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God's Patience (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
February 18, 2021 3:00 am

God's Patience (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 18, 2021 3:00 am

Patience doesn’t come naturally for many of us. Often, we’re too impatient to develop it! Thankfully, it’s part of who God is, and it’s the motivation behind what He does and doesn’t do. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg examines God’s patience.


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Music Playing I don't want to begin with a quiz, but if I were to ask you what is the fourth question you could answer, I'd be surprised if more than three could tell me what the fourth question is in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. So I'm going to tell you what it is, and the next time somebody starts like that, you could put up your hand and say, yes, we know exactly what the fourth question is.

Here is the fourth question. What is God? And the answer that the catechism gives is as follows. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, his wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Now it's a staggering thought that there was a time when in at least the churches of Scotland, all children in our churches were taught that catechism, and all the adults in the congregation were expected to know that catechism.

Not just to know what the questions were, but to actually know what the answer is. So that if somebody encountered them in a grocery store, or at business, or in a sports arena and said, you know, I've been thinking a lot about God. Could you tell me what is God?

They would at least have a start, wouldn't they? And the answer would be there in the catechism. You see, one of the reasons that the average teenager can't answer any of the questions is because they've never taught any of this stuff. And since we at this point in our lives are just sort of overgrown teenagers, those of us who've made it through, we probably have carried this into adulthood, and some of us have carried it into being grandfathers. And when our grandchildren ask us questions, we stumble being able to answer them ourselves. And part of the reason is simply this, that we are at the end of a significant period of time in history, where we as men and women have entertained great thoughts about ourselves and small thoughts about God.

So tremendous interest in who we are, and in what we are, and in what we achieve, and in what we do. If you like, the sort of awesomeness of ourselves has prevailed in the thinking of our culture. And at the same time, the notion of a very awesomeness of God himself has diminished and has declined almost to the point of extinction in some places. There is still a tremendous amount of talk about God, not least of all here in California.

California is on the edge of so much, and I like it for that reason and other reasons as well. But if you just listen to people, let's say if you're exercising with them or perhaps riding bikes or doing something like that, and it gets onto the conversation concerning God, there are, I suggest to you, two contemporary views of God which predominate. One is the idea that God is impersonal, that God is impersonal. In other words, God is simply an energizing aspect of life and energy, okay? He is a cosmic principle, but he's not a sovereign person. And if you listen to people talk, you will find, and they may not articulate it in that way, but you will find that views of God often tend to that, the whole notion of the impersonality of God. Or on the other end of the spectrum, that God is entirely personal, entirely personal.

He is just what I expect him to be. This is somebody who calls himself a Christian counselor. It told a lady who was contemplating divorcing her husband that what she needed to do was to wait until she just heard her own little voice telling her what she was supposed to do. Can you imagine if you did even 50% of the things that your little voice is telling you what to do?

If I did 20% of what my little voices were telling me today, there's no way I would even be in this room. But that's exactly how it goes, so that God then spells whatever you want it to spell. God means whatever you want it to mean. God is whatever I think he is, or whatever I feel that he is.

Now, I start in this way to set, if you like, the cultural context. You may say it's simplistic, it's generalistic, I'd be prepared to admit that, but I want to set it then so that we can show that the Bible tells us against that kind of notion that God is in this dimension utterly beyond us and outside of us. That before there was time, before there was anything, there was God.

Okay? That's really an answer to a catechism question so that our children would know what was there before there was God. There was nothing before there was God. So they can then say before they go to sleep at night, before there was time, before there was anything, there was God. As opposed to the notion of pantheism, that God is the earth, and we are the earth, and we're part of the earth, and the earth has energy, and we have energy, and we're tuned into the energy, and before you know where you are, the moon's a balloon.

Right? False mental images of God come by way of our imagination and by way of speculation. A true understanding of God comes by way of revelation. Revelation. Not imagination, what I conceive of him to be. Not speculation that he is merely a cosmic impersonal principle, but we come to this by way of revelation. In other words, God has pulled back the curtain. God has chosen to speak.

That's the immensity of it. If I were to come before you tonight, the fellow introduced me, Mr. Elliot, Mr. Elliot, and I just stood up here and looked at you. And for all the time that I'd been up here, I'd just stand in looking at you. You would be making all kinds of deductions. Either he's completely struck dumb or he's lost his mind or whatever it might be.

And you would have no way of knowing what was going on inside my mind. You could conjecture, you could imagine, you could speculate, but the only way you're going to know is when I speak. So the Bible tells us that God has spoken. He spoke the very creation into being. In the past, he spoke in various ways by the prophets. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his son. So our conception of God is as a result of his revelation. Listen to how Spurgeon addressed his congregation in London in 1855, when he was a young pastor, age 20.

This is what he said to them. He who often thinks of God will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the soul of man as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the deity.

Now you don't have to go very far, just go on your patio tonight or on your back porch or wherever else it is. And if the skies in Southern California have cleared, look up into the heavens and say, the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork. Day unto day utters his speech and to night unto night showeth knowledge.

