|“Please, Lord, prove that your power is as great as you have claimed it to be. For you said, ‘The LORD is slow to anger and rich in unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. Even so he does not leave sin unpunished, but he punishes the children for the sins of their parents to the third and fourth generations.’ Please pardon the sins of this people because of your magnificent, unfailing love, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.” — Numbers 14:17-19
When we think of masculine virtues, patience does not come immediately to mind. Perhaps this is because men like to fix things and to do it quickly. We like to be in control—to make things happen. But there are times in the divine plan when there are things that we cannot fix or situations that do not respond to our solutions. What then? The natural reaction is to try harder and increase the blood pressure. But not in the divine economy. With God, patience is the word!
Surely the greatest example of patience is found in the Lord’s dealings with his creatures. During the long history of the chosen people, God had countless opportunities to demonstrate his patience with them. He had declared that he is “slow to get angry” (Ps. 103:8). Even at the point of considering whether to wipe them out and start again with Joshua and Caleb, God stood by his rebellious people and gave them yet another chance. Such patience! This did not mean that he turned a blind eye toward their rebellion. On the contrary, God insisted on punishing evil, but always in the context of patience and long-suffering.
God’s need for patience was not exhausted when he got his people into the land he had given them. He is still subjected to provocation when people say, “Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created” (2 Pet. 3:4). Now, God is certainly capable of fixing that situation by sending his Son immediately, and there is no doubt that he could deal expeditiously with the scoffers. But he chooses not to. Why? Peter says, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent” (3:9). Instead of reacting to provocation, God chooses to bide his time. He knows what he is planning to do, and he will work when he is good and ready.
We can learn from this. Not everything can be fixed the way we think it should be, but that does not mean that good cannot come out of the situation. If God, who can fix anything whenever he wants, chooses to live with things that are less than ideal while he works out his purposes, so can we. God’s patience is certainly good for us—where would we be without it? And being patient is good for us, too. There’s no telling where we’ll be without it.
For further study: Numbers 14:1-25