Put Up With Them
Acts 13:18 (ESV) – And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness.
My parents did a lot of “putting up” with me. So did my teachers. My ball coaches did too. And while I’m listing out qualified people for claiming the title of “putting up” with me, my wife wins the award. Most people understand what it means to put up with people. But do we stop to consider that God has put up with us more than anyone. If He didn’t, we wouldn’t even have our existence at this moment.
Our passage today reminds us of this reality. We read in Acts 13:18, “And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness.” This text is in the middle of a sermon Paul is giving on his first missionary journey in Gentile territory. He recounted the history of God’s promises and work in the people of Israel through the Old Testament. He mentions the exodus out of Egypt and then makes the statement that is our verse today.
The passage not only recounts the wilderness years, but highlights God’s patience with Israel. They were stiff-necked and rebellious. But He continued sustaining them, feeding them, and protecting them from more powerful nations. God put up with the unbelief from the people. This reflects the patience of God. It shows His mercy and grace. He is long-suffering with His people, because if He wasn’t, who could stand?
How long has God “put up” with you? How long-suffering has He been toward your own rebellion, hard-headedness, and slowness to believe? The example Paul recounts in his sermon to the Jews and Gentiles gathered is an important aspect of knowing God. He puts up with us. Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean He excuses our sins or looks the other way during our rebellion. He punished the people in the wilderness who didn’t trust His command to enter the promised land by waiting for all of them to die before leading them into it.
God’s patience isn’t a liberty for our rebellion. Just the opposite. God’s patience should lead us to repent and obey.
Reflection & Journal:
- Why does the phrase “put up with them” reflect God’s character?
- What does this mean practically? Does this excuse rebellion?
- How has God put up with you? What sort of response should today’s passage elicit from us?
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