As recorded in Numbers and recounted by Asaph in Psalm 78, the forty-year period of Israel’s wilderness wandering with Moses was not filled with many spiritual high points. “How often they provoked Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert! Yes, again and again they tempted God and limited the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power: the day when He redeemed them from the enemy” (vv. 40-42). Israel’s survival in the wilderness can only be explained in one way—”But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away and did not stir up all His wrath; for He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again” (vv. 38-39).
Israel’s history of unfaithfulness repeated itself during the period of the judges. The sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob faced God’s fury and abhorrence when “they tested and provoked the Most High God, and did not keep His testimonies, but turned back and acted unfaithfully like their fathers; they were turned aside like a deceitful bow. For they provoked Him to anger with their high places and moved Him to jealousy with their carved images…He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh…delivered His strength into captivity and His glory into the enemy’s hand…gave His people over to the sword, and was furious with His inheritance…Fire consumed their young men, and their maidens were not given in marriage. Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentations” (vv. 56-64).
Yet, Jehovah remained faithful to His promises made to Abraham (Genesis 12:3, 22:18), Isaac (Genesis 26:4), and Jacob (Genesis 28:14). All nations of the earth would be blessed in them and their seed. Though Jehovah rejected the tent of Joseph and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim (v. 67), He did choose Judah (v. 68) and David (v. 70) for special purposes in His eternally purposed plan of redemption. It is, therefore, of great significance to read on the very first page of the New Testament that the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ records that He is the son of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David (Matthew 1:1-6).
Because of Jehovah’s immense desire that none perish, He was longsuffering with Israel and her many transgressions. He was not slack concerning the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David. Their seed—Jesus—came and the blessings of the gospel are available to all nations, to anyone who will live by obedient faith.
Behold Jehovah’s eternal purpose!
Behold God’s purposeful longsuffering!