THE GOODNESS OF GOD
Every new day gives us reason for expressing our gratitude to God who has made possible all things worth having in this life and the life to come. People may respond to the goodness of God in various ways, but Romans 2:4 tells us that the goodness of God leads us to repentance.
In Psalm 107, the psalmist expresses some very beautiful and meaningful thoughts that ought to remind us of the goodness of God and what our response to that goodness should be.
GIVE THANKS TO GOD - VERSE 1
"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."
This Psalm begins with an admonition to all to give thanks to God. Why? Because He is good. God is the very essence of goodness and love (1 John 4:8), and His goodness prompted Him to extend His mercy to us in the most beautiful and meaningful way possible, the gift of His Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). It was the total goodness of God that caused Him to love you and me when we were totally unlovable. It was this perfect goodness that caused the God of heaven to give up His only begotten Son that we might have access to abundant life (John 10:10), now and forevermore.
Surely, we would say with the Psalmist, "Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."
LET THE REDEEMED SAY SO - VERSE 2
"Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy"
The second verse calls upon those who have experienced God's goodness to make known that goodness to others. God's people (Christians), the redeemed should appreciate the goodness of God above all others on this earth.
The world doesn't appreciate the goodness of God. Those who are living their own lives, going their own way, living as they please, do not appreciate the goodness of God that brought salvation down from heaven. We know this because they have not responded to that goodness. They have not shown their appreciation and understanding of God's goodness in the only meaningful way possible, and that is obedience to His will. But we who are Christians, above all others, should appreciate the goodness of Almighty God, and as verse 2 admonishes, we should tell others about His goodness. "Let the redeemed of the LORD say so." Yet, the redeemed of Yahweh, those who know the truth, often say less about God's goodness than those who have followed the traditions and teachings of men. How much gratitude should be generated in a heart that realizes it was without hope before Jesus Christ came to this earth? Christians, above all others, should praise God for His deliverance from sin and Satan, our greatest of all enemies.
WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US - VERSES 3-7
What has God done for us? How has His goodness been shown? In verses 3-7 we see a figurative description of what God has done for us spiritually as Christians. It is speaking of the nation of Israel, which is a type of the church. It is a figurative expression of our plight before we were brought together in the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18). WE were those wanders. WE were those in that desolate way. WE were those who found no city in which to dwell. WE were those whose souls hungered and thirsted and fainted because there was no hope. Yet, "....they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses." WE have cried out to the LORD by our obedience to the gospel and have been delivered (cf. Romans 10:14 ff; Acts 22:16).
The crying out to the LORD reminds me of the beatitude which says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4). This beatitude depicts the state of those who mourn over their sins, who realize their lost condition and the fact that they are hopeless and who see no way of deliverance. Yet, there is blessedness. Blessedness, because for those who mourn over their sins there is comfort, there is solace, there is security, there is salvation through Jesus Christ because God is good, and through His goodness he sent Jesus to die for our sins and to deliver us from our hopeless condition.
Yes, God has provided deliverance from our sins through Jesus Christ, but that was just the beginning. He further says, "And he led them forth by the right way..." Not only has God delivered us from sin, but now He leads us. We don't have to wander aimlessly. Jeremiah stated the helplessness of man without God's direction when he said, "It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). There are absolutely millions of people who are still seeking to direct their own steps or to go their own way. But one cannot know which way to go apart from the goodness of God. It is the goodness of God that delivers us from sin and gives us direction in our lives. We now have goals, heavenly aspirations. We know where we are going, we know why we are here, and we know from whence we have come. We know everything we need to know to be peaceful, satisfied and comforted in this life because we are led by the will of God. The goodness of God has done this for us. It has delivered us from sin as we wandered aimlessly, and it has brought us together as one in the body of Christ, and now leads us in the right way.
But for what purpose? "...that they might go to a city for a dwelling place." This is speaking of heaven. Heaven is where our citizenship is (Philippians 3:20), where our aspirations lie (Hebrews 11:10), and where our hope is attached (Colossians 1:5). And it is so because of the goodness of God. The world cannot do this for us. It cannot give us hope or direction. It cannot free us from sin and Satan. But the goodness of God through Jesus Christ can and did. And it can lead us to that heavenly city.
