Longsuffering is Salvation
Ecclesiastes 8:11-13 NKJV: Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.
Here, we are told that when God’s judgment against an evil work is not speedily executed men’s hearts are fully set to do evil because they think they can get away with it.
A good question to ask is why does God not always speedily execute judgment against an evil work?
The reason is because God is longsuffering and likes to give men space to repent so he will not have to punish them:
2 Peter 3:7-9 NKJV: But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 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.
2 Peter 3:15 NKJV: and account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation–as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
However, it is vital to see that we do not use God’s suffering as an excuse or license to continue in sin or disobedience, because:-
Proverbs 29:1 NKJV: He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
Remember, the children of Israel exhausted God’s longsuffering so much so that God wanted to destroy them all in the wilderness but for Moses’ intercession.
Numbers 14:11-24 NKJV: Then the LORD said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” 13 And Moses said to the LORD: “Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them, 14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, LORD, are among these people; that You, LORD, are seen face to face and that Your cloud stands above them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying, 16’Because the LORD was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.‘ 17 “And now, I pray, let the power of my LORD be great, just as You have spoken, saying, 18 ‘The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’ 19 “Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”
However, all the older generation from 20 years old and upward with the exception of Joshua and Caleb had an irreversible judgment pronounced on them: they would all die in the wilderness and never posses the Promised Land.
20 Then the LORD said: “I have pardoned, according to your word; 21 but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD– 22 because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, 23 they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. 24 But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.
There are important lessons to learn here:
God is longsuffering because His judgments do not the affect those that sin alone they also can affect others: like children, family, churches and even nations (remember David’s sin of numbering Israel affected the whole nation 2 Sam. 24. 10-15). For this reason God gives us plenty of time, mercy and opportunity to repent: He always gives us a way of escape (1Cor. 10.13), but we have the responsibility of taking that way of escape by genuine repentance and forsaking of sin (Prov. 28.13).
We should extend the same longsuffering to our brethren and fellow men when they offend us: your longsuffering can save a soul from death:
James 5:19-20 NKJV: Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
When people are wilfully disobedient, stubborn and recalcitrant, even then do not avenge yourself and still be longsuffering towards them: pray for them and leave them to God’s judgment and God will deal with them.
Romans 12:17-21 NKJV: Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
For example, God killed Nabal when he insulted David, repaying David’s kindness with ingratitude after Abigail had counseled David not to avenge himself:
1 Samuel 25:26 NKJV: Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, since the LORD has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal.
1 Samuel 25:32-33 NKJV: Then David said to Abigail: “Blessed is the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! 33 And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand.
1 Samuel 25:36-38 NKJV: Now Abigail went to Nabal, and there he was, holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; therefore she told him nothing, little or much, until morning light. 37 So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. 38 Then it came about, after about ten days, that the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.
So, let us exercise ourselves in longsuffering: take advantage of it to be quick to repent and forsake sin or disobedience in your life when God’s seems to be delayed; and then be longsuffering towards others knowing God can use it to save them