The Patience of God

5m | May 5, 2024

“Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Gen 15: 13 – 14).

400 years is a long time. I have problems waiting 20 minutes for an overdue doctor’s appointment but 400 years! God waited that long for His purposes to be completed. Why would God allow His people to be servants (enslaved and oppressed as the CSB puts it) for so many years?

The writer of Genesis tells us a little more in the next couple of verses: “As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (v 15 – 16).

God was not in a rush for the descendants of Abraham (then, Abram) to enter their Promised Land because “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete”. Basically, Abram, your kids and grandkids and great grandkids etc are going have to wait because the Amorites haven’t finished sinning yet! Why would God be content with such a slow-moving timetable?

And what have the Amorites got to do with anything?

The Exodus narrative is a key theme of the Bible. The story of Moses leading God’s people out of enslavement (when the 400 years was eventually up), is told and re-told many times throughout the Scriptures. The Lord often referred to himself as “…the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves (Lev 26: 13).

Centuries later, the prophet Jeremiah reminded God’s people of that truth (in 7: 21) as did Hosea: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos 11: 1).

When Matthew describes the Christmas narrative of Joseph, Mary and their newborn, Jesus, fleeing to Egypt to escape the clutches of a jealous king Herod, and their eventual return to Israel, the same Hosea reference to the Exodus story is quoted, suggesting Jesus as a fulfillment to it.

A grown-up Jesus miraculously met with Moses on the Mount of transfiguration and our Lord eventually became the Passover lamb. The meal before the Exodus evolved into a meal of bread and wine signifying for all time Christ’s death for our sins on the cross.

God seemed shockingly patient with the Amorites as they continued to sin before Him for hundreds of years, whilst His people quietly formed themselves into a nation, waiting for his salvation.

Time ambled on through centuries and millennia, occasionally marking an instant of God’s presence or intervention (e.g. Esther being raised to Queen “at such a time as this” to save God’s people from annihilation), God patience always waiting for the perfect moment for the next step of His plan: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5: 6)

God is infinitely patient because He knows His timing of all things. He sees all the circumstances, knows when the variables will fall into place, and like Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, “…is never late, nor is he early, (but) he arrives precisely when he means to”. 

Audio Player Image
4-minute Devotions - the Podcast