6 – Introducing Goodness
said to the LORD, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no
good thing." (Psa
What we mean by Goodness
God's Goodness Generally Proclaimed in the Bible
God's Goodness Declared in Detail after the Exile
Imagining Love and Goodness in Action
Looking at the Bible aware of God's true characteristics
Heart of Chapter 6: The
Bible is uniform in declaring that God is a God of goodness.
As with 'love' when we realise that we then need to look at
all that happens in the Bible and see it in that light. Goodness,
we will see, is an expression of real love.
What we mean by ‘Goodness'
we are still in the introduction phase, there is another concept which,
although very different from ‘love', deserves our attention. It is
the concept of God being good and, yes, I realise
there will be strong objections to this from those who criticise the
actions of God in the Bible and who have only a little, selective
knowledge of the Bible, but it is precisely because of those objections
that I need to set this consideration before us. We will indeed, in
later chapters, consider how some of the things we find in the Old
Testament ‘fit' this description of God being ‘good', especially when
seen in the light of some of the dramatic events of the Old Testament.
dictionary defines ‘good' as “having
suitable or desirable qualities; promoting health, welfare or happiness;
benevolent, not troublesome” and goes on to give reams
more uses of ‘good.' ‘Good' signifies in our thinking something
that is pleasant, something positive that we are happy with.
to bring this description to God does cut right across the accusations
of the twenty-first century crusading atheists, so what does the Bible
specifically say about God and goodness.
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God's Goodness Generally Proclaimed in the Bible
|We find this declaration
– that God is good – appearing a number of times in the Old Testament
is Good" - check the references
“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he”
was Moses' declaration, and all of that description
could be summed up in, “He is good!”
Everything that God thinks, says
and does IS good.
reminded himself of
this truth when he needed lifting up:
“according to your love remember me, for you are good,
and see that the LORD is good”
are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love
to all who call to you.”
are good, and what you do is good”
“Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good”
refrain also cropped up a number of times in other Psalms (e.g.
Psa 106:1, 107:1, 118:1,29, 136:1).
David brought the ark into Jerusalem,
the song (psalm) he composed spoke of God in a variety of positive
ways and in one line he declared, “Give
thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures
forever.” (1 Chron 16:4).
Solomon finished the temple, they sang of the Lord
this same single refrain, "He
is good; his love endures forever."
(2 Chron 5:13). When they sacrificed and fire came down to
consume it, at the dedication of the Temple,
again they sang this single refrain of the Lord, "He
is good; his love endures forever." (2
Chron 7:3). This was not wishful thinking, but a declaration of what
they knew through experience to be the truth.
Jeremiah (before the Exile) prophesied restoration
after the Exile, one of the signs of it would be that this refrain
would be heard again: “there will
be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride
and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings
to the house of the LORD, saying, "Give thanks to the LORD Almighty,
for the LORD is good; his love endures forever.”
Zerubbabel laid the foundations of the new temple,
after the Exile, this refrain was yet again used – as a direct
fulfilment of Jeremiah's prophecy, "He
is good; his love to Israel
the midst of his terrible prophecies of judgment, Nahum
declared, “The LORD is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.” (Nahum 1:7).
is also a truth that was reiterated in the New Testament:
emphasized this when
he replied, “Why do you call me good?"
Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone” (Mk
knew something of this
when he wrote: “now that you have
tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Pet
2:3). It is a truth that is repeated again and again.
result of this was the belief, declared by the apostle James,
that, “Every good and perfect gift
is from above, coming down from the Father” (Jas
– everything that comes from God is good!
this must challenge all casual talk about why does God allow evil,
why isn't God doing something to combat evil? We may not know full
answers this side of heaven but Habakkuk's declaration
in the Old Testament, “Though the
fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though
the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there
are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice
in the LORD ” (Hab 3:17,18) emphasises what he had learnt,
the truth that God is good and can be trusted in the face of adversity!
feel negative when we look at the world around us, at what people
are saying and doing and we realize than sinful mankind is not good,
and we have to agree with David, “apart
from you I have no good thing”.
interestingly, the Lord's own reference to His own goodness comes
before the verses we considered in the previous chapters about His
love. So initially we find the
LORD saying to Moses, "I will
cause all my goodness to pass in front of you,” (Ex
33:19) and when He does pass before Moses we find, “he
passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the
compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and
faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness,
rebellion and sin.” (Ex 34:6,7)
other words, that description we considered at the start of a previous
chapter is summarized as God's goodness. He IS good because He is
all those things.
