by the Rev. Melanie Dees Campbell
"The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he understands how weak we are: he knows we are only dust." (Psalm 103:13-14)
One of the names of God is Erech Appayim, the one who, because of his goodness and tenderness, is not easily angered, is long suffering. We need to remember this when we've made a mistake by not witnessing to others.
Hebrew for "long-suffering" is an idiomatic expression that literally means "long of nose." Sounds funny doesn't it? The idea though is simple. If God takes a long breath, his anger is delayed. The longer his nose, the longer it takes for him to come to judgment. Fortunately for us, God has a very long nose, our God is good and tender, "He suffers long and is kind." (1 Corinthians 13:4)
The normal Hebrew expression would be "erech af" (singular). God has only one nose --anthropomorphically -- so we would expect a singular noun "af." But that's not what the Scripture says. It says "erech apayim" -- literally long noses. That is not a mistake. The apparent error is actually deliberate noting that God is equally long-suffering with the righteous and with the wicked. He is long-nosed toward both. His long-suffering has a dual character reflecting his personal forbearance toward both. It is part of God's own declaration of his character. God is gracious toward the righteous and the wicked. His attribute of mercy is unlimited. It extends to all, patiently. Jesus Christ/Yeshua HaMachiach died for the sins of all mankind.
The joyful victory of our lives is living in covenant relationship which has but one goal -- to imitate the character of God daily. His character is our standard. We are to emulate his compassion, his graciousness, his goodness, his mercy and his long suffering. Jesus says the same thing. Paul declares imitation as a primary motivation. God looks at the intent of the heart.
Unless we understand the depth of God's own character, how are we going to live our life journey on the right road? Here, in this mixed-up world, we have another hidden exhortation toward holiness. We can practice double-breathing. Our forbearance must extend to the righteous and the wicked in equal measure. If God can breath twice, so must we.
We can only do that by first accepting the Messiah and learning to follow -- obeying -- the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Souls depend on our obedience and our own spiritual maturity is an integral result of obedience. Sometimes when we miss God by not obeying the leading/prompting of the Holy Spirit we have to live with that failure but only temporarily. We have the ability to rise again, take a deep breath and continue.
How do we act toward those who bug us or who are morally repugnant? How do we tolerate those that are different? How we act towards others exemplifies Christ, the Messiah in us. The answer should be that we work at acting the way Jesus would act. We have the opportunity to love the unlovable; praying and readied to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit to minister to those who have not experienced the love of God. Now we get to reconsider all our short-breath reactions and compare the length of God's nose with our own. Chances are we may have some work to do; maybe some repentance/confession to be made. I pray that we may all be the master's long- suffering ambassadors.
"The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail" (Isaiah 58:11)
Blessings and Shalom