The Goodness of God
In the gospel of Mark, the Lord Jesus Christ is making his final journey to the city of Jerusalem. In that city He will become the final Passover sacrifice, the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the whole world. 27 On this journey a young man approached Jesus to ask Him a question.
Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher,
What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17-18)
In answer to this question the Lord Jesus said, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God (vs. 18).” Christ makes the bold declaration that only One person is truly good and that is His Father, God. Now, I don’t think that anyone would argue that Jesus Christ was a good man. In fact He was and is the best of men! But the Lord Jesus Christ indicated that if we want to know what is good or who is good, we must begin with God. Only the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one true God, is good.
The Greek word translated “good” 28 refers to what is beautiful, excellent and appropriate in nature; what is supremely, morally honorable in character; and what is valuable, useful and beneficial in action. When we say that our awesome God is good, we are saying that He is beautiful in His nature, morally honourable in His character and beneficial in His actions. All of these ideas come together for us in Psalm 119:68.
You are good, and do good; Teach me Your statutes.
These six words, “You are good, and do good,” sum up our God. He is good. He is all that He should be. He is holy and just and righteous and loving. He always does what is right. He is just and merciful and faithful and kind. He seeks the total well-being of His people.
For You, Lord are good and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You. (Psalm 86:5)
For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:5)
Our great God is good. He is always ready to forgive. His mercy is everlasting. And His truth endures today, tomorrow and forever. The goodness of God, like His holiness, is the foundation for many of His other attributes. His goodness affects His power, wisdom, love, compassion and sense of justice.
In Exodus 33:18, Moses made a bold request of God. He asks, “Please, show me Your glory.” God answered Moses and said, “I will make all My goodness to pass before you (vs. 19).” God promises to show Moses everything that is beautiful, honorable and beneficial about Him. And then in chapter 34, He does.
Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 34:5-7)
When God passed before Moses and proclaimed His goodness, He revealed that He is merciful and gracious. He declared that He forgives and that He is also a just judge against unrepentant sin. God is good and so He manifests the most beautiful, honorable and useful characteristics. All of His moral perfection, and especially God’s desire to forgive sinners and bring them into fellowship with Him, sum up God’s goodness.
Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You. (Psalm 31:19)
Not only is our God good, but His goodness is never mediocre. It is great! He has stored up goodness to share with His people. He has a warehouse full of blessing for those who trust in Him. We have a similar truth set forth in the New Testament letter to the Ephesians.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
The point of this section of Scripture is that God saved us so that He could bestow upon us endless acts of kindness. This is a very poor analogy, but think of God as Santa Claus. He has a huge bag of gifts out of which He is forever revealing wonderful and beautiful and useful blessings for His people! God will never run out of good things for His people because He is rich in grace and rich in goodness.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)
The Hebrew word translated “mercy” would be better translated as “goodness.” It is the same word translated “goodness” in verse 8 and 9.
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. God is good and His goodness endures forever. He does wonderful things and satisfies the deep longings within our souls. The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works. (Psalm 145:8, 9)
The goodness of God can be seen in the fact that He is gracious. He shows good will and kindness to the undeserving. He is full of compassion for those who are hurt or in sorrow or distress. His goodness is seen in His slowness to anger. He has a long fuse and is patient toward those who deserve punishment, giving them time to repent. And His tender mercies are over all His works. He is good and kind in His common grace to all mankind. Acts 14:17 tells us that God “did good” in giving “us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” The Lord Jesus Christ said that our heavenly Father “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45).”
I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth, My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.
I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing. (Psalm 34:1-10)
Here is a Psalm that describes the happiness of those who trust in God who is good. God hears our cries and delivers us from our fears. He saves us out of our troubles and He provides for all of our needs. Philippians 4:19 declares,
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
And James 1:17 says,
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.
Psalm 84:11 proclaims,
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.
It is because of truths like those above that we often think of God’s goodness in terms of physical good gifts. He cares for our present temporal needs. God blesses us with food and water. He puts us in loving families. He gives to His people wisdom, strength and peace. He forgives our sins, and it is right for us to think this way.
