The Longsuffering of God|
II Peter Studies
Studies in II Peter
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)
Does God suffer? A strange and yet compelling question. We as Christians have little problem visualizing a loving, patient or even an angry God, but a suffering God?
Peter tells us that our God suffers for a purpose and that purpose is all about keeping His promise. The longsuffering of God is not just a detached patience where God is sitting back and tapping His finger on the table. No, His patience is both meaningful and costly. God suffers undeserved abuse, neglect, mistrust, and anger not only from the world but even from His children.
The book of Hosea brings this home in a striking way when God tells Hosea to marry a woman that Hosea knows will be unfaithful to him (Hos. 1:2). This strange command was given for the purpose of illustrating the pain God experiences when His children are unfaithful to Him. Those who have experienced an unfaithful child, spouse or a divorce many times describe the experience as a literal tearing of the flesh of the heart, shortness of breath, intense agony of both body and soul. Is this what God suffers when we are unfaithful to Him? I believe the answer is yes, if we are to take Scripture seriously.
Does God Have Emotions?
We must never forget that God has emotions. Not like our imperfect or misguided feelings but the purest of love, anger, jealousy and mercy. When we judge human emotions such as jealousy and hate as being bad, we may be correct on one level. However there is a proper place for jealousy and hate. For example, when a husband wants a wife for himself alone or when evil is hated by righteous people. In situations like these, emotions such as hate and jealousy are both justified and appropriate.
When we read words like hate and jealousy in the Bible being attributed to God, we should pause to consider what these words say about the character of God. We must not simply dismiss these powerful statements as being imperfect translations or shove them aside because they do not square with our concept of God.
Why Does God Allow Evil?
Why does God put up with evil or allow bad things to happen? Peter makes no excuses for God as some Christians do. Too often Christians are quick to point out that God "allows" evil because people "choose" to be evil. They try to take God's sovereignty away from Him by blaming everything on the sins of people. They sidestep the foundational question of why does God let it happen?
Peter tells us that God suffers patiently with the sin of mankind so that all of His children down through the ages will have the opportunity to join Him in eternal fellowship. He has painfully put up with evil for thousands of years so that you and I could be born and obtain His precious faith, and that our grandchildren might have that same chance. In this way God is keeping His promise to Abraham and the other Patriarchs of the Bible. That promise is that God would bless Abraham and his descendants. The blessing would also include all of the nations and their seed (Gen.22:15-18).
Why Does Jesus Take So Long To Return?
In the parable of the tares and the wheat Jesus shows us the patience and purpose of God in dealing with evil. The Master allows the bad wheat to grow up with the good wheat. The Master does not destroy the good wheat on account of the bad. Instead, He tolerates the bad for a season to allow both to grow. Then at the appointed time the Master sends in His servants to separate the good from the bad. As every believer can testify, we were not always "good wheat." Good and bad are permitted to grow to serve God's purpose (Mt. 13:24-30).
Those who think that God takes too long to deal out His justice are just plain selfish, or they are not thinking. They consider their own salvation but not their grandchildren or great grandchildren. Peter shows us that when it comes to claiming His people, God will take whatever time is necessary. To God a day is just as important as a thousand years and a thousand years are just as important as a day. Time is not the issue with God, His purpose and promises are.
"I say : My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please… What I have said, that I will bring about, what I have planned, that I will do." (Isa. 49:4-11).
The great return of Jesus is reserved for a specific and appointed time. When God is ready the second coming will take place. Peter may well have had Habakkuk in mind regarding the "delay" of God's plan and yet the certainty of its coming.
"For the vision is yet for an appointed time But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it. because it will surely come, it will not tarry." (Hab. 2:3)
The Cost of Patience
What does it cost God to wait? The Christian faith is founded on the idea that God is actively involved in His creation. He is a personal God, who makes and keeps His promises to His people. God does not sit far away letting people suffer while He looks on. The Christian God is not the God of the deist who sees a god not to be bothered with the day to day affairs of his creation.
The Christian God is right there with us, suffering in ways to great for words to describe. God not only suffers as a Father but He also came to earth as a man - God the Son, to suffer evil and death in the same manner as we do. The cost God pays for His patience is very personal and very expensive.
Running Out of Time
God is not bound by time, but we are. In the Book of Genesis God states that He will not strive with man forever, because man is flesh, i.e. man will die. (Gen. 6:3). There is a definite time line allotted for all of us to turn to God. Peter tells us that God gives each individual time to grow and turn to Him. It is because of this that God waits.
" … God is not will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (II Pt . 3:9).
The very process of becoming a disciple of Christ takes time. God gives us that time. In this way Peter can truly state that we should consider the longsuffering of our Lord is nothing less than our very salvation!
"… Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation." (II Pt. 3:15)
Tyndale New Testament Commentaries - II Peter&Jude, Michael Green (IVP, Leicester, England 1999