Moses was well-acquainted with the patience of God. He pled for Israel when they betrayed the Lord with the Golden Calf. For years he dealt with the Israelites in the desert, their complaining and recalcitrance. They “vexed the Holy One of Israel” (Ps. 78:41), and still God bore it, restraining his wrath and refusing to cut them off (Isa. 48:9). God’s patience is a central, defining feature of his character.
But this wasn’t always a comfort to Moses. Rather than being left to deal with the grumbling and sin of his people, he asks God to kill him outright (Num. 11:15).
Moses isn’t alone in this frustration.Unnerved by the success of lawbreakers, thieves, and idolaters, the psalmist asks, “How long will the wicked be jubilant?” (Ps. 94:3). David cries a similar lament in the face of his enemies’ taunts (Ps. 13:1). Overwhelmed by opposition, he wonders whether God will defend him. In Scripture, God’s people are surprised and repelled by God’s patience as often as they are comforted by it.
My own impatience with God’s patience might be one of the defining features of my life. I become worried and anxious when I see false teaching in the church, spanning from the prosperity gospel to modern gnostic heresies. I dwell on the strife in our midst, our continued struggle for racial reconciliation and wholeness. Why, I ask, does God allow this disorder to persist?
The wisdom of God in the Cross often comes across to us as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). At its core, the Cross is a sign of the patience of God. He has passed over our sins, rather than condemning us as we deserve (Rom 3:25).
In fact, patience is linguistically and conceptually linked to passion (passio). In the passion …