But it is wrong for us to think that when we are going through tough times, God is not being good to us! God is always good to His people. But the apex of God’s goodness to us is not in meeting our physical or emotional needs. The pinnacle of God’s goodness to us is in the spiritual gift of our redemption and salvation from the penalty and power of sin. Let me give you an example.
Asaph wrote many of the psalms in the Bible and he was the chief of musicians under king David. One psalm in particular, Psalm 73, describes a time in Asaph’s life when he was going through a great crisis. Asaph believed That health and prosperity, and material blessings, were the sole indicators of God’s goodness. He knew that God was good. But Asaph saw that God’s people often go through times of struggle while the wicked seem to live a life of ease. This troubled him deeply.
The same thing troubles believers today. We tend to think that God is being good to us only when we are healthy, wealthy and free of troubles. Let’s see what used Asaph’s distress and what he eventually learned about God’s goodness.
Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (Psalm 73:1-3)
Asaph understood that God is good and that He does good things. And so he said in general, “Oh, I know that God is good to Israel.” This would be like one of us saying, “Sure, I know in principle that God is good. But He has not been good to me recently! In fact when I compare my life to some of the rank unbelievers out there, it looks like I’ve been cursed and they have been blessed!”
Our song writer was depressed when he looked at the supposed good life of the wicked, while he faced many of life’s struggles. He was so depressed about this that he almost turned his back on his faith (v. 2). So what did Asaph observe in the lives of the wicked?
. . . I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men. Nor are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride serves as their necklace; Violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes bulge with abundance; They have more than heart could wish. (Psalm 73:3-7)
When Asaph looked at the lives of the unbelievers around him they seemed to go through life without any problems. They couldn’t care a dime about God but they seemed happy and content. They had nice homes, new cars, and the most fashionable clothes. They were care-free and had more money than they knew how to spend. They were proud and arrogant and got away with wrong doing. They boasted about their wicked ways and said,
. . . How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High? (vs. 11) All of this greatly troubled Asaph and he cried, Behold these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning. (Psalm 73:13-14)
What is Asaph saying? He is saying, “Look what’s the point of trying to live a godly life? What’s the point of living for God? The wicked have the good life and all I have are troubles. I want out!” Now I know that many of us have felt the same way at one time or another. But there came a turning point in Asaph’s understanding that we can also have in our own understanding. He learned what the good life really is and what the goodness of God is all about.
When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me. Until I went into the sanctuary of God, Then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment. They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awakes, So, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image. (Psalm 73:16-20)
When Asaph went into the sanctuary to read God’s law and to worship God, when he saw the altar and the bloody sacrifice for sins, then he finally understood the good life and the goodness of God. The wicked may live in mansions, but they have no everlasting home in the kingdom of God! They may be laughing now, but they will be wailing in fear before the final judgment of God. The wicked seem to be living a care-free life with no troubles, but they are heading for ultimate destruction. The truly good life is living a life of faith in God. It is having God, His love and fellowship and His gift of everlasting life in His kingdom. Asaph was grieved by his earlier ignorance concerning what is truly good, and describes his sorrow.
Thus my heart was grieved, And I was vexed in my mind. I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For indeed those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works. (Psalm 73:21-28)
Asaph finally learned that God is good and that He had been good to Asaph! In mercy and love, God offers salvation and everlasting life. And it is good to be near God! Nearness to God, fellowship with Him is our highest good. Therefore whatever interferes with our fellowship with God—a new car, a vacation, money, pleasure, the so-called good life—is actually bad for us. And whatever brings us closer to God, even life’s struggles, is good for us. God is good, and He is always working, even in our trials, to bring us closer to Him and to Christ-like maturity.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:28, 29) 29
In all that we experience in life, the joys and the struggles, God is at work for the good of those who love Him and trust Him. And the ultimate good that our God is working toward, is to make us more and more like Jesus Christ. Becoming more like Christ allows us to have ever sweeter fellowship with God. One day we will be fully like Him (1 John 3:1-3).
We tend to think that our ultimate good is for God to spare us from all troubles. He should give us constant happiness, comfort and success, right here and now. We are too often like selfish children who think they know what will make them truly happy. But our good God knows what is best for us. And the best gift was the gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. That is why, when Christ was born the angels declared,
Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men! (Luke 2:14)
Oh, give thanks to the LORD for He is good! (Psalm 107:1)