There's no speech or language where his voice is not heard, his voice has gone out to the ends of the earth. So that whether people are in Vladivostok or whether they're in Waterloo or whatever they are, as they stand and gaze up into the heavens, it is only the fool who has said in his heart, there is no God. Because sin has impregnated us at the level of our minds as well. We don't live in some kind of intellectual vacuum whereby we can decide whether we want to believe or whether we don't want to believe.

By our very nature, we don't believe. We are opposed to this God. And so we're happy when people come along with substitute gods, with little fake gods. And there are plenty of them around.

We have them in Ohio and I'm sure you have them here. And that's why this is a good idea, to think about the attributes of God. The last thing I want to say by way of introduction is simply this, that when we think about the attributes of God, whether it is the jealousy of God or the faithfulness of God or the justice of God or the wrath of God or the love of God or the patience of God, as you think about all of these things, you have to keep in mind that although we can think about them separately, we can think about them separately, they can't actually be separated. You can't separate the justice from the love of God or the faithfulness of God from the jealousy of God. We can't divvy up the totality of who and what he is.

This is how Tozer put it. All of God's acts are consistent with all of his attributes. No attribute contradicts any other, but all harmonize and blend into each other in the infinite abyss of the Godhead. In the infinite abyss of the Godhead.

It's just so beyond us, so vast. I mean, we teach our children this, don't we? I don't know. I haven't heard anybody singing this for a while. It just shows how old I am. But our children, I remember, used to saying, Our God is so big, so strong, and so mighty.

Do you remember that one? There's nothing that he cannot do. And they had to shake their heads like that to make the point. The rivers are his, the mountains are his, the stars are his handiwork too. Our God is so big, so strong, and so mighty.

There's nothing that he cannot do. Well, that's an entirely different perspective from looking for the cosmic principle inside of yourself or trying to employ the energy of divinity in order that you might advance in your career. Do you want a God that you bow before or do you want a God that you keep in your pocket? Do you want a God of the prophets where they took down trees and half of it they burned in the fire and the other half they made a little God? And somebody says, This is ridiculous. How do you know which part's the God? How about you burned the God in the fire and then you kept this scissor? You've done the wrong thing. How are you going to know? It's so stupid.

It's absolutely ridiculous. That's why the Bible says that man in his wisdom knew not God. 1 Corinthians 1, with all of his genius.

He doesn't know God. Well, you say get on with it because you're only the first speaker and you're not here for the whole night and you're supposed to be speaking about the patience of God. All right. I've got just one word in front of me on that screen. Patience.

What do you have? Oh, you've got me. That's even worse. So, patience. All right. I'm not going to spend a long time on this, but I want to look at it from three perspectives.

The patience of God viewed, if you like, historically, the patience of God viewed doctrinally, and the patience of God viewed personally. And I'm giving you, if you like, a thumbnail sketch. This is not the finished outline. These are not the engineering drawings from which you're going to build your building. This is the early work of the architect as he takes his pencil and just draws around for a little while on the desk.

Hopefully, it's very accurate, but it sends you off to do your own work. All right. So, we're thinking about the patience of God historically. Genesis chapter 6, and in verse 11, we read, Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them.

Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. And then immediately, make yourself an ark of gopher wood, and then he gives the direction for the building of Noah's ark. Now, we read from 2 Peter—you needn't turn to this—we read from 2 Peter purposefully, but when Peter in his first letter references what God did in Noah's day, he puts it like this in the 18th verse of 1 Peter 3. Well, not actually in the 18th verse, in the 20th verse.

What about I need to read from 18? Christ also suffered ones for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey—now, here you go—when God's patience waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared. A hundred and twenty years.

A hundred and twenty years, I'd say, is pretty patient, wouldn't you? God looks on the state of affairs, he knows that judgment must be executed, he provides news of the way to salvation by preserving Noah as a herald of righteousness, as Peter refers to him in 2 Peter 2 5. He was a preacher of righteousness, so the patience of God is such that he raises up Noah in order to speak to the people, and then he has him build an ark, which is the very essence of salvation. A preacher to tell them, and an ark to save them.

Numbers chapter 14. And you say, golly, we're going to have to go through the whole Old Testament here, we're only at Numbers. And it's like, we're not going to do that, but there was a fellow who actually was preaching through, he thought he would impress people and preach through the entire Old Testament in one talk. And he'd been going for goodness knows how long, and he said at one point, he said, and now we have come to Ezekiel, what shall we do with him? And somebody shouted out, well, he can have my seat because I'm going home.

So don't worry, we'll make a quantum leap forward here in just a moment. But in Numbers chapter 14 and verse 11, you remember the congregation, they all started to cry and moan and groan, and just a bunch of useless characters, every last one of them, right? And if you read the beginning of Numbers 14, they said, oh, we loved it in Egypt, Egypt was great. We had nice places in Egypt, nice restaurants in Egypt, and now we got brought out into this dump. Who wants to be here? Why is the Lord bringing us into this land? He's probably going to die here. Our wives are going to get eaten by animals. We'd be better off back in Egypt.

