Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church Under The Sun #7 (Ecclesiastes): Stiff-Necked Fools To hear this message and others download our free app at The App Store by searching Gathering Connect.
Stiff-Necked Fool Proverbs 29:1-2, Acts 7:51-53
Confrontation is the thirteenth and final studio album by Bob Marley & the Wailers. It was released posthumously in May 1983, two years after Marley’s death from skin cancer at age 36. The songs on the album were compiled from unreleased material and singles recorded during Marley’s lifetime, among them is Stiff Necked Fool. This song by Bob Marley contrasts “stiff- necked” (prideful) vanity with wisdom. Vanity is the excessive belief in one’s own self. Marley said that the world has the wrong interpretation of life because their understanding of it is based on the simplicity of their vain imaginations and not God’s revealed wisdom. His song is actually quite biblical and sounds as if it came right out of the pages of Ecclesiastes or Proverbs (see Proverbs 29:1-2). The term “stiff- necked” was coined to refer to stubborn oxen that would not respond to the plowing farmer. Throughout the Bible the figure of speech was used to express the stubborn, untractable spirit of a people not responsive to the guiding of their God (Exodus 2:9; 33:3; Deuteronomy 9:6; 2 Chronicles 36:13; Jeremiah 17:23). In the book of Acts, Stephen, the churches first martyr, called the religious Jews “stiff necked” because of their resistance of the Holy Spirit’s work through the prophets, angels and Jesus (Acts 7:51-53). They resisted God even to the extent of murder.
Bob Marley “Rasta Man” February 6, 1945 – May 11, 1981, Philippians 2:8-11
Marley had been diagnosed with cancer in 1977, which spread from under a nail of his toe that was injured after playing football (Soccer). He was advised to have his toe amputated; but was “stiff- necked” and refused the advice sighting his Rastafarian faith which considers it a sin to have any part of the body ‘temple’ removed. He agreed to a skin graft, but the disease spread throughout his body.
Marley was raised as a Catholic, but became interested in Rastafari beliefs in the 1960s through his wife, Rita Marley’s, influence. The cult religion Rastafari began in Jamaica after the 1930 coronation of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I ( or Ras [prince] Tafari [to be feared] Makonnen), who was considered by many to be the returned Christ. The religion is a mixture of Biblical scripture, mysticism, black pride, ritual ganja (marijuana) smoking and “vain imaginations”. Rita converted to the faith after seeing Haile Selassie on his Jamaican trip. She claimed in interviews (and in her book No Woman, No Cry) that she saw a stigmata print on the palm of Selassie’s hand as he waved to the crowd—a claim that was not supported by other sources, but was used as evidence for her and others to suggest that Selassie was indeed their messiah. After Marley formally converted to Rastafari he grew dreadlocks and introduced the religion to the world through his music.
In a 1967 recorded interview with the CBC, Haile Selassie denied his alleged divinity. In the interview Bill McNeil says: “there are millions of Christians throughout the world, your Imperial Majesty, who regard you as the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.” Selassie replied in his native language: “I have heard of that idea. I also met certain Rastafarians. I told them clearly that I am a man, that I am mortal, and that I will be replaced by the oncoming generation, and that they should never make a mistake in assuming or pretending that a human being is emanated from a deity”. Selassie was assassinated on August 27, 1975 at age 83 following a coup d’état.
Despite having literal worshipers, Selassie himself was a Christian and member of the Ethiopian Orthodox church. “He always rejected the view that he was the second Christ,” explained the Reverend of Holy Trinity Church, where Selassie attended later in life. “He always remained a Christian.” Unlike many false prophets and messianic figures who have come and gone through the years, Selassie never claimed to be the Christ or God. He also never followed or led the Rastafari movement. It was the rare case where one was basically “selected” as messiah by a very “stiff necked” people who have the wrong interpretation of scripture and life because their understanding of them is based on the simplicity of their vain imaginations and not God’s revealed wisdom. —at the name of Jesus that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess.” Philippians 2:8-11
Although Marley sang and spoke about being a Rasta, many say he converted to Christianity before his death. Abuna Yesehaq ( Ah-bu-na Yees-ha) , archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the Western Hemisphere who died in 2005, said that Haile Selassie himself commissioned him to start a church in Jamaica to specifically preach to the Rasta community and turn them from the worship of him and towards worship of the true Jesus Christ of the Bible. He also said in that interview that he baptized Bob Marley about one year before his death and spoke openly about Marley’s desire to become a Christian long before his death. “when he was baptized, he hugged his family and wept, they all wept together for about half an hour”, said Yesehaq. Yesehaq later conducted the rites for the Bob Marley’s funeral.
Judy Mowatt, a reggae and gospel singer who once sang backup for Marley said she spoke with her former bandmate and Marley’s wife, Rita, about the late musician calling out to Jesus Christ on his death bed. “When Bob was on his dying bed, his wife Rita called me on the phone and said that Bob was in such excruciating pain that he stretched out his hand and said, ‘Jesus take me.’ I was wondering to myself, ‘Why is it that Bob said Jesus and not Selassie’, “Then I met a friend who said his sister, who is a Christian, was a nurse at the hospital where Bob was before he passed on, and she led him to the Lord Jesus Christ. So when Rita saw him saying ‘Jesus take me,’ he had already received the Lord Jesus Christ in his life.” Mowatt soon found herself on her own spiritual journey.
“The Song of Fools” Ecclesiastes 7:1-12, John 8:41-47, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 4: 1-5, Romans 12:1-3, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6
As we read the “teachers’ words from Ecclesiastes it reminds me of Bob Marley. The day of his death actually birthed his eternal life with the true Christ. His cancer (mourning) took him away from the “song of fools” making “his end better than his beginning” and the “patience” of his hearing the truth “better than his ‘stiff- necked’ pride” in his Rastafari beliefs. The “old days” of Marley’s fame “were not better than these.” The wisdom gained through Bob Marley’s cancer and that heartache led him to Jesus and away from his “vain imaginations”. “Wisdom preserves those who have it”.
It is amazing that one can sing a song of truth while living a lie, but many people do. Actually, the most convincing lie always has a bit of truth mixed into it — Satan is the father of lies. Jesus said that true believers will love Him (John 8:41-47). The apostle Paul told us that a time would come when people would deny that truth to suit their own passions. We as believers are to be patient and careful about our own instruction as we correct others in love (2 Timothy 4:1-5). We are “careful” when we do not conform to the pattern of this world and think soberly according to God’s word about who we are (Romans 12:1-3)—when we take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). Only then can we refrain from singing “the Song of fools”.