Articles - Backlist
The long nose of God
Rev. Mark Tay
23 January 2015
In his article, Dr. Miles Van Pelt commented that “the long nose of God” is indeed a unique description of God. I would like to summarize his article and share it with you. God reveals himself to us in the Scriptures through His mighty works: His creation (Gen. 1:1-23; Isa. 45:6) and His salvation (Exod. 14; Isa. 43:1).
He also reveals himself through the ascriptions given to Him. Moses ascribed to God such attributes as “majestic in holiness” and “awesome in glory” in his victory song (Exod. 15:11).
But the most remarkable way we learn about God is through the way He describes Himself. Among the many divine self-descriptions, we discover a very unique one. God describes Himself as having a “long nose” which is first found in Exodus 34:6, ‘The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”’ What is translated as ”slow of anger” in English is the Hebrew expression, “long of nose”.
This Hebrew idiom was used of someone who was patient or slow to anger. “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Prov. 14:29 ESV). On the other hand, an impatient or quick-tempered person is described as short of nose (Prov. 14:17), much like the modern English idioms “hot head” or “short fuse”.
What is the theological significance of “God’s long nose” for all of us?
Because God is patient, His people do not perish. How many times have we read in the Pentateuch that God is patient? (Num. 14:11, 18-23).
Because God is “long nose” He has not treated us as we deserve. In II Peter 3:15, we are encouraged to “Count the patience of our Lord as salvation.” This fact ought to fill us with gratitude and love for our longsuffering God.
Another important significance for us is that God is not only “patient” but He also wants to produce His character in us. To fulfil this promise, God sends His Spirit to dwell in us so that He could produce the fruit of patience in us (Gal. 5:11, 23). This longsuffering is the translation of the Greek, “???????????” which is made up of two words. The first “macro” means slow and “thumos” means wrath. So it means “to be of long wrath.” The idea is about “anger management” and about “having a slow fuse”.
Here we have a tremendous and practical implication for us. How many of us could say that we have never lost our temper or that we have always been cool under trying circumstances? In fact, we all have struggled with this area of our lives all the time. Knowing that God is patient with us will keep us from despair especially when we have tried but failed miserably. We should not give up but learn to yield the control of our life to Him so that He could do His transforming work in us. Let this stanza of “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee,” be our daily prayer:
“Teach me Thy patience! still with Thee
In closer, dearer company,
In work that keeps faith sweet and strong,
In trust that triumphs over wrong.”
Rev. Mark Tay