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Bible verses about God's Forbearance
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 34:5-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God expounds eleven attributes: YHWH, El, the Merciful One, the Gracious One, the Longsuffering One, the Mighty One, the Kind and Loving One, the True One, the One who Preserves Kindness, the Forgiving One, and the Chastising One.

God gives Moses, not so much a vision of His power and majesty, but of His love, of how He relates to His creation. The real glory of God is His character, His nature, especially toward His children. His names are signposts of His nature, reminders of what we can expect Him to do as we live by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment (1997)


 

Exodus 34:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God was preaching him a sermon on what He is. The names of God describe Him. They tell us what God is, what He does, and what He will do for us.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

2 Samuel 12:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah the Hittite. Should God have struck David down as soon as he committed adultery? It could have started even earlier, when David looked at her while she was naked in the rooftop bathtub. Or was it after he planned with Joab to kill Uriah on the frontline? Or was it after the dirty deed was done, when Uriah was actually dead? God did not step in at any of those times. Do we realize how long He waited?

II Samuel 12:15 says that Nathan departed to his house, and the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore. The whole period of gestation went by before Nathan came and said to David, "You've sinned." How far had David fallen from grace during this nine-month period since he had committed adultery? He had conspired to kill. He had actually not done the dirty deed himself, but it was attributed to him. Then he had taken Bathsheba as his wife.

Notice in II Samuel 11:27 that God had already imputed the evil to him; He had judged the matter. "But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord." This is a terrible translation. The margin has it more correctly: "But the thing that David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord." God calls a spade a spade, but He forbore to inflict the penalty for an important reason, which is found in Psalm 51. What did God's forebearance produce in David?

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. (Psalm 51:1-4)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. (Psalm 51:10-13)

What did this episode produce in David? Repentance for sure, and tremendous growth in character. It produced Psalm 51 itself, which is a major piece of writing in all the history of the world. How many countless people has it taught repentance and the building of character? God had greater purposes here than merely punishing transgression. Remember, David did not get away with this, because when Nathan came to him, he said, "From this time on your house is going to have problems, buddy. You're not getting away with this sin. It's going to follow you for the rest of your days, and your childrens' and your grandchildrens'." If the throne of England is any witness to this, the punishment is still falling on David's house. There are problems in the family of David that frequently show up in sexual problems and war. They have terrible dynastic squabbles.

If God blasted everyone at the first sign of sin, we would never have the chance to build character. No one would ever make it into God's Kingdom. We would all be just oil spots on the road. We would never have the chance to repent and say, "God, I was wrong. Lead me in the right way. Please don't take your Holy Spirit from me. If you allow me to live, I'll teach sinners not to do as I have done."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Nehemiah 9:30-31   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Israel had a yo-yo like obedience to God. Sometimes they were up, sometimes they were down. How long did God forbear with them? If we consider that the Exodus happened in about 1440 BC, and the Israelites were taken out of the land in 720 BC, He forbore with seven hundred and twenty years of their constant breaking of the covenant. Does that not say something about the patience of God—His forbearance—even with Israel's terrible sins—apostasy, spiritual adultery?

He certainly punished them and gave them many chances to repent. They would be obedient for a while, then they would fall again. He would forbear with them and give them a chance to repent, but they would not. So He punished them again to leave us an example of how God will deal—does deal—with us.

How often did God not give Israel what she deserved? Countless times! In His mercy and patience, He gave the Israelites time and space to repent. So in the end, as it says here, He had to lower the boom. They received what they deserved. He just delayed the punishment until it could no longer be delayed anymore, because He wanted them to repent.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Ecclesiastes 8:12-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Solomon had enough wisdom to understand that, in the end, such evildoers would be punished. The wheels of God's justice may work slowly, but they work and never stop working. Perhaps the supreme folly of all is that man deceives himself—that because it is customary for God to be patient, longsuffering, slow to anger, and forbearing, we forget that His tolerance is designed to lead us to repentance. Instead of taking advantage of His patience and coming to Him in humility for forgiveness, we tend to continue to revolt through sin. The supreme folly of a converted person is to delude himself that somehow he can get away with sin.

