Imitate the Patience of Jehovah
“Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, . . . but he is patient.”—2 PETER 3:9.
1. What incomparable gift has Jehovah offered humans?
JEHOVAH has offered us something that no one else can offer. It is something immensely appealing and precious, yet it can be neither purchased nor earned. What he offers is the gift of everlasting life—for most of us, endless life on a paradise earth. (John 3:16) What a delight that will be! Gone will be the things that cause so much sorrow—strife, violence, poverty, crime, sickness, and even death. People will live in perfect peace and unity under the loving rule of God’s Kingdom. How we yearn for that Paradise!—Isaiah 9:6, 7; Revelation 21:4, 5.
2. Why has Jehovah not yet removed Satan’s system of things?
2 Jehovah too looks forward to the time when he will establish Paradise on earth. After all, he is a lover of righteousness and justice. (Psalm 33:5) It gives him no pleasure to gaze upon a world indifferent or hostile to his righteous principles, a world that spurns his authority and abuses his people. Yet, there are good reasons why he has not yet acted to remove Satan’s wicked system of things. Those reasons have to do with moral issues involving his sovereignty. In settling these issues, Jehovah displays a particularly appealing quality, a quality that many today lack—patience.
3. (a) What is the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words translated “patience” in the Bible? (b) What questions will we now consider?
3 There is a Greek word that in the New World Translation is three times rendered “patience.” It literally means “longness of spirit” and thus is frequently rendered “long-suffering” and once “exercising of patience.” Inherent in both the Greek and Hebrew words for “patience” is the thought of forbearance and slowness to anger. How does Jehovah’s patience benefit us? What lessons are to be learned from the patience and endurance of Jehovah and of his faithful servants? How do we know that Jehovah’s patience is not limitless? Let us see.
Consider Jehovah’s Patience
4. Concerning Jehovah’s patience, what did the apostle Peter write?
4 Concerning Jehovah’s patience, the apostle Peter wrote: “Let this one fact not be escaping your notice, beloved ones, that one day is with Jehovah as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8, 9) Please notice two points expressed here that can help us to understand Jehovah’s patience.
5. How does Jehovah’s view of time affect his actions?
5 The first point is that Jehovah does not view time as we do. To the One who lives forever, a thousand years are as one day. He is not restrained or pressured by time, but he is not slow in acting. Possessing limitless wisdom, Jehovah knows precisely the best time to act for the benefit of all concerned, and he patiently waits for that time to come. However, we should not conclude that Jehovah is insensitive to any suffering that his servants may experience in the meantime. He is a God of “tender compassion,” the personification of love. (Luke 1:78; 1 John 4:8) He is able to undo, completely and permanently, any harm that this temporary permission of suffering might have caused.—Psalm 37:10.
6. What should we not conclude about God, and why?
6 It is, of course, not easy to wait for something that one yearns for. (Proverbs 13:12) Thus, when people do not swiftly fulfill their promises, others may conclude that they do not intend to do so. How unwise it would be to think that of God! If we mistake God’s patience for slowness, the passing of time can easily cause us to give way to doubt and discouragement, and we risk becoming spiritually drowsy. Even worse, we might be misled by those whom Peter earlier warned against—ridiculers, those without faith. Such ones mockingly say: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.”—2 Peter 3:4.
7. How is Jehovah’s patience related to his desire that people repent?
7 A second point that we can draw from Peter’s words is that Jehovah is patient because he desires all to attain to repentance. Those who stubbornly refuse to turn back from their bad ways face execution at the hand of Jehovah. However, God finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked one. Rather, he delights to see people repent, turn back from their bad ways, and keep living. (Ezekiel 33:11) Consequently, he is exercising patience and is having the good news declared in all the earth so that people may have every opportunity to live.
