Why was God so patient and gracious toward Israel in the Old Testament?
God was so patient, merciful and gracious towards Israel in the Old Testament because of the covenant God established with his people, whether the Abrahamic covenant or the Mosaic covenant, through which God committed himself to be the Lord for this people and them to be his people. In the context of this covenant, when the people rebelled against God and broke his commands, the Lord was very merciful towards them because of the covenant. He gave them many chances to repent and return to him. There is a significant incident in Exodus 32 when the people made the golden calf and worshiped it. They said:
These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! (Exodus 32:4, ESV).
When the wrath of the Lord burned hot, and he decided to consume them, Moses at that time was with the Lord on the mountain. God wanted to destroy the people, but Moses implored the Lord for his people. Moses said to the Lord:
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever” (Exodus 32:13, ESV).
Here Moses turned to the covenant, and he reminded the Lord using the covenant he established with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Therefore, the outcome of this prayer is in verse 14:
The Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people (Exodus 32:14, ESV).
The Lord decided to neither consume nor destroy the people because of Moses’ prayer, because Moses turned to the steadfast love of the Lord, the Lord’s glory among the nations, and reminded the Lord of his covenant.