This one verse spoken by Stephen is LOADED. He spoke these words when he was brought before the Sanhedrin and falsely accused of speaking blasphemy (ACTS 6:11-15).
It spoke to me because I have been “stiff-necked”. When I have a stiff neck, I find it difficult to turn to the left or to the right, and if I do turn my neck it is usually with pain. That means I can only see what is in front of me and have difficulty seeing to either side of me.
Stephen is rebuking his accusers of their ways. They only see what is in front of them and refuses to see what is happening around them because it is hard for them to do so. He speaks of their inability to have an open mind and varying perception.
He reiterates this in his next sentence: their hearts and ears are uncircumcised. When I think of circumcision, I think of the removal of excess skin. So when the ears or heart are uncircumcised, there is extra skin that may need to be removed. The excess skin around the hearts of his accusers covers their hearts, not allowing their hearts to be open to anything different from what is already there. The same goes for their ears, the excess skin cover their ears from hearing anything new or being receptive of new ideas.
In short, Stephen called his accusers disabled. Their necks cannot turn, their hearts are covered, and their ears are blocked. That is why they are like their ancestors who refused to follow the teachings of Moses and instead turned back to their old ways as when they were in Egypt. That was why God left them to wander the desert for many generations. They had resisted the Holy Spirit and the teachings God gave them.
Friends, I am disheartened when I read this verse. There were many times I heard the Holy Spirit spoke to me, but I harden my heart and refused to let my ears hear. I was afraid of what God will ask me to do. I thought I knew more, had considered all the variables and that my way was the best way. The results: I wandered around in a circle, lost, just like the Israelites.
While this verse brings me regret about the choices I made in my past, it also serves as a great reminder to listen to God moving forward.
I hope this will help you relax your neck, uncover your ears, and open your heart to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit when it speaks to you.