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Hard Heads

I remember an older Christian woman saying, “It takes a stubborn person to live with a stubborn person.” I will leave it up to you to decide whether she was right. Most of us probably have more of this trait than we want to admit. As with other faults, we notice it in others better than we see it in ourselves. We think our opinion is best and we want our way. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes” (Prov.21:2). That is why there is so much conflict in the world.

How many times have you said, “He’s as stubborn as a mule”? Did you know the Bible talks about this? “Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you” (Psa. 32:9). It’s pretty bad when God compares our attitude to a senseless animal.

It would be hard to determine the most stubborn person in the Bible, but most Bible readers would probably put King Saul in the top ten. He was headstrong and rash. He was tall and handsome but he was given to anxiety and jealousy. He was the most powerful man in the nation but he stayed involved in petty, personal matters. He could not see past his own stubborn will. When the prophet Samuel told him to wait, he did what he thought was best instead of listening (I Sam. 13). When Samuel told him to slay all the Amalekites, he disobeyed and even argued with Samuel that he had done the will of the Lord (I Sam. 15). It was then that the prophet showed that this attitude is not a laughing matter: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (I Sam. 15:23). How could he compare rebellion to witchcraft? How could he liken stubbornness to iniquity and idolatry? You can almost see Saul or someone else saying, “That’s ridiculous! He might be stubborn, but he would never do anything like that.” Let’s see.

The final days of Saul’s life tells the tale. He became a prime example of what Paul described: “But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (II Tim. 3:13). After David killed the giant Philistine, the women of Israel praised him above the king. That infuriated the little man inside Saul. He “eyed David from that day forward” (I Sam. 18:9). The more David succeeded the more Saul’s jealousy grew. In time “Saul was still more afraid of David” and “became David’s enemy continually” (I Sam. 18:29). He became so full of hate and envy that he was obsessed with killing his son-in-law David. One of the best summaries of his life comes from his own lips: “I have played the fool and erred exceedingly” (I Sam. 26:21). In the end he did the very thing Samuel had warned him about. He went to a witch for advice about a national crisis (I Sam. 28). When a man has a stubborn heart, there is no telling how far it will take him. Don’t be surprised at what a stubborn person will do.

This is why the Bible talks so much about having a tender heart. “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Prov. 1:5). “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” (Prov. 9:9). “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2). Keep your heart soft!

Kerry

West End church of Christ bulletin for July 9, 2023.

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