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This Week's Teaching: "God is Slow to Anger , but for How Much Longer?"
If you say to someone, "Don't be angry with me," you can say it either as, "Don't you be angry with me," or you can say it as, "Please don't be angry with me."
The first one, "Don't you be angry with me," is this insinuation that you have no right to be angry with me either because I did nothing wrong or, looking at you, you know, you're no better than I am. " Don't you be angry with me."
On the other hand, if it's, "Please don't be angry with me," it's this admission of guilt and that, "Yes, you have every right to be angry with me, but please have mercy. Please be patient with me."
When God revealed himself to Moses, he said -- we've been looking at this the last few weeks -- he said in Exodus 34, " I am who I am. I am God. And so you can know me." And then he said, "I'm full of mercy and compassion." And I said last week, that's like saying, "I'm kind."
So "I am God; you can know me." And "I'm kind; you can trust me."
And then he said, "I am slow to anger." Slow to anger. And the word I'm giving that is: Patient. God says, "I am God, I am kind, I am patient."
Question: Is patience strong or weak? Like, how do you normally think about it? Is patience strong or weak?
Like I've had people say, "Well, you're way more patient than I would be." And it's almost like this insinuation that, "You're way weaker than I would be. I would never let someone get by with that. You are way weaker than I would be." Is patience weak?
Or I've had people say, " Wow, I don't know how you can stay so patient." And it's sort of like this sense of, "You are strong enough to be patient."
Like, how do you relate to it? Is patience strong or weak?
As I've thought about it, it depends on the context, whether I think of it as patient or weak.
If it's being patient with a child while they learn to walk, that's strong. Or even being patient with a child while they learn obedience to a parent. In that context, patience is strong. And even where it's with peers, if it's patience with a spouse, as they learn to live respectfully in close quarters with another, that's strong. Like, please be patient with me. I'm trying. That is strong. Patience is strong.
But if it's patience with an abuser while they try to abuse you, or if it's patience with a thief while they try to steal from you, I don't think patience is strong. I relate to that as weak. It's being reluctant to take action where action should be taken.
Patience is sometimes strong and sometimes weak. I mean, it depends on the context.
And it also depends on who is the one being patient. If we talk about a two year old throwing a temper tantrum with their mom, we get that. That's one kind of impatience.
But if we talk about a judge patiently listening while you make a thorough defense before they pass judgment, well, that's a strong patience.
And so it depends on the context of what we mean. Like, is patience weak or strong? It depends on the context and it depends on who the person is being patient.
God says, "I am slow to anger. I am patient."
We read it in Exodus 34. "The LORD, the LORD (Yahweh, Yahweh), the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger."
He's slow to anger.
Now it's tempting to say, Oh, he doesn't get angry with us. God, he knows what we're like. He just kind of gives us a buy. He's like, "Nah, you and me, we're good. I get you. We're fine." Like that kind of a God never gets angry at anything.
But, if we talk about a God who is slow to anger, we're talking about a God who does get angry. We're talking about a God who does get angry. In fact, slow to anger only means something if God does get angry. And it's only meaningful if slow to anger is not about temper tantrums, but it's actually about judgment.
God describes himself as slow to anger.
In Romans 2, Paul says, "Do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?" He says, "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath when his righteous judgment will be revealed."
Then he says this Romans 2:6. Know this verse; this is true. "God will repay each person according to what they have done." He will repay each person according to what they have done. "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self seeking, and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil, but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good. For God does not show favoritism."
God will repay. So he is slow to anger, but he will get angry.
In fact, as we keep on working through Exodus 34, we'll get to that part where he says he is a punishing God. We'll get to that in more depth. But for today, he's slow to anger, which means he will get angry. It doesn't mean he won't be angry. It says that he is slow to anger. He's not quick-tempered.
He's not quick-tempered.
In Proverbs we are challenged to not be quick-tempered. This is the wisdom of God and we learn it from God. In Proverbs 14:17, "a quick tempered person does foolish things. And the one who devises evil schemes is hated." And verse 29. " Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly." We learn this from God. We are not to be quick-tempered, and He is a God who is slow to anger. He is not quick-tempered. He is patient.
He's patient, but He will get angry. Wrath is coming for all who choose evil. He will repay everyone according to what they have done.
In 2nd Peter there's so much that we could read about this. Spend time in 2nd Peter. I mean, 2nd Peter is beautiful. It starts off by saying, "His divine power has given us everything we need for living a godly life." That we can actually "participate [with him] in the divine nature." And it says, because of these things, "make every effort to add to your faith, goodness," and all those things.
Read that. That's first chapter.
But there's also this warning in 2nd Peter two and three, which I'm just going to read parts through it, just skipping down through. I would suggest that you spend time dwelling on it more than I want to in this format. But just reading through here:
" For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless.... If this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority."
He says, "They will be paid back harm for the harm they have done..."
He says, "Blackest darkness is reserved for them..." They're "slaves of depravity."
He says, "Dear friends, I've written these things as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking."
And then he says this: "You must understand that in the last days, scoffers will come scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where's this coming he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation!'" And Peter says, "But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word, the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word, the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly."
Then he says, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends." He says, "with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you." Like he said in Exodus 34, "I am slow to anger." Peter says, " He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
He's slow to anger, not because he won't bring judgment, but because he wants everyone to have opportunity to repent.