The Old Testament, far from being a record of a belligerent and wrathful God, is actually a revelation of extreme patience, mercy, and grace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Joel 2:13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God relents from doing harm. His longsuffering is seen in His gracious restraint of His wrath towards those who deserve it. Despite the rebellious condition of the world, He waited patiently for 120 years while Noah built the ark and gathered the animals. God's longsuffering does not overlook anything. Unlike man, God has the end in view. He has true insight, knows what is best, and is not swayed by human emotions.

Martin G. Collins
Longsuffering


 

Matthew 5:7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

English language dictionaries are of limited help in understanding this mercy's biblical usage. In English "mercy" is normally used to mean showing compassion, forbearance, pity, sympathy, forgiveness, kindness, tenderheartedness, or liberality or refraining from harming or punishing offenders or enemies. These synonyms give us some insight on this word; they all express how a merciful person might act. However, none of them specifically pictures what biblical mercy is because the scriptural concept is virtually untranslatable into a single English word.

The Greek word used in Matthew 5:7, eleemon, means essentially the same as its English counterpart, "merciful." However, in all likelihood Jesus spoke in Aramaic, and the idea behind His statement about mercy come from Old Testament—that is, Hebrew—usage and teaching. The word He would have used is the Hebrew and Aramaic chesed.

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible commentary on Matthew states regarding this word:

It does not mean only to sympathize with a person in the popular sense of the term; it does not mean simply to feel sorry for some in trouble. Chesedh [sic], mercy, means the ability to get right inside the other person's skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.

Clearly this is much more than an emotional wave of pity; clearly this demands a quite deliberate effort of the mind and of the will. It denotes a sympathy which is not given, as it were, from outside, but which comes from a deliberate identification with the other person, until we see things as he sees them, and feel things as he feels them. This is sympathy in the literal sense of the word. Sympathy is derived from two Greek words, syn which means together with, and paschein which means to experience or to suffer. Sympathy means experiencing things together with the other person, literally going through what he is going through. (p. 103)

Much easier said than done! Having a sense of another's feelings to this degree is very difficult to do because we are normally so self-concerned, so aware of our own feelings, that sensitivity for others to this depth often requires a great effort of the will. Normally, when we feel sorry for someone, it is an exclusively external act because we do not make the effort to get inside another's mind and heart until we can see and feel things as he does. It is not easy to walk in another person's shoes.

The world, from which we have all come, is true to its nature; it is unmerciful. The world prefers to insulate itself against the pains and calamities of others. It finds revenge delicious and forgiveness tame and unsatisfying.

This is where we all begin. Indeed, all too often in the church, worldliness is hardly dormant, revealing itself in acts that show some degree of cruelty. Usually, these cruelties are delivered verbally, but all too frequently, brethren simply ignore the real needs of others.

The mercy Jesus teaches is not humanly derived. He says in Matthew 6:14, "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you." This occurs, not because we can merit mercy by being merciful or forgiving of others, but because we cannot receive the mercy and forgiveness of God unless we repent. We cannot claim to have repented of our sins if we are unmerciful towards the sins of others.

The truly merciful are too aware of their own sins to deal with others in sharp condemnation, so they constrain themselves to deal humbly and kindly with those in need. Nothing moves us to forgive others like the amazing realization that God has forgiven our sins. Mercy in God's children begins by experiencing His forgiveness of them, and perhaps nothing proves more convincingly that we have been forgiven than our readiness to forgive.

Recognizing God's mercy is a key element in motivating our expressions of mercy. Too many people today, even in the church, possess a "welfare mentality." They go through life with little or no gratitude, thinking they deserve the handouts of governments or private citizens. Ingratitude is vital to understanding this because, as long as one is unthankful, his thoughts will center on himself. The merciful person is sensitive to others' needs and takes action to supply them. An ungrateful person, though, insulates himself from others' pains because he is too focused on his own perceived miseries.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

Matthew 9:10-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In saying that He desires mercy and not sacrifice, Jesus is teaching that He prefers it when people practice mercy and not blindly follow ritual. He is not condemning the laws of sacrifice that He set up for Israel to practice until He fulfilled them, but explaining that He is more pleased with acts of forgiveness and kindness than strict external compliance to the law.

