The word “good” means so many things that we must begin with a definition of the word. The word “good” is a general term of approval. It can mean better than average, as in, “He is a good student.” It can mean something which produces favorable results, as in, “It was a good business trip.” It can mean that which is effective or efficient, as in, “A Jeep is good for off road driving.” It can mean that which is genuine or real, as in, “good money.” It can mean something fresh or unspoiled, as in, “good eggs.” It can mean something that is honorable, as in, “having a good name.” It can mean something that is enjoyable or agreeable, as in, “Life is good.” It can mean something which is reliable or dependable, as in, “good advice.” It can mean that which is thorough, as in, “He did a good job.” It can mean that which is adequate, ample, or sufficient, as in, “a good meal.” It can mean that which is morally sound or excellent, virtuous, kind, benevolent, generous, or sympathetic, as in, “He is a good man.”
The Bible reveals that goodness is part of God’s essential nature. I will wait on Your name (in Biblical usage “name” means nature, character, or essence), for it is good (Psalm 52:9). When we say that God is good, it means that which is in the nature and character of God that causes Him to be kind and benevolent. God’s goodness means that He is basically tenderhearted and sympathetic towards His creation; His underlying attitude towards His creatures is one of friendliness. By His very nature He is inclined to bestow blessing and happiness. By His inherent nature He takes pleasure in the happiness of His people. He is good and He does good (Psalm 119:68).
Since the Almighty is immutable, His goodness can never change in the slightest way. He will never be better than He is now, nor will He ever be any less good. In the beginning He made the universe and behold, it was very good. Everything that He does is still very good. Since God is infinite, perfect and eternal, His goodness is boundless and can never cease. Everything that He will ever do will always be good. He has unending goodness in store for us, for He is the High Priest of the good things to come.
Some people assume that God is only good to those who are good to Him, but that is not true. God’s goodness is not restricted to believers – oh no! The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all of His works (Psalm 145:9). Rabbi Paul’s message to the pagans of Lystra was that God did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17). Messiah Yeshua told us that He causes His sun to shine on the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Mt. 5:45).
The goodness of God is foundational for all sound thought about the Most High and is necessary for our moral sanity: If God was not good, there could be no distinction between kindness and cruelty; good could be bad, and bad could be good; heaven could be hell, and hell could be heaven. But since the Lord is good, there is a real moral difference between good and evil, and they are not to be confused. Woe to those who call evil good and good evil because there is a difference (Is. 5:20). Depart from evil and do good (Ps. 34:14) is as good advice now as it was when it was written by King David 3000 years ago.
The goodness of God is revealed in Creation: Every good thing that any creature enjoys in the present, or hopes to enjoy in the future, flows from the inexhaustible river of the goodness of God.Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights(James 1:17). Just as the universe teems with life, it also teems with delights. There are very few things in nature which promote pain for their own sake. On the other hand there are many things that God has designed into His creation expressly for our pleasure. Why did God make a universe filled with delights and enjoyments? Why was man created with the ability to experience pleasure and joy? Because of His goodness. Why is it possible to enjoy music and art? Why did the Lord enable us to enjoy the taste of good food, or the smell of beautiful scent? Why did He make flowers and plants to please our senses, decorate our surroundings, and supply us good to eat? Why did He create trees that are beautiful to look at and useful to build our homes? Why are there colorful stones and jewels and metals that make life more beautiful? Why did God create us with the capacity to have meaningful relationships with others that enrich our lives? Why did God make beautiful women and handsome men that attract us and husbands and wives and families and children that make our lives richer? Because of His goodness.
The goodness of God is revealed in His Word: Why did the Infinite One give us His special communication, the Bible? Why did God send us righteous prophets to instruct us? Why did the Almighty send us good kings like David and Hezekiah? Why did God send us priests and saints, holy men and apostles, pastors and teachers? It is because of His goodness.
The goodness of God is revealed in Redemption: Why didn’t God destroy the world after Adam and Eve sinned? Why has God saved a people in every generation? Why did God take Israel out of Egypt? Why did God give the Jewish people the land of Israel? Why does the Lord accept our repentance and forgive our sins? Because He is good – not because our repentance is so special in and of itself, and not because God is obligated to forgive us. For You Lord are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You (Psalm 86:5). Why does the King of Heaven answer our prayers? Not because He is indebted to us in any way, or because our prayers are so meritorious in and of themselves, but simply because His nature is good.
The goodness of God is revealed most clearly in Messiah Yeshua: God sent His Son into the world to show us ultimate goodness. Yeshua is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). He proclaimed the Good News. He did many good works from the Father. He gave good gifts, He sowed the good seed, and He served the best wine. He made many good promises. Then in an unparalleled act of pure goodness, Messiah sacrificed His endless life and died on a cross. In fact His life and ministry can be summarized by saying that He went about doing good (Acts 10:38). What caused God to become a man? What sent Messiah to die on a cross? What will cause Him to return to earth, and bring unending blessing, prosperity, happiness and bliss to the world? The goodness of God.
How can we know for sure that the unseen infinite God is good? The answer is that God is exactly like Messiah Yeshua. He who has seen Me has seen the Father Messiah Yeshua dared to proclaim. Messiah walked on earth so that He might show us what the Father is like. He came to make God known to a lost race that had all kinds of wrong ideas about Him. From Yeshua we can learn how God acts toward people. The humble and the repentant will find God good and merciful, as they found Yeshua. They will find the Father to be like the father of the prodigal son – gracious, welcoming, delirious with joy – if they come to Him like the prodigal son came to his father. The frightened will find God friendly. To the poor in spirit He will be forgiving. To the ignorant He will be considerate. To the weak He will be gentle. To the stranger He will be hospitable. To those who mourn over their sins, He will be comforting, as was Yeshua. But those who think themselves wise will find out that the All Knowing One is even shrewder. The hypocrites and the insincere, those who honor Him with their lips but whose hearts are far from Him, will find God cold and aloof – as they found Yeshua. Yeshua will always be the friend of sinners, but He will forever oppose the proud and independent. He will not force His friendship upon those who refuse to be friendly with Him.
It is essential to know that God is good: The Fall of mankind has made us fearful to approach God. When Adam and Eve sinned they hid from God, and their children are still hiding from Him. Years of rebellion against the Creator have instilled a fear in us that is not easily overcome. A rebel who has been captured does not enter willingly into the presence of the king that he has long tried to overthrow. Someone who has ignored God for his entire life and who starts to get interested in the Mighty One may wonder, “If I come to God, how will He act toward me? What kind of disposition will He have? Will He be friendly or angry?” The whole outlook of humanity might be changed if we could believe that the God of heaven, even though He is high and lifted up and exalted above the heavens, is eager to be friends with us. The greatness and holiness of God should cause us to fear the Lord, but at the same time His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him.
We must recognize that God is good and that we are not: Most people think that they are pretty good, especially when compared to the next guy. But compared to the infinite goodness that is God, the best of men are not very good at all. There is an infinite distance between the goodness of God and fallen humanity. The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one (Psalm 14:2-3). Yeshua reaffirmed this when He said: no one is good except God alone (Luke 18:19). God is absolutely good. Man is only relatively good to the degree that we conform to the goodness of God. We are evil to the extent that we deviate from the God’s goodness. If we will not admit that He alone is truly good, and we are not, we will never come to Him the way that we should. If we insist on claiming that we are good, we will never experience the totality of His saving goodness.
Why do bad things happen to relatively good people? Sometimes people question the goodness of God when bad things happen, or if they experience a disappointment. They wonder if the Lord is good if He allows evil to exist in the world. But consider this: sin and evil are bad in themselves. The amputation of an arm or leg is bad in itself; but if it is necessary to save a life, it is good. Pain is something bad in itself. But if it warns us not to put our hand in the fire, it serves a good purpose. In a similar way, God is so powerful and so good that He has the ability to use sin and evil to bring about a greater good! Whatever others do to us, even if they mean it for evil, God can turn it around for good (Gen. 50:20). He causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
If evil can be used to bring about a greater good, then it is consistent with the goodness of God to permit sin and evil to exist for a time. Eventually the evil will bow down before the good (Proverbs 14:19), and then all sin and evil will be completely eliminated from the new heavens and the new earth. A universe of pure goodness is the final goal of God’s plans.
Until we reach our final destiny, God will discipline us so that we will not miss that eternity of joy. It was after he was afflicted that King David was able to say: it was good for me that I was afflicted (Psalm 119:71). Whether we are experiencing pleasant or difficult circumstances, we need to have the attitude of Job who said: Shall we indeed accept good from God, and not accept adversity? (Job 2:10). When we suffer we should trust that our Heavenly Father is still good and has our best interests at heart.
In light of God’s goodness, He must become our supreme good: While it is true that the Lord is the source of every good thing that we enjoy, we need to seek Him not only for the good things that He gives us, but because He Himself is the ultimate good. Since the Creator is infinitely better than everything in His creation, we should be willing to give up the lesser good in order to obtain the ultimate good. It only makes sense to develop the attitude that King David displayed when He prayed:Lord, You are my Lord; I have no good beside You (Psalm 16:2). Compared to the Infinite One, everything else in a finite creation should fade into relative insignificance. A man must be willing to sell all that he has in order to buy the field with the hidden treasure. A merchant must be willing to sell all that he has in order to purchase the pearl of great price. We must even be willing to give up our only son, like Abraham did, in order to have the Lord as our God. Like rabbi Paul we need to be able to say from our hearts, whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Messiah. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and I count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Messiah (Phil 3:7-8).
We need to imitate the goodness of God: Like children who grow up by imitating their parents, we are to imitate the goodness of God. Love your enemies Messiah told us, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men (Luke 6:35). Through studying and applying the Word of God, we can have our senses trained to discern good and evil. We can learn to avoid evil, and cling to what is good. By being transformed by Yeshua’s Spirit, we can be equipped for every good work. We can be empowered to do good to all men and bear fruit in every good work.
Do you still have any doubt that God is good? Try Him out! Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). Make your first feeble gestures of doing things His way. Pray to Him. Read His Word. Draw near to Him. You will discover what the Psalmist did when he declared that the nearness of God is my good(Psalm 73:28).
I am indebted to The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer for this article.