Here lies the treasure! A beautiful spiritual bounty that Christians can tie around their necks as an assurance and comfort Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ! So much is packed in that little part of the verse. 1) Grace is not just a mind knowledge that you fanatically repeat and hypnotise yourself with. It is a real experience seen through righteouness in the believers life! Grace reigns and is not defeated! 2) Righteousness is seen in the believers life till the end of his or her life! It is not defeated. The victories of Grace will be seen in the life… oh, this world is cruel and nothing is perfect while we are in it, but all the more, we will see Grace in action, in its working out righteousness in us. It perseveres. It does not give up! 3) It is the work of Jesus Christ. It is by Him that the righteousness is ever made real to the believer. The believer knows the regenerative effect of the Holy Spirit working in his or her life. 4) Indeed, this walks hand in hand with the sayings of our Lord I know my sheep and my sheep knows me from John 10 verse 14. There is no doubt that His sons and daughters are able to persevere while on this earth, with their faith intact, till they finally see their Master in heaven. Joy eternal, seen in the faith made external.
Stiff necked indeed! Stubborn and slow to believe. These are the same fruits of the evils of heart. The will that flows from the heart is afflicted by evil! And it is for that reason Stephen calls it out for what it is. An irrational defiance of Gods revealed Will and command on His favoured nation (privileged with the occupancy of His Word). The Will of man, at the end is not neutral. It cannot be independent. It cannot choose no, let me re-word it, it CAN choose, but chooses EVIL that is unacceptable by God. Everything that is not of God cannot be acceptable to Him. Peter learnt this later when God Himself announces that what He calls good, you shall not call common. Oh, such inclinations towards evil is wrought of the original sin from Adam. It is utter foolishness to think that good choices can ever come from man. Good choices are those acceptable by God, and only on those terms is it good. This is to Cains folly when we read of it in the book of beginnings! Stiff neck is the only answer to those whose heart is corrupted by sin and compounded by evil (unrestrained by Gods common grace)! And the messenger received death for pointing this spiritual fact and truth. Even in this age, this is common. No man that is clouded by a worldly framework can see the depths and ill effect of sin in the outworking of their will. Stiff neck indeed!
It is always a warning for those who are complacent and for those who slumbers in their spiritual life. Is it possible for God not to hear and answer the prayers of people (even His people)? Yes… God is not a god that has the duty to listen and obey every whims and fancies of people (even His people). He is a sovereign God who rules all things according to His own pleasure. Surely He is not the domesticated god which many like to potray Him as. Do not think that He is obligated to answer them, especially if you are disobedient and unbothered by the spiritual pleadings of God when you had the time and grace to do so. For His mercy is not on our terms but on His. If we do not come back to Him and submit all to Him, we might find in the end that even if we want to do so, we are unable to! Bed side conversions are thus to be avoided and at best, rare! Many do not have the mind to call out to God or the ability to do so because of the stoniness of their heart and because they are too drugged at that time to do so. Seek God while He is near, for sad is the time when He passes you by. And like Esau, even with much pleadings and cryings and regret, there is just no blessing left for you. Take heed!
God has decreed (made it clear) that man ought to be righteous as the Creator is right. That righteousness is of course based on the Creators definition and character of it. However, what God commands becomes our duty. Unfortunately, none of His creature is abile to do good. Nothing at all of themselves. Whatever that is done good, is good only in the eyes of man, but not God. Whatever semblance of good is a small manifestation of Gods grace in this dark world in which we have condemned ourselves. (Interesting to note that hell is a place where our sins are compounded on us without Gods grace to restrain it, as it is done now on earth). Do we not echo the sentiment by Jeremiah here concerning the recalcitrant Israel? We are truly wise in the evil of the world, but are without any knowledge of any good. Foolish are they who believe that their good works are of themselves and are rightly good. The works are merely temporal good that is fleeting and given by God of His pleasure. Those who have lived long enough, and seen the wiles of man can easily attest to this. And in the end, it is all in vain (v.30)… and the revelation will come late for the many who are condemned by His righteous requirements.
Israel (Judah) When God pleads with His children Israel, we know what eventually happened (70 years after the exile), they do return. Question – when Israel returns after the exile, does it mean every single Israelite is brought back to Jerusalem? Does the return of Israel mean the entirety of Israel in its numerical persons? Of course not. We cannot impose on language then, what we would not impose now in our usage of it. Israels return meant the chosen of Israel that eventually comes back and rebuilds the nation. We know that because the actual 10 tribes were literally scattered after the invasion from the northern nation of Assyria. Therefore, it was an impossibility for such a meaning to be kept true if Israel is consistently referred to. Language is an interesting thing that needs careful study in its minute detail and also in context. The world is going to hell. What I actually mean could be all the unbelievers in all times, regardless of geography, ethnic, etc. I could. I could also mean every single person. If I were only going to use a simple sentence without needing to qualify the meaning in detail, I would still use the sentence, The world is going to hell. It retains the meaning well. Israel. Condemned. Brought back. And later destroyed physically. Spiritual Israel will return, and is made of all walks of life… man, women chosen by God for salvation. Is that not why Jesus was so hard on the temple folk who perverted His temple, when they ought to be praying for the nations? The underlying thread of evangelistic endevours recorded in Isaiah is not for the Jews to merely pray for the nations, but to see that the nations will in due time be part of them. And post-ascension, that is the reality and our hope. Amen.