He is telling the Pharisees that, though they were exacting in keeping the letter of the law, they had completely missed its intent. In Matthew 23:23, He reminds them of this very point: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone."

It is good and right to tithe to God, even to be exacting in our accounting, but not at the expense of the far more important matters of justice, mercy, and faith! These weightier matters are a Christian's priorities, so if a question of "What do I do?" ever comes up between practicing them and keeping the strict letter of the law, our judgment should lean toward these Christian virtues. If we can do both, all the better!

Jesus Christ is the personification of mercy. Exodus 25:17-22 describes the Mercy Seat constructed in the wilderness. Essentially, it was the golden lid of the Ark of the Covenant, on which were figures of two cherubim facing each other with their wings stretched out, covering the Mercy Seat. God, the pre-incarnate Christ, says in verse 22, "And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony." The Mercy Seat represented God in His dealings with sinful humanity, and the chief element He employs is mercy.

Now notice Romans 3:23-25:

. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed. . . .

This passage tells us that Jesus Christ is our Mercy Seat, but the translators have hidden it. "Propitiation" (Greek hilasterios) in verse 25 is literally "place of conciliation or expiation" or "Mercy Seat." The Septuagint used hilasterios to translate the Hebrew noun kapporeth ("Mercy Seat"). This Hebrew word's root is kapar meaning "to cover" or "to conceal." This illustrates that the nature of God is to be merciful.

The apostle Peter writes in I Peter 2:21 that we are to follow in Christ's steps, thus as Jesus Christ is merciful, we also are to show mercy in our judgments.

John O. Reid
Mercy: The Better Option


 

Matthew 18:26-34   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We desire others—especially God—to be patient and forgiving toward us in our faults, but do we practice the same attitude and conduct toward those whose faults offend us? Patience is a two-way street, and God clearly demands reciprocity. He expects us to pass His patience and forgiveness toward us on to others even as Christ did.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

Luke 18:6-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Scholars seem to have a hard time with the clause "though He bears long with them." What it probably means is, "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He delays His response to them?" He restrains His response; He holds it back from them for a little while.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Luke 18:7-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus ends verse 7 with the phrase "though He bears long with them." This seems to imply that God bears long with His people's cries for help. But this is not the sense. The pronoun "them" refers, not to God's elect, but to their oppressors, whom God endures far longer than we do. The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary states: "[T]he meaning is, that although He tolerates these oppressions for a long time, He will at length interpose in behalf of His own elect."

Then, Jesus states emphatically in verse 8, "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily"! "Speedily" is probably another poor choice of words; it is better rendered "suddenly" or "unexpectedly." When God's tolerance of these oppressors has run its course, He will promptly act at the right time—"out of the blue," as it were—to deliver His people.

Then at the end of verse 8 comes the question that pertains to each one of us now, today, in this season. Based on the above parable promising God's faithfulness, Jesus asks the question, "Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"

The implication seems to be that very few will have the strength of faith that Jesus is talking about. As the God of the Old Testament, Jesus, having looked into man's heart from Creation and seeing humanity's trajectory to our day, had every reason to ask if there would be faith at the end time! Even the Jews of His lifetime, full of Messianic fervor, did not have the faith He is seeking! Would even His chosen people—Christians, the followers of Christ—have saving faith?

Do we have this faith? What, then, is the evidence Jesus is looking for that will establish that we have the faith He is looking for? Some might view this "faith" as a powerful individual faith to move mountains or to perform some other great miracle. Yet, what Jesus is looking for are those who completely trust Him as God, and based on that trust, are living by faith according to God's revealed truth despite all of the pulls and pressures from the world.

John O. Reid
Will Christ Find Faith?


 

Acts 17:30   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God overlooked, tolerated, or bore with it because of, in this case, our ignorance. God made excuses, as it were, to Himself to restrain Himself from striking out. This is, of course, bringing God down to a human level so we can understand. This is the kind of language Paul and Luke used to allow us to grasp the fact that God bore with us. We have to learn to do the same toward others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)


 

Romans 3:21-26   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God can forbear with us because Jesus Christ came to this earth and died for all of us. If we repent and ask God forgiveness, then Christ's blood covers all of our sins. Justice has been done. The sin has been paid for by the blood of Christ. God can thus forbear with us and allow us to "get away" with our sins for a while, because if we repent, then Jesus Christ's blood covers our sins, and justice is done. A person died for those sins—our Creator, Jesus Christ.