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God's Goodness declared in Detail after the Exile
the previous chapter we noted briefly at one point that the critic
could say that all the proclamations about God's love were more wishful
thinking or superstitious parroting of phrases, hoping they were true,
and the same could be said about declarations of God's goodness.
the truth is that there is content given to these claims
and we see it no more clearly than in a point of Israel's history
with God that immediately after the Exile.
is Good" - check the content after the Exile
what is chronologically the end of the Old Testament, when Israel
returned to the Promised Land after the Exile in Babylon, we find
Ezra the scribe reading the Law to the returning remnant. They then
pray and declare before the Lord what they know of Him. There is substantial
content to what they say about Him, that gives body to the
claim that He is good.
is a useful summary of the history of the Old Testament period and,
even if a bit lengthy, is worth our close examination. We'll simply
pick up parts of it to highlight what we're saying. You'll find it
in Nehemiah, chapter 9. See what they declare:
Goodness in practical terms of provision
be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and
praise. You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest
heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it,
the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and
the multitudes of heaven worship you.
are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur
of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. You found his heart faithful
to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants
the land (v.7,8)
saw the suffering of our forefathers in Egypt
you heard their cry at the Red
You sent miraculous signs and wonders
came down on Mount
you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws
that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good
gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water
from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land
you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them. (v.15)
God is good because of all of His abundant provision,
not only in Creation but in His dealings with Abraham, and later
with Moses as he delivered Israel
goodness coping with a wayward people in the desert
they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not
obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember
the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and
in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their
slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did
not desert them , even when they cast for themselves an image
of a calf and said, `This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt
or when they committed awful blasphemies. (v.16-18)
Because of your great compassion you did not abandon
them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease
to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night
to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your good Spirit
to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from
their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For
forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked
nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become
brought them into the land
that you told their fathers to enter and possess. Their sons went
in and took possession of the land. …they captured fortified cities
and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds
of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit
trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished;
they revelled in your great goodness.
God is good because of the gracious way He dealt
with wayward Israel after He delivered
them from slavery in Egypt.
goodness coping with a wayward people in the Promised Land
they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they put your law
behind their backs. They killed your prophets, who had admonished
them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies.
So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. But
when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard
them, and in your great compassion you gave them
deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies. "But
as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your
sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that
they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard
from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered
them time after time.
warned them to return to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed
your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, by which a man
will live if he obeys them. Stubbornly they turned their backs on
you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. For many years you
were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them
through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them
over to the neighbouring peoples. But in your great mercy
you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you
are a gracious and merciful God.
all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully,
while we did wrong. (v.33)
while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness
to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them,
they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.(v.35)
God is good because of the gracious way He dealt
with wayward Israel in the centuries they lived
in the Promised Land, right up to and
through the Exile.
we observe from this Passage
Because this was a people who have just come back from exile and are
seeking to enter into a fresh relationship with God, we find a complete
summary-overview of their past history.
At the outset they acknowledge God's goodness in His frequent
provision for them – see v.5-15 – which included:
provision of life at Creation,
choosing Abram to reveal Himself to,
delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt,
provision of the good Law to help them be a special nation,
provision for them in their travels in the desert on the way
to the Promised Land.
They also acknowledge, and remind us of, their waywardness as a nation
down through the centuries – see v.16-35 – In particular they remember
the folly of the nation:
at their earliest encounter with God at Mount Sinai,
their travels in the desert where they ‘grumbled' again and
in refusing the enter the Promised Land, and
turning from God and getting into trouble again and again down
through the centuries of their life as a sovereign nation.