Slow to Anger

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The LORD God . . . long-suffering. Exodus 34:6

Or, as it could be translated, "slow to anger." This is what God is like. Of course, it is not the sum total of what God is like; the passage under consideration lists a number of other attributes as well, including the fact that God will by no means clear the guilty (ver. 7). But God is slow to anger, and we should thank him for it.

The fact that God is slow to anger is the reason why there is mercy for us in Christ and why we are not all in hell today: "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). It is God's long-suffering, his slowness to anger, that leads his people to repentance.

Of course, we can take God's mercy for granted, passing by the opportunities to repent and bringing upon ourselves judgment from God: "Or despisest thou the riches of his [God's] goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Rom. 2:4-5). God's slowness to anger is a reason to run to him in grateful repentance and faith; it is not a reason to neglect him and his overtures of mercy in ungrateful patterns of sin.

However, not only should this attribute of God lead us to thank him for it, but it also ought to be a character attribute of our lives, shouldn't it? Are we not called to be holy, as God is holy? Are we not to imitate our Father in this way? As the apostle Paul put it, you are to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:1-3).

This should begin, of course, in our own families and in our church. Husbands and wives, be slow to anger toward each other. Parents, be slow to anger toward your children. Children, be slow to anger toward your parents. Members of the church, be slow to anger towards each other. Do not impute the worst motives to others. Do not assume the worst. Be aware of your own infirmities and character flaws. Above all, remember the gospel.

God is long-suffering toward his children because of his eternal love toward them, shown in the sacrifice of the Son of God for them, and poured out in their hearts through the ministry of the Holy Sprit. It is exemplified in the fact that God justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). If God has received you into his family on the basis of his own righteousness, on the basis of free and unmerited grace, should you not show the same grace to others? And will this not inevitably show itself in a long-suffering attitude? My friend, quickness to anger and shortness of temper is not a sign of righteousness but a sign that you have forgotten the grace of the gospel and the fact that you are on your way to heaven today because God was slow to anger in spite of all your sins against him.

Today, be like God in this way. Be slow to anger.

By: Jeremiah Bass