His Longsuffering Waits in Our Day Too!
The Waiting God
By Timothy McCulfor
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Pet. 3:9).
God Waited in the Days of Noah. Scripture declares that “once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing” (I Pet. 3:20). What was God waiting for? God had already pronounced judgment saying to Noah, “The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Gen. 6:13). Was He waiting for Noah to finish building the ark? Certainly God could have destroyed the earth immediately and carried Noah away in chariots of fire. Clearly man needed to be punished, for God saw that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). God’s justice demanded that the rebels be destroyed, and yet, their sin continued and God waited. There was no reason for this delay but the great mercy of God. But this is the very situation sinners are in today. They are continuing in sin and God is waiting.
The Testimony of God’s Abundant Mercy. God is not willing that any should perish. If one sheep wanders off, He leaves the ninety and nine and seeks the lost one. The Son of man came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” This is the heart of our great and merciful God. It has been His pattern to delay punishment, while offering forgiveness to sinners.
“But to Israel He saith, All day long I have stretched forth My hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Rom. 10:21). Here God was waiting for Israel while they continued in sin. To the church at Thyatira, Jesus said that He had given that woman Jezebel “space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not” (Rev. 2:21). Jesus was waiting for Jezebel while she refused to repent. In one of His parables Jesus described a fig tree to which the owner of the vineyard came seeking fruit three years and found none. “Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?”, was his verdict. But the dresser of the vineyard interceded, willing to extend even more effort to see fruit on this tree, and the judgment was delayed yet another year (Lk. 13:6-9).
God is waiting for people to respond to Him and bear fruit and He is working to see it accomplished. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3). “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (Jn. 12:32). “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Ps. 103:8). These all demonstrate God’s deep desire that none should perish. We see somewhat of His ever enduring mercy and should be constrained by His love.
God is Waiting. God is waiting in this day of salvation. He is waiting for the sinners to repent and believe the gospel. The wrath of God is ready to be revealed. Justice demands that those who “know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (II Th. 1:8-9). The natural creation, the holy angels, and God’s own holy nature are calling for the day of judgment. God’s beloved martyrs cry out for vengeance. His precious saints are suffering persecution and yet His longsuffering is waiting. Oh, how He wants people to repent!
Judgment Will Come. Though God is now in a stance of waiting, the day is coming when He will judge the earth. Though now mercy rejoiceth against judgment, there will come a time when mercy is brought to fruition, having perfectly finished its work, and the time for judgment will have come. “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all...” (Jude 15). People should not marvel that God will bring fierce judgment one day. The great marvel is that it hasn’t happened yet. The spectacle is that it has been delayed so long.
Many people can not fathom the thought of a loving God sending people to hell, yet all the while they are rebelling against His outstretched arms. All the while they are indifferent to His Word; they don’t like His people, and they mock His gospel. This loving God sent His only Son to die in their place so they could escape the fire of hell. God gave His best and if people refuse His Son He has nothing else to offer.
In a very real sense God is not sending people to hell. Their sin has already condemned them to all the agony of hell poured out forever. God is actually seeking to stop them from going there. The cross of Christ has been planted squarely in the pathway to hell providing a way of escape and anyone who goes to hell must get around that cross. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (II Cor. 5:20). The full extent of God’s love is now offered to all freely through the preaching of the cross. The full extent of His wrath will then be poured out upon all who rejected His mercy; to some few stripes and to some many (cf. Lk. 12:47-48).
A Sin against Mercy. Every second of delay brings the sinner closer to the unleashing of God’s wrath against him. Until the final shutting of the door of salvation, every second is one in which God is waiting. His mercy is staying the hand of the reaper and all the while the cry for justice grows in intensity. The justice that is called for is not for the mending of the breach brought about by breaking God’s law. This injustice has been fully atoned for in the sacrifice of Christ. Rather the cause for judgment of the sinner is an even greater debt, for it is the continual rejection of Christ’s outstretched hands and His putting away of their sins. Those who refuse have trodden under foot the Son of God. They are guilty of a persistent rebellion against God’s mercy.