29 ‘You warned them in order to turn them back to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, of which you said, “The person who obeys them will live by them.” Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. 30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you gave them into the hands of the neighbouring peoples. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.” NIV

The man was ‘a vital repository of goodwill’ (Arthur Paul Boers, writing about a fellow ‘pilgrim’ on the ‘Camino’).

Yesterday’s passage probably referred to the days of the ‘Judges’. But today’s reading sums up subsequent years of Israelite history, leading to the captivity. During this time, the cycle continued, but the rebellion only deepened and intensified. However, what stands out is the Lord’s immense patience (30a): ‘’For many years you were patient with them.’’ God’s patience did not mean that judgment was prevented; but it was delayed. He gave the people ample time to repent. Even when the judgment finally fell, there was still mercy combined with it (31).

Peter, writing in the New Testament, about ‘last things’ – the winding up of history as we know it – says this:

‘’The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief…’’  (2 Peter 3:9,10a).

Peter acknowledges that the merciful God is long-suffering. He is giving people lots of time to turn to Him. But the end will come. We should be in no doubt about this and be prepared.

Paul writes to the Galatians about how the Holy Spirit produces in the Christian the very character of Christ (and so the character of God). He calls this ‘’the fruit of the Spirit’’. Someone referred to it as a ‘nine-flavoured fruit’, and we see that ‘’patience’’ is one of the ‘flavours’ (Galatians 5:22). I understand the Greek word used can be translated ‘patience’ or ‘longsuffering’. It means to suffer long with trying circumstances or people. Something of God’s own astounding patience can grow and develop in Christian people by the Holy Spirit.

PRAYER: Lord, how can I thank you enough for your long-suffering with me? Please cause your own patience towards others to grow in me, for your glory.