MEN MUST GIVE THANKS TO GOD FOR HIS GOODNESS - VERSE 8
After the Psalmist spoke of the deliverance that God provided, is it any wonder then that he calls on men to give thanks to the LORD for His goodness? The words in this verse are repeated more than once in this great chapter. It is interesting to note that in the verses that follow verses 8 and 15, we have explanations of why we should praise God. Verse 9 says, "For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness." The goodness of God leads to goodness in men. Any true goodness in this world is because of the goodness of God. The good done in this world is done through the influence of God and righteousness. Certainly, that's true of the Christian, and how we ought to appreciate that we can be good because of the goodness of God. His goodness leads to goodness in us.
His goodness leads to a satisfaction of the longing soul that hungers and thirsts, and again we are reminded of one of the great beatitudes in Matthew 5. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). Thanks be to God that we can be filled through His goodness! Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. It is only in and through obedience to Jesus Christ that our hunger and thirst for righteousness can be satisfied, and that is because of the goodness of God.
There is no way for a person to be truly good outside of Christ. Oh, one may do beneficial things for others. He may be generous and give every dime he has for all sorts of good causes. But no matter how much good is done, if it is done outside of Christ, it is all for nothing in the final analysis (cf. 1 Corinthians 13). Only the goodness of God which leads to true goodness in those who follow Him can satisfy the longing soul. So, the Psalmist says we ought to be thankful to Yahweh that the longing within can be satisfied in and through Jesus Christ because of the goodness of God.
The expression in verse 8 is a worthy desire for the world, i.e. that all might recognize the goodness of God and respond to it in loving obedience. This gives us one reason for thanking God. The goodness of God leads to goodness in men. Oh that men would give thanks to Yahweh for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!
In verse 15, the psalmist repeats his desire that all men respond to God's goodness with thanksgiving. Then in verse 16, we are given another reason for thanking God for His goodness: "For He has broken the gates of bronze, and cut the bars of iron in two." This is figurative language reminding us of the promise of God to forgive all of our sins. He has broken down the brass gates and cut through the iron bars that were holding us in bondage to sin. We were behind the prison gates peering through the bars of sin. Now we have freedom, liberty and full forgiveness because God's goodness has provided a way to escape. We can start a new life, cleansed by the blood of Christ -- justified, made whole, washed as white as snow.
The same is true for the erring child of God who has wandered from the right way when he comes home. There is that same absolute and full forgiveness where there is repentance, confession and prayer as God has outlined (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9). That very fact in itself should prompt us to repent. Again, the goodness of God leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
God has made forgiveness possible, regardless of our past and regardless of how we may have viewed ourselves in the past. Through God and Jesus Christ all things are made new. We are truly a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In verse 21, we see the same phrase as in verse 8. Then in verse 22, we see a logical response to the goodness of God. "...Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing." What is the natural result when one truly comes to understand and appreciate the goodness of God? It is to make sacrifices of thanksgiving and to declare God's works with rejoicing. No one has to force a person to worship God, to study the Bible, to teach others, to do good or to live a faithful Christian life, when that person has come to an understanding of the matchless goodness of God. The logical result of that recognition is the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
This gets back to the very motive for serving in the first place. Isn't that what the psalmist is saying, as well as many other writers of the both the Old and New Testaments? Real joy comes from cheerful, loving service. Service that is based upon a recognition of the goodness of God.
Let us sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving and declare His works with rejoicing every day we live. Not only in worship, but by the kind of lives that we live and by the words that we speak in every area of life (Romans 12:1).
Finally, verse 31 repeats the same expression as verse 8. Then that verse is followed with a further logical response of reflecting upon God's goodness: "Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, and praise Him in the company of the elders." (verse 32). It is interesting that each time the expression in verse 31 is used, it is in the context of Israel sinning, then experiencing trouble because of their sin, and then God delivering them out of their trouble and distress. We need to recognize the deliverance of God in our lives as Christians. The figure of speech that precedes in verse 29 is the figure of the sailor on the sea: "He calms the storm, so that its waves are still." The storm rages, and yet God calms the storm and saves his life. And when the sailor returns to shore, he is not ashamed to praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!