But if we do not repent, what happens? We die, and the penalty is paid. So this is a kind of legal maneuver by God. His forbearance is allowed under His legal system because Jesus Christ's blood pays the penalty for our sins. He can be merciful and lenient for a while, and whether we repent, or whether we do not repent, justice is ultimately served because a death occurs—either Jesus' or ours. This is the legal basis for why He can be forbearing. He has already taken care of it, one way or the other.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Romans 3:25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One translation of this verse renders the last phrase, "sins that are past, through the forbearance of God," as "for the remission of sins during the time that He withheld His hand." Picture a father whose children are misbehaving, and he pulls back his hand to cuff them, yet he withholds it. This is what God means. He was ready to strike out at us because of our sins, but He withheld His hand during that time. It is as if He stopped Himself. He had every reason to strike out, but He did not, mercifully. It is a vivid picture. Any parent can relate to it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)


 

Romans 9:19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Since God's calling is totally unilateral, and since no one can resist His will, why does He find fault in people?

His answer is that God can do whatever He pleases with His creation (verses 20-26). He is the Potter, and the clay cannot legitimately question the Potter's methods or purposes (see Isaiah 29:16; Jeremiah 18:1-11). He, as sovereign ruler over His creation, is under no obligation to tell us why he chooses as he does.

The warp-woof metaphor of Leviticus 13:47-59, the law dealing with leprosy in cloth, reinforces Paul's conclusion. A priest is to examine a cloth thought to be leprous, but make no decision about the disposition of the garment for seven days, during which time it is to remain isolated, separated from the people of Israel (verse 50). After the seven days, He reexamines the suspect garment (verse 51). If the leprosy has spread, "whether warp or woof, . . . it shall be burned in the fire" (verse 52). If the leprosy has not spread yet is still present, the garment is to be washed and isolated for yet another seven days (verses 53-54). If the leprosy has not changed its color after this second week, the garment is to be burned, even though the plague has not spread (verse 55). If the plague has disappeared, then the garment is clean and fit for use after it has been washed a second time (verse 58).

What an example of God's mercy, patience, and long-suffering! He extends mercy on mercy—to a piece of cloth! How much more grace does God show us, the warp and woof of His garment! How much more has He given the Gentiles in offering them spiritual salvation now! How much more will he exhibit when He calls whole nations of Gentiles—when the time is right!

Charles Whitaker
The Mixed Multitude


 

1 Timothy 1:12-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul uses himself to exemplify the great magnitude of Christ's patience toward us. "Longsuffering" strongly implies forbearance under great duress. As Paul describes it, he had not just sinned in blaspheming and inflicting injury on the saints, but he had done his deeds with a proud, haughty, arrogant, and insolent spirit. He acted in a wicked, malicious, violent way—a spirit of tyranny that greatly aggravated the wrong he did. Other translations render insolent as "insulter," "insolent foe," "oppressor," "wanton aggressor," "doer of outrage," and "wanton outrage."

Paul's aim is to magnify Christ's patience and forgiveness as an example to himself and his audience. The apostle followed Christ's example by in turn exercising patience toward the church. Considering his own circumstance, he undoubtedly felt strongly about this because Christ's forbearance with him opened salvation to him. In response, he passes it on to Timothy and so to us.

In II Timothy 4:2-3, Paul exhorts the evangelist to use this virtue that means so much to our salvation:

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

2 Peter 3:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

That God is longsuffering or forbearing with us means that we are able to have salvation. It will not happen any other way. If He were not longsuffering with us, there would be no salvation. We could never please Him with our miserable works, and our sins would qualify us only to be grease spots on the road. "The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation." We had better be glad that God is patient, that He will take the time to work with us, however long it may take, so that we can be in His Kingdom and grow in His character.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

 




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