The Long-Suffering of God

When God does not punish sinners directly, this stems from his long-suffering, his tolerance, patience, and anticipation. His long-suffering, of course, is in direct relation to his mercy (see article 20 in the following number), as an expression of his kindness (see article 18), his covenant love, his covenantal adherence:

The LORD passed over to him (Moses) and cried, "LORD, O LORD, God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, great of loving kindness and faithful ... (Exodus 34: 6)

As a Father, God raises up his children. This requires patience and tolerance because upbringing is a learning process, with education and testing, in which what is learned must be put into practice. Thus God has dealt with his people:

For many years you were long-suffering and admonished by your Spirit through the service of your prophets ... (Nehemiah 9:30)

In Hebrew, the concept of long-suffering is described as the postponement, the slowing of his anger, or the eruption of it. God, therefore, spares the people and gives it another chance, so that it can be accepted in his grace. In that period, the people are expected to confess their sins, puking forgiveness of them, and then repent, so that it no longer sins. Peter writes that for that reason the flood did not come immediately:

"... when the long-suffering of God waited, in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared. (1 Peter 3:20)

And Paul points to God's tolerance in the period of Israel's wanderings through the desert:

... and He endured their idiosyncrasies in the desert for a time of about forty years. (Acts13: 18)

The motive for God's waiting is found in the book of the prophet Ezekiel:

Would I be pleased with the death of the wicked? Sounds the word of the Lord, LORD. Not much more, that he repented of his ways and lives? (Ezekiel 18:23, 32, 33:11).

But even now the word of the LORD is: Repent ye unto me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. Tear your heart, and not your garments, and turn to the LORD your God. For he is merciful and merciful, slow to anger, and of great mercy, repentant of the doom ... (Joel 2: 12-14)

In the New Testament, Paul reminds his people of God's long-suffering with them and calls on them to make good use of the time that is yet granted to them:

And now if God would show his anger and make known his power, he endured with much long-suffering the objects of his wrath, which were prepared for destruction, just to make known the riches of his glory concerning the objects of mercy that he prepared for glory? (Romans 9: 22-23)

Or do you despise the richness of his goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, and do you not realize that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2: 4)

The long time between the ascension and the return of Christ Jesus is an example of God's long-suffering, of his waiting with his judgment on sin-inclined people. The apostle Peter apparently remembered what his Lord once said to him, as he writes to strengthen the faith of brothers and sisters:

The Lord does not delay the promise, though there are those who think of slowing, He is long-suffering toward you, He does not want some to perish, but that all will come to repentance ... and keep the long-suffering of our Lord for salvation ... (2 Peter 3: 9).

And you (Peter), once you have come to repentance, strengthen your brethren. (Luke 22:32)

Paul believes to serve God by persecuting the church of Christ. Full of zeal he travels through the whole country, and even out of it, to those who profess to be imprisoned and killed by followers of Christ. He himself says later that he did this in unbridled anger, outraged because these people dare say that that cursed man, Jesus of Nazareth, lives and even in heaven with God. But then the living Jesus himself appears to him and he must confess that he, with all his knowledge of the Scriptures, has no insight. But when Jesus explains to him from the law and the prophets what relates to Him, everything falls into place. Then he is prepared with positive zeal, coming out of love for God and the neighbor, to convert as many sinners as possible, so that they are saved from God's wrath.

But to this end, mercy has been shown to me that Jesus Christ in the first place would prove to me all long-suffering, for an example to those who would trust Him in eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:16)

Also in this case this divine quality is also the attribute of his Son. And when we want to be children of God, this quality must also be present with us, for God wants us to be part of his nature (2 Peter 1: 4):

... we know ourselves in everything as servants of God: in much tolerance, in afflictions, in needs, in captivity ... in purity, in knowledge, in long-suffering, in righteousness, in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love ... (2 Corinthians 6) : 3-10)

... the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

... then I exhort you to walk worthily the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and meekness, with long-suffering and to endure one another in love ... (Ephesians 4: 1-5)

Do then, as God's chosen saints and loved ones, inner mercy, goodness, humility, meekness, and patience. Endures and forgives one another ... (Colossians 3: 12,13)

God has endured and forgiven us humans until now and has given us the opportunity to repent. But his patience does not last forever. That is why it is of the utmost importance to listen to the teachers whom He has sent into the world with the words:

... proclaim the word ... refute, rebuke and encourage with all long-suffering and education. (2 Timothy 4: 2)

Questions for consideration:

  • What do the goodness of God show in our time?
  • What will you do to experience God's goodness?
  • What did God have to be patient with for a long time?
  • How do you put the requirement of God to have patience with others in practice?

The reliability of God

The names God gives to people say something about what they are or will be. Their name tells something about their characteristics, their way of life or their actions. That must also be the case with his own name JWHW (LORD), which God made known to Moses according to Exodus 34. In view of the attributes that God there made known of Himself in connection with his name, we may say that these can not only apply today but be eternal because they are part of his being and characteristic of his actions. Kindness can never apply for a short time, because, for example, his covenant love or covenant loyalty extends for a long time. But also about long-suffering, or patience, can only be spoken if it concerns a longer period. God has not only 1 or 3 days, or a month's patience, as we humans, but centuries, even thousands of years. The meaning of his Name therefore relates to the present, but also to the past and the future. The God who has awakened all the life long ago, who is still here today and will be there tomorrow and for all eternities. The God who speaks of future things and of man asks Him to test Him at that point, or He does what He has said (see for example Isaiah 45-48). It must show whether He is the One He claims to be: the trustworthy God. And his trustworthiness comes to light when the word He has spoken becomes truth (see Psalm 19: 8 and 93: 5). The word that He speaks has eternal value, as God himself is eternal. He is therefore both the God Who is, the I am, and the God who is in the future what He has said before to be, the I will be, or the I am, that I will be. We find memories of Exodus 34 in, among others: Psalm 86:15; Psalm 89; Psalm 103: 17-18; Psalm 145: 8-10; Joel 2:13; Jonah 2: 2b; Matthew 23:23; Romans 2: 4. Throughout the ages, believers have appealed to this revelation of God's name, to the qualities with which He wanted to prove his love and faithfulness to his friend Abraham and all who would walk with Him in the same faith as he did.

Thanks for reading.
Remain blessed.

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