God's Character

God’s Long Suffering Toward His People

February 16, 2014

The term long suffering means “patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship”.

I don’t know about you, but in my daily life, I have the tendency of NOT being long-suffering. Bumper to bumper traffic, whining kids in the backseat, or just the normal annoyances of daily life can make anyone see red and take thoughtless action that could have great consequences.  As human beings with a sin nature, long suffering does not come naturally, and we tend to lash out at the slightest inconvenience or issue that comes along.

I think all believers can be grateful for God’s long suffering. If God lashed out and punished them every time they sinned, often committing the same sin over and over, what kind of trouble would they be in for? Luckily, believers can rest in the fact that God is long suffering to them.  While this doesn’t give them free license to sin and stray from his teachings, it does show an important attribute in the character of God, one that should be very encouraging.

And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
Exodus 34:6-7

Now, let’s look at how God performed his word in dealing with Judah. The following scriptures reference the wicked kings of Judah, showing the time line of God’s long suffering leading up to the deportation to Babylon.

And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD.
Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.
II Kings 20:16-17

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzibah.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
II Kings 21:1-2

Amon was twenty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Meshullemeth, the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his father Manasseh did.
II Kings 21:19-20

Josiah was the next King, and did good. and God postponed the judgement in his days.

Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign; and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.
II Kings 23:31-32

Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Zebudah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.
II Kings 23:36-37

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father had done.
II Kings 24:8-9

Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.
II Kings 24:18-19

I want you to see that time, and time, and time again, God postponed the judgment. He gave Judah chance after chance to return to him, to get things right, and to restore fellowship. That’s the essence of long suffering.

Now, fast forward to the New Testament, the church age, and our time. I believe that Christians can relate to the experiences that the Jews had, and make application to their lives, even though most believers are Gentiles. Not just because they accept that the old testament is true and part of the Bible, but in a more direct sense, as born again Gentiles, have actually been attached to the family of God. They’ve been connected to the same tree that the Jews are connected to, the Lord himself.

For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
Romans 11:16-19

So gentile believers can literally draw and count on the Lord dealing with them in a similar manner as he dealt with Israel/Judah in the old testament. So believers can rest in the fact that God is long suffering.

What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Romans 9:22-24

Now that long suffering is not extended to believers to be abused, but rather, to teach, to mold, and to shape them that they might serve him according to his path. There are only two reasons that I know of, why a believer might go through hard times.

The first is chastisement. This is when a believer has unconfessed sin in their lives, and God is dealing with them to bring them back in to his will.

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Hebrews 12:6

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Hebrews 12:11

The second is simply to build faith.

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
John 15:2

One of the fruits of the Spirit is long suffering. So let’s say, for example, we extend long suffering to another individual who has done us wrong. Maybe that individual got things right with us, maybe they didn’t, but we still love them. God may take them away from us, move them to another place, or kill them, and thus, God takes away that instance of long suffering in our life, that we might extend it to another individual in the future.

So to wrap it all up, let me just encourage you.

It’s not too late.

It doesn’t matter what has happened in the past, how much water is under the bridge, or how old you are. If you’re a believer, God can still use you, you can still be profitable unto him.

So don’t give up.

Just trust him, obey him, and pray that he will lead and guide you into his ministry, his way, that you might bring forth fruit.

If you have never repented and trusted Christ as your savior, I encourage you to click here to find out how you can become a Christian.

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