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©Kris Gerbrandt

Chapter 9:9-21 (ESV)

Posted on November 09, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 9:9-21 (ESV) - “And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters. By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go. You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant. You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.

But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

Question to consider: What did it mean for someone to be stiff-necked?

Israel came together as a community to bless God by professing all that He had done for them. In today’s portion of the prayer, they focused on God hearing the prayers of their forefathers who were enslaved in Egypt and all of the signs and wonders He performed to set them free. God overthrew the gods of Egypt and drowned Pharaoh’s army in the sea while delivering Israel on dry ground. God led them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God fed them daily with bread from heaven and water from a rock.

Israel recognized that despite all of these things, their forefathers stiffened their necks, refused to obey His commands, and considered going back to Egypt into slavery. The idea of a stiff necked person was someone who refused to bow to the will of God or repent from their course of action. It was the height of stubbornness, and it seems amazing that they could act this way in light of the wonders that God performed. It was also the height of wickedness to have the living God dwelling among them and respond by attributing His work to an idol. Yet God continued to show mercy and sustained them in the wilderness for forty years.

The people of Israel at the time of Nehemiah and Ezra softened their hearts to the work of God and finally recognized what their forefathers had not. They blessed God by confessing their sin and being reconciled to Him.

Fast forward to the time of Christ when Israel had the living God dwelling among them in flesh. Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead and fed thousands of people in the wilderness with a few loaves of bread and fish. Their response was to attribute His work to Beelzebub and nail Him to a cross.

After Christ rose from the dead, and the Spirit of God formed the church, a young man named Stephen recounted Israel’s history to the Pharisees in the same way as the people in today’s passage. Rather than repent and be reconciled to their Messiah, they yelled curses at Stephen, stoned him to death, and began persecuting the church.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for demonstrating mercy when we continually put You to the test and fall short in our faith. Please soften our hearts to Your word that we may recognize our sin and receive Your wonderful gift of mercy and forgiveness in Christ. Amen.