Do I Really Know God? He Is Patient

Without it, we would be doomed because we would get what we deserved—quickly.

This attribute is communicable or “transferrable” or “shareable” to us humans because we are made in God’s image and because he graces us with the capacity to receive and practice it.

What do scholars say?

The language of the Old Testament is Hebrew. And patience is expressed in an idiom: ‘erekappyim (14 times) that literally means “long of nose” (!), which is better if we translate it as “slow to anger.” In humans the opposite is hothead or short-fused—explosive. It is easy to see that God too is none of those things. “God’s patience must not be underestimated. Because he is patient with us, he does not treat us as we deserved; thus, we do not perish” (Mounce, p. 501)

In the New Testament, written in Greek, the verb is makrothumeō (10 times), and the noun is makrothumia (14 times). Makro (macro) means long in the sense of time, and thumos is the soul as the seat of feelings and passions, including anger or temper. Another Greek word, much more common, is the noun hypomonē or hupomonē (32 times) and the verb hypomenō or hupomenō (17 times), which literally means to “remain under” something, as in “endure it.” Verb: “Be patient, persevere, endure, be steadfast”; and the noun: “patience, steadfastness, and endurance.” (Mounce, pp. 501-02 and NIDNTT, p. 581).

Those great definitions are mostly about people who have to show patience. But how do the definitions relate to God’s attribute of patience?

Quick definition:

This attribute or perfection of God means that he is filled with moral steadfastness despite opposition and forbearance despite provocation, which prompts him not to act hastily or impetuously, but to withhold his just anger and judgment, and to wait a long time for humans to receive his salvation and walk in his ways.

Quicker definition: He is willing to wait for us to catch up to his moral law and show mercy and not judgment, despite our provoking him and breaking his law.

Now let’s turn to the Scriptures.

What do the Scriptures say?

I use the NIV here. If you would like to see the following verses in many translations or in their contexts, please go to

While Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, the Israelites worshiped a false god. In his holy justice, he was about to eliminate them. Moses intervened and asked God to show him his glory. God relented and showed Moses a part of his glory and spoke these words:

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  (Ex. 34:6-7)

The key phrase in the above passage is “slow to anger.” These verses have the same phrase: Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15, 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2; Nah. 1:3

In this passage, the psalmist uses the same phrase, but expands on what God’s forgiveness looks like:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:8-10)

Jeremiah was suffering persecution from his political enemies. He wanted God—not him—to avenge him for their injustice. The key word is “longsuffering” or “long allowance”:

Lord, you understand;
remember me and care for me.
Avenge me on my persecutors.
You are long-suffering—do not take me away;
think of how I suffer reproach for your sake. (Jer. 15:15)

It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance, but his kindness cannot be presumed on. The key word is patience (makrothumia):

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Rom. 2:4)

In this verse Paul refers to the Pharaoh who oppressed God’s people with injustice and slavery. God had to act and judge the Pharaoh, but God was very patient before rendered his verdict. The key word is patience (makrothumia):

What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? (Rom. 9:22)

Do you ever wonder why the Old Testament was written? There are many reasons, but here is one that encourages the individual reader. The key word appears twice: endurance (hypomonē). Verse 5 literally says, the “God of endurance,” so clearly he possesses this attribute:

 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had. (Rom. 15:4-6)

One of the virtues in the fruit (singular) of the Spirit is patience or forbearance (makrothymia), so the Spirit must have it if he produces it in us.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:22)

In Paul’s personal testimony of his life before Christ and after him, he says that Christ displayed his immense patience (makrothumeō) towards him:

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.  (1 Tim. 1:16)

Christ is said to possess perseverance (hupomonē), which he gives to us:

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. (2 Thess. 3:5)

God waited patiently—a long time—(makrothumeō) for people to repent in the time of Noah:

To those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.  (1 Pet. 3:20)

God is patient (makrothumeō) with us for a purpose. What is it?

 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9)

What does the Lord’s patience (makrothumia) mean?

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation…. (2 Pet. 3:15)

He patiently waits for us finally to get saved, to respond to his call to salvation.

How can I get to know God more deeply?

The attribute or perfection of patience means that God gently works with slow, sin-sick, blind humans to get them to be the best they can be, as they journey along in life. He knows they stumble and fall, but he kindly lifts them up and waits for them.

Think of a parent waiting for a toddler as the boy walks along on the sidewalk, haltingly, distractingly. The parent holds out his hand and encourages him: “Come on. Come.” The toddler might respond instantly and take the parent’s hand or go his own way. And sometimes the parent may have to run after him, if he is about to dart out in to traffic. God is patient with us in the same way.

Most of the verses in the New Testament about patience are directed at humans. We are the ones who are called to be patient. Do we have to do it in our own strength? No. He gives the Spirit to live inside us.

Here is the key verse again, and the word forbearance could be translated “patience”:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:22)

And as we walk in him, we see patience grow in us. It grows naturally-supernaturally. We don’t have to struggle and strive. One key to the verse is self-control. Just stay within yourself and be at peace. It is now clear that all the virtues of the fruit need to grow, and then patience gets easier.

Life in the Spirit is the highlight of the Renewalist’s daily routine—or it should be. Walk in him; meditate on him and Jesus—all as God give you grace.


What a Divine Attribute Is

Do I Really Know God? He Is Self-Existent

Do I Really Know God? He Is Unchanging and Consistent

Do I Really Know God? He Is Simple

Do I Really Know God? He Is Eternal

Do I Really Know God? He Is Infinite and Personal

Do I Really Know God? He Is Spirit

Do I Really Know God? He Is Invisible

Do I Really Know God? He Is Omniscient

Do I Really Know God? He Is Everywhere

Do I Really Know God? He Is Omnipotent

Do I Really Know God? He Is Wise

Do I Really Know God? He Is Truth

Do I Really Know God? He Is Good

Do I Really Know God? He Is Compassionate and Merciful

Do I Really Know God? He Is Love

Do I Really Know God? He Is Gracious

Do I Really Know God? He Is Patient

Do I Really Know God? He Is the God of Peace

Do I Really Know God? He Is Holy

Do I Really Know God? He Is Righteous and Just

Do I Really Know God? He Shows Wrath

Do I Really Know God? He Is Jealous

Do I Really Know God? He Is Sovereign and Free

Do I Really Know God? He Is Blessed

Do I Really Know God? He Is Perfect

Do I Really Know God? He Is Majestic

Do I Really Know God? He Is Beautiful

Do I Really Know God? He Is Glorious


Works Cited

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