Any pastor knows this kind of stuff. You just change the faces, just change the names. They said, oh, we liked it so much when we had two services. I knew when we went to three services, it'd be a disaster. We should have gone back to two services.

We get rid of that guitar player. We should have had the organ. We get back to the organ.

So Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation and the people of Israel. And they're basically saying, what am I supposed to do with this group? And the Lord said to Moses, verse 11, how long will these people despise me?

How long will they not believe in me in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? Now think about this. They're in Egypt. They're in bondage.

They're making those bricks. It's horrible. Couldn't we get out of here? Please can we get out of here? We want to get out of here.

Plagues, Moses, off they go. Partying of the Red Sea. Whoa, look at this. This is fantastic. Look at that. Can you believe this? What a day this is. Look at the chariots. Boom, boom, done. Here we go. God did all that.

Now listen to them. Now think about it for just a moment. We aren't at the personal bit yet, but I'm going to allow you a little personal bit right now. Don't you see your face in that picture? All the times you told God, oh, that was great when that and that and that, but look at it now.

What are you doing now? Those were the glory days back there. We liked it back there. No, you didn't. You hated it then as well. Stop telling lies.

Well, I don't like it now. We know that. You're a miserable sinner. That's your problem. It doesn't matter where you are. Geography is not the issue.

You could be as miserable in California as you are in Cleveland. That's because of who you are. And then he says, pired in the iniquity of the people, verse 19, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people from Egypt until now. Oh, he says, God in heaven, you've been so patient with these people. So patient.

And think about it in Moses' life. And you've been patient with me too. 40, 40, 40.

Patience. And the Lord said, verse 20, I have pardoned according to your word. I have pardoned according to your word. Jonah, chapter four.

I told you there would be a quantum leap. We're getting to the end now. Jonah Micah. Some of you are going like, where in the world is Jonah? And that's why you should get one of those Bibles with those little stickers on them or whatever it is, or get yourself an iPhone and you just click Jonah and you're in. So you remember the story of Jonah.

We don't need to get into it. He was in a whale of a problem right from the get go. And Jonah gets the assignment, go here. He goes, nah, I don't fancy that.

I think I'll go over there. Then God saves him in the whale. And then he goes on his assignment and then he's really ticked. Because now these people are actually responding to the good news that he's telling them. He's telling that salvation is from the Lord. Salvation belongs to the Lord. That's what he's telling them now. And then we read verse one of chapter four. It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, Lord, isn't this what I said when I was yet in my country?

That's why I was running away to Tarshish. Because I know that you're a gracious God and merciful and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and relenting from disaster. In other words, I knew that you would be patient. What kind of prophet of God is ticked off when people get saved? But think about it for just a minute.

I bet you've got some people in your office, in the factory, in the Harley gang. You might be a little ticked off if they got saved as well. And the reason they would is because of the patience of God.

Jumping forward to talk tomorrow, you may maybe do both of them now and then you don't have to show up tomorrow. But where it says in Lamentations three, it is because of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed. Consumed. If God wasn't the God that he is, we couldn't even be around here. He'd have to take us out. That's why people say, well, why didn't God do something? The answer is God has done something and he's about to do something.

But if he does the something he's about to do tonight, nobody will be left. And the reason that he doesn't is because of who he is, because he is a patient God. He is a long suffering God. He made you. You've been listening to Alistair Begg in a message titled God's Patience.

This is Truth for Life. And if you're a regular listener, you know that we supplement these daily studies by selecting books designed to help you learn more about the Bible. We think you're going to greatly benefit from a featured book this month, a book called With All Your Heart. You can have a broken heart or a change of heart or a loss of heart. But what does the Bible mean when it uses this word? Well, the book With All Your Heart explores the biblical definition of the heart. And we've chosen this book because it brings an in-depth look into what the scripture has to say about the very essence of who we are. The author bases his definition on the Puritan framework of the threefold scheme of the heart, the mind, the desires and the will. So the heart governs the things we know, the things we love and the things we choose to do.

You'll learn a lot as you read With All Your Heart. Request your copy when you donate today. You can visit us online at slash donate or click the image in our app or call 888-588-7884. Now, before we close, I want to extend a unique invitation. If you have never seen the unspoiled beauty of God's creation in all of its natural splendor, let me suggest a trip to Alaska. This summer, Alistair will be teaching the Bible on board a cruise ship that departs out of Seattle, Washington on August 28th.

The Holland America luxury liner will make its way through the Northern Pacific offering spectacular views of Alaska's coastline, including the Tongass Forest and historic frontier towns. You'll enjoy God's world while studying his word with Alistair, singing songs of praise with Grammy Award winner Laura Storey. Don't miss this memorable adventure. Go online to receive your ticket at or by calling 855-565-5519. I'm Bob Lapine. Join us again tomorrow as Alistair concludes his message on God's patience. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-23 21:48:46 / 2023-12-23 21:57:55 / 9

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