God is more long-suffering than any other. No one would put up with what He puts up with for as long as he does. People reject Him, people fail Him, people rebel against Him, and still He is patient.
That being said, God runs out of patience.
Now God doesn’t HAVE to run out of patience, but since He, being perfect, cannot be in the presence of sin, He will only put up with it for so long. Mock Him, and eventually you will come to regret it.
God had led the children of Israel, His people, out of Egypt and right to the edge of the land He’d been promising them for centuries. They’d seen Him bring them out of slavery in miraculous ways and provide for them miraculously since then. And they had repaid Him with complaining. They were hungry, then they didn’t like the food He gave them. They were thirsty. They were afraid they were going to get killed. And every time, they’d come accusing God and God’s leaders, Moses and Aaron. And God had been patient. He had never yet lifted His hand against a grumbler.
But a Holy and just God runs out of patience.
It’s not something we like to look at much about God. He is so loving that His love covered His wrath. But He has wrath. He deserves exclusive worship and therefore is jealous for that worship. (This is different from human jealousy, as we don’t “deserve” anything.) And He has to punish sin. And His wrath shows against that sin.
The spies had just gotten back from the Promised Land, and 10 of 12 gave a bad report. There were giants and walled cities; there’s no way they can take the land. In Numbers 14, things escalate quickly. The people weep all night, then murmur against God’s leaders, then say God led them there to be killed! Verse by verse the scene gets more ridiculous. They decide they want to go back to Egypt. Moses and Aaron fall on their faces, and the two good spies (Caleb and Joshua) tear their clothes. Those two then tell the people that the land is good and the LORD will lead them into it. He’s with us and against them, so don’t rebel, just trust Him. Sounds reasonable. The people responded by readying to stone them.
This is when God shows up, as His glory appears in the tabernacle. He’s had enough of this scene and enough of the people in general. “And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shown among them?” (v. 11)
They’d seen God work, knew He was all-powerful. But still they didn’t believe Him. Beyond that, they were provoking Him. Not a good move.
God is ready to “smite them with the pestilence”- literally wipe them all out and start over. Moses is able to intercede for them, but still God’s punishment is that all those 20 and older would die in the wilderness (except Caleb and Joshua), and their children instead would inherit the land. And after that, whenever the people disobeyed, God would send the pestilence or act in some other way and kill a large number off. Those who wouldn’t have died naturally in 40 years had to die by some other means.
God runs out of patience.
If you have ever read a good part of my blog posts, or have had any Christian present the gospel to you, you are accountable for what you have heard or read. Everyone must make the decision to accept or reject Christ, and to ignore the question is to reject Him. You have seen signs that God exists and is actively at work. (View my last blog post on Evolution; and hopefully the true Christians around you act set apart from the world). “How long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shown them?” At some point God is going to run out of patience, and either your life will end or this world will. Don’t be caught off guard and face His wrath.