God's patience has a limit
One of the old Saxon kings set out with an army to put down a rebellion in a distant province of his kingdom. When the insurrection had been quelled, and the army of the rebels defeated, the king placed a candle over the archway of the castle where he had his headquarters. Lighting the candle, announced through a herald to all who had been in rebellion against him that those who surrendered and took the oath of loyalty while the candle was burning would be spared. The king offered them his clemency and mercy, but the offer was limited to the life of the candle.
Exodus 34:7 reads:
"Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."
"Yet" - There is a time when God's patience will cease. And it will not be because he has become impatient. He will have displayed his patience so long with people that no-one will be able to accuse him of being rash or hasty. But his patience will come to an end. For it has a limit.
It had a limit in the days of Noah - Genesis 6:3 Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man for ever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."
It had a limit in the days of the Children of Israel - after experiencing God's patience in many ways, after trying it most severely, God said, enough, and hundreds of thousands of them perished outside the Promised Land.
God's patience has a limit. And this limit isn't just a limit for the world, when he will finally come in judgment. Each human being has their own personal limit. There is a marker in each of our lives.
That dam that holds back the reservoirs of God's wrath will be removed, and the full weight of the wrath of God will fall on those who haven't made use of God's patience to seize the salvation offered to them in Christ.
Unbelievers need to be helped to see on how slender a thread their lives hang.
Charnock writes "When he is invaded in all his attributes, it is astonishing that this single one of patience and meekness should withstand the assault of all the rest of his perfections; his being, which is attacked by sin, speaks for vengeance; his justice cannot be imagined to stand silent without charging the sinner. His holiness cannot but encourage his justice to urge its pleas, and be an advocate for it. His omniscience proves the truth of all the charge, and his abused mercy hath little encouragement to make opposition to the indictment; nothing but patience stands in the gap to keep off the arrest of judgment upon the sinner"
And the more patience God shows, the more guilty boys and girls and men and women will become. And the less excuse they will have. The more patience is abused, the more severe his wrath will be. And his justice will take account from the hands of patience before exacting punishment.
Justice will ask patience, how patient have you been with these people? How much time have they had? And patience will explain the times God held back his judgment to give time, time and more time.
And because there has been so much opportunity wrath will be increased.
Chartnock again writes: "All the time men are abusing his patience, God is whetting his sword, and the longer it is whetting the sharper will be the edge."
And when he puts an end to his patience, his wrath will be swift. We each live our lives as a man looking at a clock with no hands. It still works, but we don't know where the hands are. The hour maybe about to strike when God's patience will reach its limit. And when that happens the hour will strike with unavoidable swiftness.
Make the most of today. Today is the only day you can be sure of God's patience.
And fellow believers, let us learn to delight in this attribute while we can. In Heaven we will have no opportunity to enjoy his patience. "For this perfection hath the shortest time to act its part of any, it hath no stage but this world to move in; mercy hath a Heaven, justice hath a Hell, to display itself to eternity, but longsuffering hath only a short lived earth for the compass of its operation."
We should think often on his patience and if we do we will grow to see God as a loving father, we will be more convinced of his friendliness and kindness. It will help us to be patient with others when we consider how much God is patient with us.
And lets not abuse this patience, even those of us who are Christians, by continuing to sin once we are aware of it, presuming on his patience.