8. How is God’s patience seen in his dealings with the nation of Israel?
8 The patience of God is also seen in his dealings with the ancient nation of Israel. For centuries, he put up with their disobedience. By means of his prophets, time and again he urged them: “Turn back from your bad ways and keep my commandments, my statutes, according to all the law that I commanded your forefathers and that I have sent to you by means of my servants the prophets.” What was the result? Regrettably, the people “did not listen.”—2 Kings 17:13, 14.
9. How did Jesus’ patience mirror that of his Father?
9 Finally, Jehovah sent his Son, who tirelessly appealed to the Jews to become reconciled to God. Jesus’ patience perfectly mirrored that of his Father. With full knowledge that he was soon to be put to death, Jesus lamented: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it.” (Matthew 23:37) These poignant words are not those of a stern judge who is eager to punish someone but those of a loving friend who is patient with people. Jesus, like his Father in heaven, wanted the people to repent and escape adverse judgment. Some did respond favorably to the warnings of Jesus and escaped the terrible judgment that came upon Jerusalem in 70 C.E.—Luke 21:20-22.
10. In what way has the patience of God benefited us?
10 Is not the patience of God something to marvel at? In spite of the magnitude of human disobedience, Jehovah has allowed each one of us, along with millions of other people, the opportunity to come to know him and to embrace the hope of salvation. “Consider the patience of our Lord as salvation,” wrote Peter to fellow Christians. (2 Peter 3:15) Are we not grateful that Jehovah’s patience has opened the way to salvation for us? Do we not pray that Jehovah may continue to be patient with us as we serve him day by day?—Matthew 6:12.
11. What will an understanding of Jehovah’s patience move us to do?
11 When we understand why Jehovah is patient, we are helped to wait patiently for the salvation he will bring, never concluding that he is slow in fulfilling his promises. (Lamentations 3:26) While we continue to pray for God’s Kingdom to come, we trust that God knows the best time to answer that prayer. Further, we are moved to imitate Jehovah by showing godly patience in our dealings with our brothers and with those to whom we preach. We too do not desire any to be destroyed but would like to see them repent and share our hope of everlasting life.—1 Timothy 2:3, 4.
Consider the Patience of the Prophets
12, 13. In line with James 5:10, how did the prophet Isaiah successfully exercise patience?
12 By considering the patience of Jehovah, we are helped both to appreciate and to cultivate that quality. It is not easy for imperfect humans to cultivate patience, but it can be done. We learn from God’s servants of old. The disciple James wrote: “Brothers, take as a pattern of the suffering of evil and the exercising of patience the prophets, who spoke in the name of Jehovah.” (James 5:10) It is comforting and encouraging to know that others have successfully faced what we have to face.
13 The prophet Isaiah, for example, certainly needed patience in his assignment. Jehovah said as much by telling him: “Go, and you must say to this people, ‘Hear again and again, O men, but do not understand; and see again and again, but do not get any knowledge.’ Make the heart of this people unreceptive, and make their very ears unresponsive, and paste their very eyes together, that they may not see with their eyes and with their ears they may not hear, and that their own heart may not understand and that they may not actually turn back and get healing for themselves.” (Isaiah 6:9, 10) Despite the unresponsiveness of the people, Isaiah patiently declared Jehovah’s warning messages for no less than 46 years! In like manner, patience will help us to endure in our work of preaching the good news, even though many are unreceptive.
14, 15. What helped Jeremiah to cope with adversities and discouragement?
14 Of course, as the prophets carried out their ministry, they had to cope with more than unresponsiveness; they suffered evil. Jeremiah was put in stocks, imprisoned in “the house of fetters,” and thrown into a cistern. (Jeremiah 20:2; 37:15; 38:6) He suffered this abuse at the hands of the very people whom he wished to help. Yet, Jeremiah did not become bitter, nor did he retaliate. He patiently endured for decades.
