II Kings 13:23 describes God’s treatment of the people of Israel who had rebelled against Him for years. It says that “YHWH was gracious to them … and would not destroy them or cast them from His presence until now.” There is an important lesson in those last two words, “until now.”
God had been very gracious to Israel. He had not treated them as they deserved as they rebelled against Him and compromised His word for generations. But His grace and patience do not last forever. The writer says that God didn’t destroy them “until now.” So it finally DID happen. This teaches us that there is a limit with God’s grace and patience, and Israel pushed it. He DID eventually destroy them, and cast them from His presence, after their prolonged and repeated rebellion. He gave them multiple opportunities to repent, and had not punished them as they should have been. But they did not receive God’s grace the way it was intended. It did not cause them to repent and turn to Him. So eventually His judgment did fall upon them.
The same thing will be true in God’s dealings with us. Just as the Psalm says, He is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger … He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:8-10) But Psalm 103:9 also says: “He will not always strive with us, nor will he keep His anger forever.” If after much grace and forbearance on God’s part, we do not repent and return to Him, we will be judged, just as Israel was.
No one knows just when God’s patience will run out; which is why we should never take His grace for granted. For this reason II Corinthians 6:2 says “NOW is the acceptable time; TODAY is the day of salvation.” We need to realize that there WILL come a day for each person or group of people of which it will be said, that God was gracious — “UNTIL NOW”!