His Patience, Our Salvation - Evan Gear

The careful reader of the Bible, while making their way through 2 Peter, will notice a strange
thing. The apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, adds to Scripture. In chapter 3 verse
8, he loosely quotes (probably from memory) Psalm 90:4, with the Lord one day is as a thousand
and where the Psalmist goes on to write, as a watch in the night, Peter writes instead, and
a thousand years is as a day.

Why the change? What is Peter up to? What does that have to do with Christmas?

Well, where the Psalmist meditates on the wrath of God (see Ps. 90:9), the apostle sets his sight
on the patient mercy of God. In wrath He remembers mercy. As Peter goes on to write (2 Pet.
3:9): The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise, as some of you count slowness, but is patient
toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

What is Christmas but the celebration of God’s remembrance of mercy displayed in such
patience. He withholds wrath and waits. Peter further encourages us that we should count the
patience of our Lord as salvation.
God has no reason to be patient with us. We give Him
abundant cause to unleash His burning anger on our heads on a daily basis, both individually and
communally. This not to mention the atrocities of mankind as a whole throughout our history.
Yet, He waits. The fact that He allows evil in the world is testimony to this patient waiting. In
many ways, this waiting, this allowance of room for evil is unfathomable to us. The reality
troubles us, we find it morally objectionable. It is beyond our grasp, something like the span of a
thousand years. How long oh Lord, the martyrs cry. Why this patient mercy?

Interestingly, I think it is such merciful patience that moves Peter to add his phrase to the Psalm.
As if in answer to the quandary of God’s way he adds, a thousand years is as a day. In a sense,
he says that something beyond human comprehension is, by the Lord, brought right down into
the human sphere. The incomprehensible into the comprehensible. Today. Now. In my life. I,
you, we can understand a day. We can hold it in our understanding as we can hold a baby in our
arms. The ineffable, immutable, incomprehensible God there in a baby lying in a manger. His
patient mercy wrapped in swaddling clothes. His reason for waiting wriggles about on the hay.

It is still a mystery, but it is a mystery that we can touch and hold. He does not erase the long
suffering of the world, but He brings to it peace. In fact, it is that very thing that the angels
pronounce and we sing this time every year: Peace on earth…

Yes, peace on earth and good will to those who find rest and purpose in the patience of God
which is our salvation.

Merry Christmas,
Evan J. Gear