the time with us.
One image we are given of God is that of a parent. The relationship we have to God as God’s children means that we have to obey. We are also God’s people. We are to bow down in worship to God because God made us. Another image is that we are a flock guided by a shepherd. We have to follow or we will be lost. In all of these images, it is clear, God is in charge. We are not allowed to tempt or test God. But that is what we have been doing since the days of Abraham. We are not allowed to tune out God when God speaks, but that too is an old habit. So when the people tried to test Jesus by asking him for a sign from heaven, he knew what they were thinking. Like little children who taunt their baby-sitters, they were saying, “you’re not our dad, we don’t have to listen to you.”
And what does Jesus say in response? I reflected on this as I
read on in Luke Chapter 11. I think what Jesus said is “if
you know what’s good for you, you will listen…..and
you will do as I say.” But he didn’t say it in the same
way our mothers might have said it when we challenged their authority.
Nor did he say, “just wait until your father gets home!”
But I do sense that Jesus is standing firm here. It’s clear,
all through this chapter, that Jesus won’t be backed down.
He is asserting that he has the authority of God to confront us
with our stiff-necked, hard-hearted, and unfaithful ways. It is
Lent and a good time for us to reflect on how much like junior high
kids we can be when it comes to tuning out God. As the best parent
that ever was and ever could be, God loves us unconditionally. We
should obey, then, not just because God says so, but because God’s
love is what is good for us.
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