15 Persecution and ridicule did not silence Jeremiah, and they do not silence us today. Of course, we may feel discouraged at times. Jeremiah felt discouraged. “The word of Jehovah became for me a cause for reproach and for jeering all day long,” he wrote. “And I said: ‘I am not going to make mention of him, and I shall speak no more in his name.’” What happened then? Did Jeremiah stop preaching? He continued: “In my heart [the word of God] proved to be like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I got tired of holding in, and I was unable to endure it.” (Jeremiah 20:8, 9) Notice that when he focused on the ridicule of the people, he lost his joy. When he turned his attention to the beauty and importance of the message itself, his joy was rekindled. Moreover, Jehovah was with Jeremiah “like a terrible mighty one,” strengthening him to proclaim the word of God with zeal and boldness.—Jeremiah 20:11.
16. How can we maintain joy in our work of preaching the good news?
16 Did the prophet Jeremiah find joy in his work? Absolutely! He said to Jehovah: “Your words were found, and I proceeded to eat them; and your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart; for your name has been called upon me, O Jehovah.” (Jeremiah 15:16) Jeremiah rejoiced in his privilege of representing the true God and preaching his word. We too can rejoice. What is more, we rejoice, as do the angels in heaven, that worldwide so many accept the Kingdom message, repent, and get on the road to everlasting life.—Luke 15:10.
“The Endurance of Job”
17, 18. In what way did Job endure, and what was the outcome?
17 After commenting about the prophets of old, the disciple James wrote: “You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.” (James 5:11) The Greek word here translated “endurance” has a meaning similar to that of the word James used in the preceding verse for “patience.” Pointing out the difference between the two words, one scholar wrote: “The former is patience when persons abuse us, the latter is brave perseverance under things that distress us.”
18 Job experienced profound distress. He suffered financial ruin, the loss of his children, and a painful disease. He also grappled with false charges that Jehovah was punishing him. Job did not suffer in silence; he lamented his situation and even implied that he was more righteous than God. (Job 35:2) However, he never lost faith, nor did he break his integrity. He did not curse God as Satan said he would. (Job 1:11, 21) The outcome? Jehovah “blessed the end of Job afterward more than his beginning.” (Job 42:12) Jehovah restored Job’s health, doubled his wealth, and blessed him with a full, happy life with his loved ones. Job’s faithful endurance also enabled him to understand Jehovah more fully.
19. What do we learn from the patient endurance of Job?
19 What do we learn from the patient endurance of Job? Like Job, we may suffer sickness or other hardships. We may not fully understand why Jehovah allows us to undergo a particular trial. Yet, of this we may be sure: If we remain faithful, we will be blessed. Jehovah without fail rewards those earnestly seeking him. (Hebrews 11:6) Jesus said: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”—Matthew 10:22; 24:13.
“Jehovah’s Day Will Come”
20. Why can we be certain that Jehovah’s day will come?
20 Though Jehovah is patient, he is also just and will not forever tolerate wickedness. There are limits to his patience. Wrote Peter: “[God] did not hold back from punishing an ancient world.” While Noah and his family were preserved alive, that ungodly world was deluged with water. Jehovah also brought judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah, reducing them to ashes. These judgments set “a pattern for ungodly persons of things to come.” Of this, we may be certain: “Jehovah’s day will come.”—2 Peter 2:5, 6; 3:10.
21. How might we demonstrate our patience and endurance, and what subject will we consider in the next article?
21 Let us, then, imitate the patience of Jehovah by assisting others to attain to repentance so that they might be saved. Let us also imitate the prophets by patiently declaring the good news despite the unresponsiveness of those to whom we preach. Further, we can be sure that Jehovah will bless us richly if, like Job, we endure trials and maintain integrity. There is every reason to rejoice in our ministry when we note how Jehovah’s rich blessing has been on the efforts of his people to preach the good news throughout all the earth. This we shall see in the next article.
Do You Remember?
• Why does Jehovah show patience?
• What do we learn from the patience of the prophets?
• How did Job display endurance, and what was the outcome?
• How do we know that Jehovah’s patience is not without limits?
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Jesus’ patience perfectly mirrored that of his Father
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How did Jehovah reward Jeremiah’s patience?
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How did Jehovah reward Job’s endurance?