If anyone recognizes the deliverance of God in his life and what God has done for him, it should be the child of God. Not just for the initial forgiveness of sins, but the continual blessings in Christ both spiritual and material. God has promised that He will see to our needs in both areas of life. Jesus said, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?" (Matthew 6:25). We don't have to worry about food, drink, or what we will wear. If we "put first things first", God will take care of us. Jesus promised, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:33). To seek the kingdom first is to put the church first. To seek His righteousness first, is to put obeying His will and pleasing Him as the number one priority in our lives.
And when God provides us those things we have need of what should we do? "exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, and praise Him in the company of the elders." Our lives should be that which expresses praise and gratitude among God's people.
The Psalmist summarizes it well in verse 43: "Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the loving kindness of Yahweh." If we are wise, we will look for the goodness of God. We will look for it every day, and we will find it because it is there. The world does not see God's goodness because it does not look for it. But the child of God should look for it, anticipate it, expect it, and be grateful for it as he lives a faithful life before God and his fellow man, and the result will be that he will understand God's loving kindness.
DO NOT USE GOD'S GOODNESS AS AN EXCUSE TO DO EVIL
Ironically, some have such a distorted view of God, that they actually use His goodness as an excuse to do wrong. There are those who will say things like, "God is such a good God, such a loving and merciful God, that I don't believe He would condemn me, though I may not be living a faithful life." "I can't believe God will condemn those who are sincerely wrong. I can't believe this because God is so good."
That's the whole point of this lesson. God is good, but His goodness should prompt us to study His word so as to know how to please Him, and then determine to live in harmony with His will. We cannot disobey Him while claiming His goodness. His goodness is what motivates us to live to please Him. How foolish it is to think that we can disobey God because He is good. Paul wrote, "Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off." (Romans 11:22). We need to learn to know God. Paul makes clear that He is good to those who continue in His goodness (who obey His will). He is severe toward those who fall (sin).
Yes, God is good. He is the very essence of goodness. But there is more to God's nature than just goodness, and His goodness cannot excuse disobedience and rebellion. This is so because God, who is the very essence of goodness, is also the very essence of justice. That's why Paul said, "Therefore consider" both "the goodness AND severity of God."
Is it unfair and unreasonable for God in His great goodness and mercy to require us to be obedient and faithful? Of course not. The blessings are manifold indeed for those who, being aware of both His goodness and severity, will render initial obedience to God and who will continue to thank Him for His goodness by their obedient lives.
If you are not a Christian, you have not responded to the greatest motivation to make you a child of God. That motivation is not fear, horror or dread. It is simply goodness, the matchless, perfect, goodness of God. That goodness prompted God to send His Son to die on the cross for you and me, even though we are not worthy of that great sacrifice. Yet, He did it. And because He did it, all that remains for us is to respond to that goodness by believing that Jesus is the Son of God (John 8:24; Mark 16:16), repenting of (turning from) our sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30-31; Acts 2:38), confessing Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10), and being buried with Him in baptism for the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 6:3-4; Acts 2:38). It is in baptism that His blood cleanses us from every sin. From the waters of baptism we rise to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4), completely forgiven with the "gates of bronze broken" and "the bars of iron cut in two."
Full forgiveness and a heart filled with gratitude for that forgiveness will cause us to live in such a way as to be led by the teaching of God in the Bible and to be led toward that wonderful city to dwell in which awaits the righteous - heaven.
What greater motivation could be given?!
If you have lost sight of this as a Christian, if you have left the way and have wandered back into the world, will you not allow that same motivation, the goodness of God, cause you to come home to your first love? Isn't it time to get back in the right way and to seek the forgiveness you so greatly need?
For those who are faithful to God, may His goodness ever remind us there is so much to praise Him for and to be thankful to Him for. We should spend every waking moment living for Him, loving Him, and doing all that we can to lead others into the way of salvation.