Thunder In The Distance (Matthew 16:4)

Photo by Raquel Pedrotti on Unsplash

It is certainly true that God is very great – so much so that we can say with  confidence  that His power, majesty and glory are beyond what out limited minds can comprehend. Job even wrote, “How great is God—beyond our understanding!” Being repeated throughout the Bible, the truth of the greatness of God is one of the motifs of Scripture – and the same is true for His mercy, compassion and love. As David said, “Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great.” “Your compassion is great, O Lord.” “For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” 

The same can be said for all of His character – including His patience. As Paul noted, “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?” 

Yet though it is great, God’s patience, mixed with His great love and mercy and compassion – does reach a conclusion in the face of protracted disobedience. The Scripture plainly teaches us that when the people He made only entertained evil thought and action for generation after generation, the Father purposed to destroy the whole lot of them – saving only obedient Noah and his family. Likewise, Ezekiel tells us that when Israel’s leadership refused to repent time and time again, His presence left them as a people and they were scattered in exile. God’s Spirit leaves individual people too; His Spirit departed from King Saul when Saul refused to obey the Lord in all things, and David begged God not to take His Spirit from him when he committed murder and adultery. 

It is no wonder that God the Son acts the same way. The reader of Matthew’s Gospel sees that by chapter 16, the Pharisees have been harassing Jesus in one form or another since they’ve known about Him. In spite of so many who were healed, delivered and taught, they asked Him for a sign. When He refused (giving them only the sign of Jonah), they ignored His harsh judgment of their behavior and simply waited – while Jesus continued to heal, deliver and teach – and then asked Him again for a sign from heaven. 

At this Jesus has had enough. He again alludes to the sign of Jonah, and then Matthew records, “Jesus then left them and went away.” 

Watching someone who can heal all diseases, deliver from the most horrific of demonic possession and teach the deep things of God so wonderfully walk away ought to have filled the Pharisees with godly sorrow and regret. But there was none of that, because there was nothing godly in them to start with. 

Scripture teaches how the Lord has a lifetime of patience for those who are part of the lineage of the godly, but yet comes to the end of His patience with those who reject Him at the end of that lineage. It is a sobering reminder of the devastating folly of taking God’s patience for granted. And sadly, it is something else the Pharisees failed to take note of, though they claimed to truly know God’s Word.

The primary notion of a responsible being is one blessed with privilege, and able to use or abuse it at will. But men are constituted so as to derive much wisdom from experience, and hence failure in the use of privilege, in a few instances, may possibly create an experience that will constrain to a more careful observance of duty when newly imposed. Life is full of helps to obedience as well as of hindrances. But as time is required for the development of responsibility, so it is obvious that the possession of privilege involves a limit to the period for use or abuse. Government without a reckoning would be no government. Everlasting patience is inconsistent with responsibility attendant on privilege.

Henry D.M.S. Jones


“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.” – King David (from Psalm 2:12)