The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”Ex. 34:6
“Thank you for your patience.” The reply from my out-of-office coworker landed in my inbox almost as soon as I had clicked send on my email to her. From her beach blanket under the palm trees, she couldn’t anticipate how her contacts would respond to a two-week delay, but her message indicated that patience would be a good choice. This kind of praise for patience seems to be nearly universal. “Thanks for being patient,” the store clerk says when you finally reach the front of a long line. “Sorry about that. Thanks for waiting,” the medical receptionist tells you over the phone at the end of a ten-minute hold. Most people know it’s only right to refrain from causing a scene over a temporary delay.
But while most people instinctively acknowledge the moral correctness of patience, only people who know God can understand the true value of waiting well. In today’s verse, the Lord displays the foundation for all human patience: his own patience. A few verses earlier, Moses asked the Lord, “Please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight” (Ex. 33:13). Moses was asking God to reveal his essence, his character, his name (see v. 19). And one thing God revealed was patience.
The fact that God is patient (“slow to anger”) teaches us two important truths about patience. First, patience is good. God prefaces his self-revelation with these words: “I will make all my goodness pass before you” (Ex. 33:19). The God who is eternally and entirely good is patient with his people. The God who never sins is always slow to anger. As we encounter difficult delays and frustrating people, we can be certain that choosing patience is choosing what is good.
The second truth about God’s patience—and our own—is that patience is glorious. Moses asked God, “Please show me your glory” (Ex. 33:18; see also v. 22), and God showed that he is patient. In our world, patience often seems like a small thing, an insignificant virtue practiced mainly by the downtrodden and weak. It seems like something you do when you don’t have a choice, when you are the hapless victim of circumstances or people more powerful than you. But this verse shows us that patience is much more magnificent than we might expect. The sovereign God of the universe clothes himself in patience and
calls it his glory. And if it is the glory of God to be slow to anger, it is our glory too (see Prov. 19:11).
Being perfunctorily thanked for your patience by a retail employee doesn’t make waiting well seem terribly glamorous. But, as today’s verse shows us, patience is Godlike. When we are “slow to anger,” we learn about God’s character, practice his ways, and seek to please him. We have experienced God’s patience toward us, and as we exercise patience, we imitate our great God. There’s no better incentive to wait.
- Reflect: Do you usually think of being patient as a significant act? Why or why not?
- Reflect: Read Psalm 106. Notice how often God’s people act faithlessly toward him. Notice how often he responds with restraint and mercy. Notice how his patience becomes a reason for Israel to praise him.
- Act: When someone thanks you for your patience today, remind yourself that even small moments of waiting well are a way that we imitate our good and glorious God.
**Today’s post is an excerpt from Megan Hill’s excellent 31-day devotional, Patience: Waiting with Hope