We’ve been thinking how the Lord our God is a Trinity of three persons, so that the one God we worship is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And we thought about God’s aseity which means he does not rely on anyone or anything outside of himself for anything. So, he’s completely independent. And we thought about God’s simplicity and how he’s not made up of parts, because what he is by nature and the way that he is are one and the same. So, it’s not that possesses wisdom and power and holiness and justice and goodness and truth, but that he is wisdom and power and holiness and justice and goodness and truth. That’s what he is by nature.
Now, those have been tricky-enough topics for us to understand. So today we’ll think about something which is a lot easier to grasp, but it’s also unfathomable. We’re going to spend our time this evening on God’s goodness. Our church’s Shorter Catechism teaches us that God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his goodness. And when the Catechism refers to God’s goodness, it’s referring to his love and mercy and grace and his patience and to every other way that he expresses his kindness towards us. As I say, it’s easy for us to understand his goodness, because the Bible says so much about it and we rely on God’s goodness every day. However, it’s also unfathomable, because we cannot explain why the Lord our God should show such kindness to sinners like us. What we deserve from him is his wrath and curse, but instead he is good to us and he is good to all.
But before we get to God’s goodness to us, we should note that he is good in the sense that he is worthy of praise. One person is praised for being a good footballer. Another person is praised for being a good pianist. A third person is praised for being a good hairdresser. And so, we admire them for what they can do and we praise them for being excellent. And God is good in the sense that he is excellent, he’s praiseworthy, he’s perfect. Indeed, in Matthew 5:48, the Lord Jesus described our Heavenly Father as perfect; and in the Old Testament we’re told that his works and ways are perfect. And so, God is good in the sense that he is excellent and worthy of our praise. He’s not a bad God, or an inadequate God, but he’s a good God. He’s perfect.
But when we normally think of God’s goodness, we think of his kindness or benevolence toward us. The psalmist in Psalm 8 marvels at God’s care for humans and how he made us a little lower than the angels and crowned us with glory and honour and he has given us dominion over his other creatures. So, he’s been kind to us in the way that he has honoured us. And he’s kind to us in the ways that he provides for us. And so, in Psalm 65 the psalmist praises God for visiting the earth to water it, and for filling the pastures and hills and meadows and valley with flocks and crops. So, he fills our lives with good things to enjoy and, as James tells us, every good thing that we enjoy here on earth has come to us from God.
The psalmist also praises God not only for his kindness to humans, but he also praises God in Psalm 147 for feeding birds and beasts and in Psalm 104 he praises God for watering the trees abundantly. So, he cares not just for humans, but for all of his creation. And his kindness to humans is not restricted to his own people, because in Matthew 5 the Lord Jesus tells us how he makes the sun shine and the rain fall on the just and the unjust. So, the Lord is good to all and his mercy is over all that he has made.
We see his goodness right from the very beginning, because before he made Adam, he planted a garden for Adam to live in, where the plants were good for food and pleasing to the eye. So, he provided Adam with everything he needed; and he even provided him with Eve for companionship. And despite their fall into sin, the Lord has continued to show his goodness to us by sustaining us every day and by providing us with all that we need.
Love, mercy, grace, patience
God’s goodness also includes his steadfast love, which is his loyal love or his covenant love for his people. So, he has bound himself to his people with a promise to be their God and to care for them; and they can count on him always, because of his steadfast love. When Joseph was imprisoned because of Potiphar’s wife, we’re told that the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love so that the keeper of the prison was favourable towards him. When the Israelites were in the wilderness and when they grumbled and complained about the Lord, Moses pleaded with the Lord to pardon their iniquity according to the greatness of his steadfast love. And the Lord, who is gracious and merciful and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, pardoned them. When the Lord promised to give David a dynasty, he promised that he would not take his steadfast love away from David’s son. And years later, when the people had returned from exile and had laid the foundation of the temple, they sang praises to the Lord, saying:
For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures for ever towards Israel.
Though they had turned away from him, he continued to love them with his steadfast love and brought them back from exile. And when Nehemiah prayed to the Lord about Jerusalem, which lay in ruins, he began his prayer to God by appealing to God’s covenant and steadfast love. We’re able to reply on the Lord for help, because he has bound himself to his people with a promise to love us with a steadfast love, which is a never-ending love.
