“And Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. But the Lord was gracious to them, had compassion on them, and regarded them, because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not yet destroy them or cast them from His presence” (2 Kings 13:22-23).
As one reads 2 Kings chapters 13 through 15, it is difficult to keep track of all the different kings that are reigning in the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Both kingdoms, especially Israel, are spiraling down the drain as they depart further and further from God. Other nations (e.g. Syria and Assyria) begin to attack God’s people and take away their land (2 Kings 13:3; 15:19-20, 29). God allowed this to happen because He was angry with His people and hoped that as a result of being oppressed His people would recognize their need for God and turn back to Him and repent of the evil of their ways.
However, what is also striking in these chapters is God’s longsuffering with His people during these dark days. God’s people were conducting themselves very wickedly. They were worshipping idols and treating God just as another god among a long list of ones they worshipped. Yet, although God was angry with them and would allow them to suffer persecution in an effort to draw them back to Himself, God would not “yet” destroy them or cast them from His presence (2 Kings 13:23).
Notice other verses from this section of Scripture and how they speak of God’s longsuffering with His people at this time. After God delivered Israel into the hands of the Syrians, we read, “So Jehoahaz pleaded with the Lord, and the Lord listened to him; for He saw the oppression of Israel, because the king of Syria oppressed them. Then the Lord gave Israel a deliverer, so that they escaped from under the hand of the Syrians; and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents as before” (2 Kings 13:4-5). In addition, later, after Israel had lost much of her land, God prophesied through the prophet Jonah that He would restore the land which he did during the reign of Jereboam the son of Joash even though Jereboam was evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 12:23-25). “For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter; and whether bond or free, there was no helper for Israel. And the Lord did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash” (2 Kings 14:26-27).
God’s longsuffering does not mean that He will not hold those accountable who have sinned, but it does mean that He suffers with His people as He longs for His people to turn back to Him and restore their relationship with Him by repenting of the error of their ways. Sin creates a breech in one’s relationship with God as it causes one to be separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). In His longsuffering with His people, God waits with outstretched arms towards His people longing for them to turn away from their foolishness of their sinful lifestyle and back to His loving arms.
As a child of God I greatly rejoice in God’s longsuffering with me. The apostle Peter certainly understood the longsuffering of God as he recalled how longsuffering Jesus had been with him during His ministry on this earth as Peter made one mistake after another, even to the point of denying He knew the Lord. In my walk with God I know many times I have strayed. God doesn’t give up on me when I stumble and sin. He bears with me with much longsuffering and He stretches out His arms to me reminding me of His love. Today, I will praise God for His longsuffering towards me!
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).