And Peter says, "The day of the Lord will come like a thief." When it comes, there will be no warning, it'll surprise us, it'll overtake us, and everyone who's not ready will be shocked and awed by it. And those who are ready will say, my reward is here.
"The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar." You know, everyone is talking about this these days. Is the Lord's return imminent? Yes. Do we know when he's coming? No. Should we be ready right now? Yes. Yes. I think I'll talk another time about signs and wonders and the possibility of deception in that, but right now, listen. This will happen. This is how it will be.
The Lord is slow to get angry, but one day -- just like a thief breaks in at a time you're not expecting him -- the day of the Lord will come like a thief, the heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare."
It'll be over. It'll be done. If we're still walking this earth, we will suddenly be done and we will suddenly face God.
He's slow to anger, he's patient, but one day he will bring judgment. And it will be sudden and it will be with finality.
Once the elements are destroyed, there's no going back. Once the earth is laid bare, once the heavens disappear with a roar, there's no going back. He's slow to anger, but he's not slow in keeping his promise. And one day he will come and he will rescue all of us who've put our faith in him. And he'll bring judgment on all who rejected him. That's how it is.
And Peter says, "Since everything will be destroyed in this way what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed it's coming."
I was reading this and reflecting on it: "live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God." Now we live in this world where we are all lamenting the passing away of things, whether it's climate change, whether it's the earthquakes, whether it's the fires, whether it's the hurricanes... whatever it is, we all have this sense that the earth is groaning and it's getting ready to give up. And we lament it, we mourn it. And we should take care of creation, absolutely, this isn't about that. But Peter says, "You ought to live holy (devoted to God, sacred, set apart, holy) lives, and godly lives, like he says in chapter one, "You may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." Where he says, "make every effort to add to your faith, goodness, and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self control, to self control, perseverance, and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, mutual affection, and to mutual affection, love."
He says, so what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives "as you look forward" -- lean in toward the day of God, his judgment, and "speed it's coming."
He's slow to anger, but one day it will be sudden and it will be with finality. He will call all this to account. And we are to live holy and godly lives and look forward to that day, not with an eagerness to see our enemies perish, but like with this eagerness to see God fulfill his promise.
And when he does bring justice on the righteous and the unrighteous, it will be what is fully, completely right. And just. And we will all answer to him according to what we've done; he will reward each person according to what they've done.
He says, "That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells . And so he says, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him. Bear in mind..." -- and remember: "I am slow to anger, I am patient" -- "Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation."
Our Lord's patience means salvation.
" Therefore, since you've been forewarned, be on your guard so that you're not carried away by the error of the lawless, and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forevermore." He says, "Amen!"
God is slow to anger. He's patient. And our response to this is that we recognize that His patience means salvation. So my appeal to you is while God is being patient, while he is being slow to anger, recognize that this isn't the eternal delay of his anger. This is just the temporary delay of his anger. He will bring judgment.
But in the meantime, he is saying to you, " If you are pursuing evil or wickedness, or even just your own desires," he says, "repent! Repent now!" Repent, because one day, and it could be today, it could be tomorrow. It could be soon. He says, "One day I'm bringing all this to account and what you have chosen is what you will be rewarded."
If you have chosen to pursue godliness and honor and immortality, you'll receive eternal life. Put your faith in Jesus. Confess your worthlessness, confess your sinfulness and bow before God. Put your faith in him because, he is God; he can be known. He is full of mercy and compassion, he's kind; he can be trusted. Put your confidence in him.
But, if you're someone who says, "Nope, I just want to do it my own way," recognize that one day that will be the end of you, with great pain, great sense of loss. And that is coming. You will suffer the consequences of your own decisions right now. Right now.
So my appeal is: repent. And repent doesn't mean wallow in self pity. And it doesn't mean just speak bad about yourself, hoping that God will say, "Well, no, you're not really that bad." Don't do that.
Repent doesn't mean beat yourself up. Repent means beat your chest in remorse and say, "Lord, forgive me. I'm so sorry."
It's like Jesus talked about the despised tax collector and the Pharisee. And the Pharisee stood with his chest puffed out before God and said, "I thank you God that I'm not like all these other sinners. I thank you, Lord, that I am more worthy of your love. I thank you that I'm special."
And the tax collector stood off at a distance and beat his chest and said, "Lord, have mercy on me. I'm a sinner." Don't beat yourself up. Beat your chest and show remorse. "God, I'm sorry."
And then beat your body and make it your slave. Like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9, "I beat my body and m ake it my slave, so that I won't be disqualified."
Repent. Turn from the things that would incur God's wrath, that have incurred His wrath, even though He is being patient. Turn from the things that make you worthy of his wrath and let him bring freedom. Let him fill you with peace. Let him make you holy and godly.
Okay, Exodus 34, "I am Yahweh, Yahweh, I am who I am, I am God, I am always present to you, you can know me. I am kind. I'm full of mercy and grace and compassion. I'm kind. You can trust me. And I am slow to anger. I am patient. Repent. Repent. I have given you time. And I won't give you time forever. I am being patient with you, and it is so that you can come to salvation."
God says that's what I want of you, because that's who I am.
Romans 2. "Don't show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance, and patience, but realize that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance."
Respond to that.
Next week we'll look at his next statement. He says, "I'm abounding in love and faithfulness." This is our God. This is why we love him. This is why we serve him. And this is why I want to make sure that you are reconciled to him in every way.
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