The goodness of God also includes his mercy or compassion which is his kindness to us in our misery. And the Bible makes clear that his mercy is great and it never comes to an end. Just as a father is compassionate to his children, so the Lord is compassionate to those who fear him. Paul regards God as the father of mercies which means he is the source of all mercy; and the Lord Jesus is described as being a merciful high priest, who is able to help us in our weakness. And don’t we see that in the gospels? Time and time again people who were in need came to him, asking for mercy. So, when Blind Bartimaeus heard that the Lord was coming, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.’ And the Lord heard him and called him over and asked Bartimaeus what it was he wanted Jesus to do for him. And the Lord was willing to help Bartimaeus, because our God is merciful.
God’s goodness includes his grace, which, like mercy, refers to God’s kindness towards us. However, whereas his mercy is his kindness to us in our misery, his grace is his kindness to us in our sin and it’s related to his willingness to save us. So, we don’t deserve his kindness because we’re sinners, but because God is gracious, he helps us. So, think of the days before the flood. We’re told in Genesis 6 that God saw how the wickedness of man was great and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made us. And it grieved him to his heart. And so, he was determined to blot us out. But then, wonderfully, it goes on to tell us that Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord. And the word for ‘favour’ is actually the word for grace. It means God looked on Noah with his grace. Noah did not deserve to be spared from the flood, but the Lord was gracious towards him and his family and saved them.
And the Lord continued to reveal his grace to sinners throughout the Old Testament; and we see it especially in the way he chose the people of Israel and he promised to give them the Promised Land. And he chose them, not because they were any better than the other nations, because they too were a sinful and stiff-necked people. But the Lord graciously chose them and he delivered them from Egypt and he promised them life in the Promised Land. They did not deserve it and they could not earn it, but God was gracious to them. And in the New Testament, we read how the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. In Acts 18:27 we read about those who by grace believed the good news. So God graciously worked in their hearts to enable them to believe. And elsewhere in the book of Acts the good news of the gospel is called the grace of God, because the gospel is the good news about how God graciously and freely pardons and accepts sinners through faith in Jesus Christ. And so, though we have all sinned and though we have all fallen short of God’s glory, nevertheless we are justified — pardoned and accepted — freely by God’s grace through the redemption of Christ. We are saved by grace and not by works. That is, we are not saved because of what we have done, but because of God’s kindness to sinners in Christ Jesus.
So, God’s goodness refers to his benevolence to all, and to his steadfast love and to his mercy and to his grace. It also includes his patience. The Lord is slow to anger. Indeed, according to 2 Peter 3:9, he is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. And so, he was patient with Israel, sending them prophets to remind them of his will and to warn them of the judgment to come. He was patient with them for many years before sending them into exile. And he gives every one time to repent, because instead of punishing us immediately for our sins, he puts up with our sins, giving us the opportunity to repent. And the day of judgment has not yet come, because God remains patient with us. And his patience, we’re told in 2 Peter, means salvation. It means salvation for those who respond to the gospel by turning from their sins and trusting in Christ the Saviour.
And when we think of God’s goodness, we should include the way God restrains the Devil. We see this in the book of Job and the way the Lord restricted what Satan could do to Job. And we see it in Revelation 20 where it says that Satan, the great dragon, has been bound. And so, while the Devil is a roaring lion, he’s a roaring lion who is on the end of a chain.
And we see God’s goodness in the way that he enables even unbelievers to do good. So, though sinful men and women hate the Lord and his ways, nevertheless the Lord still enables them to do what God has commanded and to live good and upright lives. And so, because of God’s kindness, they are not as bad as they might have been and we’re able to live in peace, even though we’re surrounded by unbelievers who do not love the Lord or his ways.
And so, we confess that our God is good. He is infinitely good, which means there is no end to his goodness. It is not restricted in any way, because he is not restricted in any way. And he is eternally good, which means he has always been good and he will always be good. His goodness is without beginning and without end, because he is without beginning and without end. And he is unchangeably good. Some days we are kinder than other days, but God’s kindness does not change. His goodness does not change, because he does not change.
So, our God is good. And because of his goodness and love, he sent his Son to save us from our sin and misery. And because of his goodness and love, he promises us everlasting life in his presence. And because of his goodness and love, he’s willing to help us right now in this life whenever we seek him in prayer.
And this is why I said at the beginning that his goodness is unfathomable, because we don’t deserve any good thing from him. We’re sinners who deserve his wrath and curse. So, why would he display his goodness to us? Why would he treat us with love and mercy and grace and patience? It’s not because of anything in us, but it’s entirely because he is good.