God is Good
I struggle with depression. One of its symptoms is mental fatigue. There are times when I am beyond thought yet negative thoughts crowd in. Often in these situations and others less intense I’ll rehearse in my mind, ‘God is good’. It is an affirmation of faith that can help lift my spirits and displace the dark thoughts.
Perhaps the most fundamental truth about God he would have us know is that he is good. God’s goodness is an axiom of the Judea-Christian faith. Jesus said to those who questioned him, ‘Why do you call me good, no one is good but One, that is, God’. (Mark 10:18). It was a truth he assumed they knew. God is not only good, he alone is good. Divine goodness not only sits in vivid contrast with human sin, it transcends every other goodness. It is unique in its glory. Furthermore, he is not simply abstractly good, he is actively good. He is good in all he does.
God is good in his trinity.
God the Father is good. As Father, God demonstrates his goodness in the many gifts he bestows, especially the gift of making us his children.
- “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” 1 John 3:1
- “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11.
- Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” James 1:17.
- “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’. Lk 12:32
God the Son demonstrates his goodness by healing the oppressed and other acts of mercy.
- How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38, emphasis added).
God the Holy Spirit is God’s good gift to, among other things, teach God’s people.
- You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst. Nehemiah 9:20
- Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness. Psalm 143:10
God the Father, Son and Spirit work selflessly and in harmony for the good of the creation.
God’s goodness in creation
God’s goodness is stamped on history from its beginning. His goodness is witnessed in creation by the repeated verdict on his creative acts ‘and it was good’. Finally, when the work of creation is complete’ we read, ‘and God saw everything he had made and behold it was very good’. Creation is a witness to the goodness of God. Moreover it is an continuous witness as each day the sun rises upon the righteous and unrighteous alike. The cycle of the seasons testify to God’s faithfulness as Creator. The Psalmist testifies,
- The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:9
- He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. Psalm 33:5
Moses and the goodness of God.
When God revealed himself to Moses at Sinai, or revealed the passing trail of his glory, it was a the divine goodness Moses saw. At Sinai God entered into a covenant with Israel. He would be their God and they would be his people.
The setting of this remarkable promise is significant. In Genesis, no sooner were Adam and Eve identified as God’s image bearers and those with whom he wished to fellowship than they sinned. Thee context of God’s self revelation is Israel’s fall. Recently redeemed from Egypt and called to be God’s people they build a golden calf and make it their god. Moses was on Sinai receiving the tablets of stone that contained the heart of the covenant. Yet, while the tablets were still hot from the finger of God, Israel was breaking the covenant on the plain below by worshipping the golden calf (Ex 31,32).. While they should have been giving their gold to make a tent for the Lord they were using it to make a golden calf. The significance of the event cannot be understated. By rights the covenant curses ought to fall on the nation. God was incandescent with fury. Had he come among them they would have been consumed. He could not bear their presence. He told Moses he would start afresh and make from him a nation. He told Moses he would have the nation escorted to Canaan but he would not go with them; he would no longer be their God; God was threatening to annul the covenant. The situation was dire. The nation was told by God to wait while he decided their fate. The outlook seems bleak.
Then God relented!
Why? Partly because of the interceding of Moses and the covenants he made with their forefathers. Yet there was a deeper reason. It lay in God’s name and nature.
It was in this context that Moses requested to see God’s glory and God agreed. He would see the glory of Yahweh (the LORD) the covenant God of Israel. We read in Ex 33, 34
Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”…
The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped
It was a significant revelation. Who is Israel’s God? Who is Yahweh, the Lord, the self-existing sovereign God? What is he like in himself? What is his character? God’s self-revelation to Moses tells us. Yahweh is good and his goodness is refracted in the qualities of mercy, grace, patience, abounding steadfast love and faithfulness. Yet his goodness is not without moral impulse. His goodness demands that he judge the guilty. Yet even here, for his people, his mercy triumphs over judgement. There may be consequences but there won’t be condemnation.
The answer to Israel’s guilt was resolved. God will be merciful. He will be merciful not because the covenant demanded it; it didn’t. Nor because Moses offered to be blotted out of his book of life on their behalf; he wasn’t. He will be merciful because mercy lies at the heart of who he is. He will be merciful because he is sovereign and may will to be merciful if he so pleases. The covenant demanded curses but the heart of the Lord called out for mercy. It is his will to be merciful, revealed so vividly in Israel, that has brought God’s salvation to all men (Roms 9-11). Sovereign goodness has acted in grace. Grace is God’s goodness where sin is present. Love is divine goodness expressed in commitment to relationship. Titus writes,
- For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people… (Tit 2)
- But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3)
And so at the beginning of their relationship with Yahweh Israel learned the was good and what this goodness looked like. Again and again the godly in Israel delight in his goodness. When David sinned he preferred to fall into the hands of God rather than man – he knew who was more merciful. Repeatedly. in the OT, the goodness of the Lord is celebrated.
- Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5
- Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men! You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues. Psalm 31:19-20
- Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting. Psalm 100:4-5
- Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! Psalm 31:19
- Hear me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good; turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies. Psalm 69:16
- They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness. Psalm 145:7
It is his goodness that gives confidence of salvation
- Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord! Psalm 25:6-7
Awareness of his goodness sustains his people.
- The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him. Nahum 1:7
- I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13
- Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me. all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD. forever. Ps 23:8
- Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you. Psalm 16:1
His people recognise that all his ways with them are good.
- 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Roms 8:28
- As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, Gen 50:20
- For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. Jeremiah 28: 11-12
- For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11
- And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. Hebs 12:5-10
- Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. 11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. 12 Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. 13 Righteousness will go before him. and make his footsteps a way. Ps 85:10-13
- As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. Ps 103:13
God’s goodness redeemed hearts wants to share. He is good to those who seek him.
- I will meditate on the glorious splendour of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works. Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, and I will declare Your greatness. They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, and shall sing of Your righteousness. Psalm 145:5-7
- Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8
- Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. Psalm 107:8-9
- Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. Psalm 25:8,9
- The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lam 3:25,26
The goodness of God is something his people seek to learn.
- You are good, and do good; teach me Your statutes. Psalm 119:68
But what of those in the world who die of drought or famine? What of those who experience unimaginable suffering? Some people seem to suffer disproportionately and horrifically. Often, of course, suffering is the result of man’s inhumanity to man but not always. In any case why does God permit human atrocity? In the Bible, Job is a character who suffers disproportionately. In a matter of days he loses his wealth, his family and his health. How does the goodness of God square with such personal catastrophe?
There are probably two main answers that may be given to this; a short one and a long one.
The short one arises in the book of Job. In his great suffering Job cries out in his grief to God. Indeed his cry is almost an accusation. He calls God to give account for his suffering. His suffering is unjust. God’s answer is salutary. We read in Chs 40,41
And the LORD said to Job: 2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” … Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 8 Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? 9 Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?
God’s answer is based on his greatness. When we put God in the dock he quickly reminds us that he is God and we are but creatures, What right have we to question God about what he does? It is temerity that is dangerous. We are clay and he is the Potter (Roms 9:19-21). This is a perspective that faith accepts but defiant human pride resists. When Job truly saw God he realised how foolish and ill-judged his questions were.
If the short answer focuses on God’s greatness the longer answer reveals God’s goodness.
The longer answer is the whole Bible story. It is the story of a good creation despoiled by human rebellion and ultimately restored by grace. Biblical history is the record of grace. Piece by piece God puts in place his grace plan to be merciful to the world (Roms 11:32). He chose Abraham and through him Israel and through Israel Jesus that his gospel of grace may go out into all the world. It is a story not without cost to God. Throughout the OT Israel frequently suffered and loving them as he did God suffered with them: in all their afflictions he was afflicted. Yet his afflictions run much deeper. He identified with suffering humanity in a yet more profound way. His self-giving goodness brought his deity into humanity. God became a man. It was an act of profound self-humbling.
We ask, where is the goodness of God in this sorry world? The goodness of God is incarnate in a man dying in agony on a Roman cross, with every bone on fire, consumed by pain and suffused by shame that he might reach out in a kaleidoscope of love, grace, righteousness and forgiveness to people like us. On the cross, in Jesus, God embraced our suffering and bore our sin that we may be forgiven and God’s own goodness may be birthed in our hearts.
At the cross divine goodness was creating a people who would partake of his goodness and be fitted for a new heavens and earth where goodness would be at home. The cross is the foundation for this renewal.
- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor 5:17
- His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire 1 Pet 1:3,4
- For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Tit 2:11-14
- He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. Roms 2:6-10
- Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 1 Jn 3:11
- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control Gals 5:22,23
- Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. Psalm 142:10
- He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you. but to do justice, and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God? Mic 3:5
- but hospitable, a lover of good(ness), self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. Tit 1:8
God’s goodness gives us confidence that he will forgive our sins and the sins of others.
- Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord! Psalm 25:6,7
- And rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Joel 2:13
- For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in loving kindness to all who call upon You. Psalm 86:5
However divine goodness will not permit persistent defiant refusal of mercy. Divine goodness not only forgives it judges righteously. Paul speaks of the goodness and severity of God (Roms 11:22). Goodness repulsed is expressed in severity. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He is patient not willing that any should perish. But a time comes when divine patience runs out. A day of reckoning arrives. Then the righteousness that saves becomes the righteousness that judges; the God who longs to bless becomes the God who curses.
- The Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. Psalm 92:15
- 7 But the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, 8 and he judges the world with righteousness. he judges the peoples with uprightness. Psalm 9:7,8
- Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. Roms 12:22
The goodness of God will ultimately triumph
- For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Jas 2:13
- Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days. Hosea 3:5
Toplady grasped grasped something of God’s goodness.
A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on,
My person and offering to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view
The work which His goodness began,
The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is yea and amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Not all things below nor above
Can make Him His purpose forego,
Or sever my soul from His love.
My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains
In marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven.