Comforting, encouraging words and phrases surrounded and permeated me as I looked up Bible verses about God’s goodness and how he expresses it and how we experience it.
mercy, compassion, refuge, unfailing love
upright, forgiving, caring, providing
Good has become a weak word in English vocabulary, almost as scrawny as nice or fine. How’s your hamburger? Good…but I wish it were a T-bone steak. How are you feeling? Good…except for my intermittently throbbing ankle. How was the writers’ conference? Good…but I didn’t connect with a publisher who wants to give me a $100,000 advance.
The way I hear good being used, it generally means not horrible.
When the biblical authors wrote about God using good and goodness, they meant, “God loves you so overwhelmingly much that he wants to provide everything you need and tenderly care for you forever.”
If there had been punctuation in biblical times, they would have added a kazillion exclamation points.
God told Moses, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD [YHWH], in your presence.” (Exodus 33:19, NIV) Then when God caused his goodness to pass in front of Moses, God spoke these words, “The Lord, the Lord [YHWH, YHWH], the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6 – 7, NIV)
This is one of many places where God says, “This is what my goodness is all about.”
So I’m reading along, basking in the goodness, when I run smack into Mark 10:18, with Jesus responding to someone who respectfully called him good. “Why do you call me good?…No one is good—except God alone.”
Here’s what hit me alongside the head this morning:
God is the template for goodness. If I want to be good—and I do, and scripture commands it—God’s character and behavior created the model. I (and I suspect many other Christians) tend to define goodness in terms of keeping the rules, not sinning any of the big ones. But God expands the definition of goodness, and his word catalogs its features in hundreds of passages.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children. Ephesians 5:1, NIV