Every time we think of the patience and the long-suffering of God (and think of that truth in light of what he has done for us in Christ crucified), the proper response is repentance and gratitude. The patience of God is one of his most formidable attributes—yet, one that is not frequently highlighted.
Augustine once said, “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.” This is a sobering truth—a much-needed reminder that we are called to repent of our sin as soon as God has convicted us of it. It is also a sobering truth in so much as it relays the fact that God does not owe us life or forgiveness. He can do with us whatever he wants at any time (Deut. 32:39).
When we come to terms with this fact, we fall on our faces and cry out with the psalmist,
Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you. (Ps. 143:2)
We cling to Christ crucified and risen and cry out with the psalmist,
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared. (Ps. 130:3-4)
This is not something that must happen just one time in our life. We must do this throughout the totality of our short lives until we are with Christ in glory.
God bears long with us in order to encourage us to repent.
Sadly, we so often act just like the Israelites—seeing God’s glorious works and yet rebelling against him time and time again. In Numbers 14, we have one of the most instructive examples of Israel’s rebellion and God’s mercy. The people were murmuring against God’s appointed leaders, Moses and Aaron—though they were really complaining against the Lord. The Lord asked Moses,
“How long will this people despise me?” (Num. 14:11)
Moses then interceded on behalf of the people for the sake of the Lord, his attributes, and his covenant promises (Num. 14:15-19). The Lord then granted Moses his request, saying,
“I have pardoned, according to your word.” (Num. 14:20-21)