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  • Monica DuBois

53. Love is Not Easily Provoked

Photo credit: Katherine Keller

Numbers 14:11 And the Lord said unto Moses, “How long will this people provoke Me? And how long will it be ere they believe Me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?” 14:27, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against Me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.”

I am saddened as I look through the concordance results for the word “provoke” in the Old and New Testaments.

I see us:

A rebellious and thankless peoples. I see the rebellion against a God that is Holy, Just, Jealous, Mighty, Counselor, Wonderful, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Lord of All, The Great I AM, Righteous, The Most High God, Almighty God, and He is so much more to us.

And we are unthankful.

I see God’s Father-heart in His LOVE towards His people. God is not easily provoked. But there are many times He has been provoked in history. He was pushed to anger by His creation. He above all, Who is LOVE, was provoked to anger by His own selfish, thoughtless, unbelieving, doubting people. In the desert He swore that not one of them who were taken out of Egypt would see the promised land. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. He caused The Great Flood. And all through the bible, He uses these examples so we would know His long suffering and patience. It is written and preserved so we can say He is a good God (Psalm 145:9) and Father who is kind to the unthankful and the evil (Luke 6:35) .

Indignation is another word for this "provoking" that the Lord felt. Webster’s explains it this way: The anger of a superior; extreme anger; particularly, the wrath of God against sinful men for the ingratitude and rebellion (2Kings 3). Deuteronomy 29:28; Psalm 69:24; 78:49; 102:10; Zephaniah 3:8; Romans 2:1-11

How can we affect the Almighty like this? How can our thoughts, turned into actions bring that response from a being so multifaceted in brilliance, mercy and LOVE? In 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 We learn what LOVE is. May I take it a step further and say we learn Who LOVE is here. (1 John 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.)

(I substituted LOVE for charity here and changed “her” to His).

LOVE suffereth long, and is kind; LOVE envieth not; LOVE vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not His own, is not easily PROVOKED, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the TRUTH; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. LOVE never faileth…

“Love suffereth long, and is kind” can be explained with this verse: Luke 6:35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

We can see the character of the Father plainly through this verse. He loved us when we were not loveable; which means we were unthankful and evil. His enemies! 1 John 4:19 We love Him, because He first loved us.

God is still good to the just and the unjust: Matthew 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.

He suffers long with us. He is patient beyond what most would consider a reasonable amount of time. He is our example:

Romans 15:5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 6:4-6 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by love unfeigned…

Colossians 1:10-12a That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father…

He really wants us to walk in longsuffering, continuance, and persistence and being kind. He keeps modeling it for us over and over again. He is teaching it to us, line upon line, precept upon precept. Isaiah 28:10-16

Love is longsuffering, Love is kind, Love is not easily provoked.

That’s our God, our heavenly Father. He suffers long with us. He is incredibly patient, in continually enduring until He deems the time is right for His wrath. He is kind in this, He does not repay evil with evil. He repays evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21.) It might feel or seem evil to you at the time, but He promises to work all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

How do you define kindness? Webster’s 1828 says, “disposed to do good to others, and to make them happy by granting their requests, supplying their wants or assisting them in distress; having tenderness or goodness of nature; benevolent; benignant.”

The words benevolent, and benignant are rarely used today. What is benignant anyway? Webster’s simply says “Kind; gracious; favorable.” Benevolent: “having a disposition to do good; possessing love to mankind, and a desire to promote their prosperity and happiness; kind.”

Why are these words disappearing from our language???

We look at the Israelites in the desert for forty years. We judge them and call them names. We think their actions are so dumb!

What?! Why don’t they remember how bad it was in Egypt for them, as a slave nation? Why can’t they remember the massive miracles God worked right in front of their faces to rescue them out of Pharoah’s hands? The Red Sea, the pillar of fire at night for warmth and protection and the pillar of cloud during the day for shade from the harsh sun. The fact that no enemy came after them. The fact that no one’s shoes, or clothing wore out during that time. So many things that are so obvious to us, they took for granted and actually complained about it!

“Oh, the leeks, and onions”! Or “Oh, the meat!”

They could not see God’s loving kindness, and His patience with them as they complained about this or that. They could not remember a thing about who God was as they wandered from place to place on a mission to inherit a promised land. God took them out of captivity, made them His people, and was in the process of blessing them beyond their wildest dreams! And they couldn’t see it. He was going to let them walk into fully furnished homes with fields ready to be harvested, inherit cattle, and own all they could see for God’s sake. Not one of those original people could grasp the blessings to come, not even Moses himself (the exceptions were Joshua and Caleb, because they actually saw the land and its goodness, wealth of fruitfulness. With eyes opened, they listened to God).

And now to picture God looking down at His people. The ones He created and chose, and to hear them murmuring and complaining. And yet He still gave them manna, clean water, quail by the thousands, no disease, no death until He was provoked by them. He still held onto His promises through it all. He fulfilled them eventually but to the next generation. Not the ones He rescued, but to their children. This was kindness, benevolence, God being benignant.

Let’s wrap our heads around this: forty years! Four decades of murmuring and complaining! Four times ten years of God being long suffering, of being kind, feeding them, taking care of them in the desert waiting for them to give Him the glory. They didn’t even want to hear God speak!

And because of Moses, God held back His wrath and was not provoked many times!

Let’s look at how long we each could go without being provoked by unthankful-ness, selfishness, not being appreciated, rebellion, and eventual evil intentions? A week? A month? A year? Five years? Ten years? 40 years? Without being provoked?!

God had displayed long suffering, and kindness. We can trust Him to continue to be long suffering and kind and to not be provoked by our toddler tantrums. God has not changed and will not change (Malachi 3:6; Psalm 102:24-27; Hebrews 1:10-12).

God is able and willing to be our God. He has proved Himself over and over again. He is worthy of all blessing and honor and praises and glory! If we could wrap our minds around this, we would do well. If we could get this perspective from up above and looking down on ourselves! We would be amazed with great wonder at our God’s LOVE for us. His suffering so long while we have our conniption fits over infinitesimal stuff while He looks on and waits with patience, loving-kindness, and pure LOVE. Such a great example of parenting.

This Parent gave us His only Son so we could have a true relationship with Him. With both of them, Father and Son. The Death and Resurrection opened up this possibility for us. Because LOVE Died and rose again for us. Even when we were yet sinners.

Monica DuBois

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1 Comment

Linda Tarkington
Linda Tarkington
Apr 06, 2022

Thanksfor the reminder Monica. Great read. <3

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