“Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; “and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. Deuteronomy 7:9-10 NKJV
Do you recall ever hearing your parents tell you; “patience is a virtue”? If you were like me, you probably heard that because you were as impatient as I was in waiting for something you felt was due. Fortunately, I learned over time, and with the help of extremely patient parents, that patience is indeed a virtue and somehow I have ended up being a patient person. To a point. You see, as I have watched the appearance of events predicted in the Bible concerning the end of this age, and observed the apostasy of His Church unfold before our very eyes, I simply cannot help but echo the lament of many of the Old Testament saints; “How long O Lord?”.
My soul also is greatly troubled; But You, O LORD--how long? Return, O LORD, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies' sake! Psalm 6:3-4 NKJV
From the number of commentaries I have read this past week, it appears I may not be alone in praying this prayer of David from the book of Psalms. As I have considered all that we have seen occur lately, I couldn’t help but remember Jesus describing the last days as resembling the “Days of Noah” in Matthew 24. One question that has always puzzled me about the inhabitants of the days of Noah is the fact that it would appear they either had absolutely no clue that their actions were an offense to the God of the universe, or if they did, they somehow believed God would allow their offenses to go unpunished.
It follows then that this past week my thoughts concerning our country and its leaders, as well as the events unfolding around the world, somehow began to remind me of this same question. Does the majority of this nation, and the world as a whole, actually believe their decisions do not offend God, or do they simply believe God will do nothing to show His displeasure? On the other hand, the more I read, the more it appears that many believers are of the opinion that God has indeed already begun to remind us that He alone is omnipotent and is perfectly willing to judge those who offend Him. Yet, like David, it's hard not to ask God...”how long”?
Something I have been passionate about over the years is my personal study of the Old Testament. It probably has something to do with my interest in history, which was my major in college, but I have always enjoyed studying events from our past. There are many reasons to study the Old Testament, but one I regard as my primary motivation is that it is the best way I know to learn about, and begin to understand, the nature of God. The books of the Old Testament are full of passages where God tells us what He is like, and also reveals His nature to us. I believe the better we begin to know God, the more reassured we can be about what we see as we watch where the world is going today. Paul seemed to understand this when he wrote the following passage in the book of Romans.
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4 NKJV
You might ask, hope in what? Obviously we are concerned with our own deliverance, but we can also rest assured that God will, in His own time, judge the world for its actions. Our God is a just God, and He will never let sin go unpunished. He has judged in the past, and He will judge again in the future. We can ask “how long” with the knowledge that although we are waiting, and most likely impatient, God promises to do His will. God has a plan, and a timetable for administering it. It is up to us to persevere, and trust in God’s faithfulness.
Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end [intended by] the Lord--that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. James 5:11 NKJV
Personally, what helps me the most is the knowledge of “the end intended by the Lord”. David may have prayed to the Lord expressing his sorrows and frustrations, but he always ended by acknowledging the fact that he knew that not only God was faithful, He also had a plan and it would unfold just as He ordained. I have often shared that I enjoy studying the life of David because while God described him as a “man after my own heart”, it is also obvious that David suffered from the same emotions we often do and was perfectly willing to share them with God.
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, [Having] sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Psalm 13:1-2 NKJV
I don’t believe we as believers should be shy about sharing our sorrow and frustrations with God because after all, doesn't He already know what we are feeling? He understands our emotions and what we are feeling and if we share that with Him, He will hear our cry. It is also important to note that not only does He hear, He will respond to our crying out to Him.
Nevertheless He regarded their affliction, When He heard their cry; And for their sake He remembered His covenant, And relented according to the multitude of His mercies. Psalm 106:44-45 NKJV
One of the most reassuring things about God is the fact that He is always faithful to answer our cries and to demonstrate His mercy towards His people. I have always enjoyed having my daughters ask me for help, and even now that they are grown and living elsewhere it still is nice to get a call and be asked to do something that is helpful in some way. Do you really believe God is so busy that He doesn't want to hear from us when we need some help? Ask and see just how faithful our God is.
Lord, how long will You look on? Rescue me from their destructions, My precious [life] from the lions. I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people. Psalm 35:17-18 NKJV
Of course David well knew that when God provided, He alone was due the glory and the thanks. What better witness could we have but to give God the glory when He delivers us as well?
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom [be] glory forever and ever. Amen. Galatians 1:3-5 NKJV
What better to help us endure than the knowledge that God promises to deliver us from this “present evil age”. While it may be difficult to sit by and watch where this world is going, we can rest assured that we have His promise that we will be saved from that terrible judgment which is to come upon the whole earth.
O God, how long will the adversary reproach? Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever? Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand? [Take it] out of Your bosom and destroy [them]. Psalm 74:10-11 NKJV
Just as David knew God had the power to judge and destroy His enemies, so we too have the knowledge that while it looks as if we are losing the battle, God will avenge Himself upon those who turn their backs on Him.
The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; From heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed." 1 Samuel 2:10 NKJV
Is it wrong to be impatient while waiting for God's return? While we know that God will do His work in His own time, David certainly had no problem expressing the difficulty he felt while waiting.
Return, O LORD! How long? And have compassion on Your servants. Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days! Psalm 90:13-14 NKJV
While we look at what is going on all around us and wonder why God is waiting, we should never forget that He loves those who sin against Him and is compassionate towards them with a patience we cannot begin to comprehend. Our God is not willing for any to perish and we need to keep that in mind whenever we are tempted to ask “how long”?
The LORD [is] gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD [is] good to all, And His tender mercies [are] over all His works. Psalm 145:8-9 NKJV
What does God expect from us during this time of waiting? I think it revealing that in this passage from Luke we find that Jesus asks a very unusual question.
"And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?"I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:7-8 NKJV
Has the thought ever occurred to you that we should just give up? We are losing the fight so why bother anymore? David never gave up although at times it looks like he believed the entire world was against him. Yet David knew God was faithful to fulfill His promises because he never asked "if" God was going to act, only "how long" until He would act, and we should know that as well. Although it may appear that we are fighting a losing battle, the battle is not over until the Son of Man comes to take us away. Will He find faith? Why would He ask that question unless some would be tempted to give up? If He promises to be faithful to us, is it too much to ask for us to be faithful to Him?