The Goodness Of God Explained
May 24, 2019
There is a common misconception about God, that He changes according to the way we treat Him. This is contrary to the teaching of the Bible. God doesn’t change. God is constant. That’s what makes Him so awesome! Though as people, we constantly go to and fro with our attitudes, ideas, commitments, pursuits, and so forth, those inconsistencies don’t affect God in the slightest. He is not affected by our successes in faith since He is the cause of those successes. He is not affected by the failures in our walk since He knows all things. The whole basis of our salvation stems from the fact that God knows we constantly fail. This means that, if God was good in the beginning, He’s good in the end. The circumstances of our life don’t determine whether God is good or not. Often times we proclaim the goodness of God when life seems to go the way we like, but that doesn’t mean that God ceases to be good when life gets difficult. God is good all of the time. The Bible commands God’s people to remember this truth all of the time as well, lest we become critical of God and profane His name with our attitudes, speech, and actions.
The testimony of Job shows how easy it can be to despise God when life gets hard. Job never cursed God and didn’t walk away from his faith, but there were many things that he said about God that were wrong and offensive against God. Job had allowed the pain of his suffering to consume his mind so that he spoke of God in a way that suggested He wasn’t good anymore. This is common to people. We think God is good when things happen in our life that we consider good. In contrast, we don’t think very highly of God when things happen in life that we don’t like. Like Job, we can grow bitter and discontented with God, so that our “cries and pleas” for help become grumbles and complaints about His goodness. Our self-entitled requests to escape our difficulties often come with the attitude that God has gone too far with the extent of suffering He’s permitted, has forgotten about us altogether, or has broken His promise to keep us close to Him and made us His enemies. When Job spoke about his suffering, he spoke as if he believed all three of these issues were true for him. Job was wrong. Just because Job suffered greatly didn’t mean that the good nature and character of God had changed. Our mood swings aren’t an indication of an identify-shift in God.
Thankfully, God expressed His goodness to Job by sending Elihu to remind Job of the truth. In Job 36:1-7 Elihu made concerted efforts to steer Job’s mind back to the obvious truths about God’s goodness. Elihu had already spoken quite a bit previously, but asked his audience to bear with him just a little longer so that he could remind them about the goodness of God. Elihu explained that there were yet words to speak about God’s goodness, showing that there is never a shortage of things to say about God’s goodness. Elihu wanted to ascribe righteousness to his Maker. He didn’t want to continue speaking to prove that he was right. He wanted to share the knowledge of God to explain why God is right, all of the time, no matter how we feel or what we think. Elihu was going to go deep into his memory and learning to make sure he explained the truth about God’s goodness in a way that was fruitful to restore Job’s thinking back to faithfulness instead of selfishness.
Elihu began with the premise that, though God is mighty He doesn’t despise anyone. This is a profound truth about God, from which it is clear to see that the manifestations of God’s goodness stem from this principle. Elihu had already talked about God’s superior control and providential care. Elihu already established that God is the Most High God; that He is exalted above all things in heaven and on earth. Elihu already reminded Job about the supreme quality of God’s sovereignty, proving that God is indeed, almighty. He is the source of power and ability. In Him is life, and that, more abundantly. Nothing can exist apart from God. He is the means by which we were formed, have life, and continue in it. God is good for this reason alone, but Elihu explained that His goodness is infinitely greater. Consider how the human race has treated God in response to the life that He gives. We have denied God. We have rejected God’s standards of righteousness. We have made false gods and idols and tried to replace God with vain philosophies and ideas. We have neglected God and developed indifference to His eternal purposes and promises in exchange for our corrupted selfish ambitions. Thus, no one is righteous and we all fall short of the glory of God, deserving swift and severe punishment for offending the pure, perfect, and providential Creator of all things.
How does God respond to our depraved nature? Elihu taught that God doesn’t exercise His power and might to utterly destroy us (though He can and would be right to do so). Instead, God doesn’t despise anyone! Though God is so high above us, He does not look down on us with utter contempt so as to cast us off and reject us. King David marveled at this same principle. In Psalm 8 David wrote:
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.” – Psalm 8:3-5
God doesn’t exercise His might to extinguish the human race. God exercised His might to share His authority with the human race. He gave us dominion over the world that He made. He made us a little lower than the angels though we are far weaker and much more pitiful in nature. We are able to receive the glory and honor of God though we are so far beneath Him. This is true of both the faithful and the wicked. God didn’t restrict His authority and dominion only to those who are faithful. History shows that many wicked men have ruled over God’s creation and people. God has given all people a fair chance to receive His goodness in spite of who we are and how we’ve treated Him. We all sin and deserve judgment, but God has not despised mankind to restrict mercy and forgiveness. His mercy endures forever, and God’s forgiveness was provided through His own blood sacrifice on our behalf! Though the wicked are judged in the end, the Lord is faithfully good to reveal His righteousness to all people. We are all conceived in sin, and many terrible people have lived as oppressors and corrupters. Still, consider how many of those people were transformed by God, restored by God, and equipped by God to be instruments of His righteousness unto His glory! Does God despise those who should be despised? No! Instead, He reaches down into the muck and mire we’ve created by our sin to offer an opportunity to be cleansed and blessed in His eternally glorious presence!
That’s just Elihu’s premise. He went on to say that God uses the might of His strength, not just through the power of His hand, but through the conduit of His understanding. God doesn’t immediately reject and despise us, because He understands what we are made of. He understands our physical, mental, and spiritual nature. Thus, God responds to people according to His knowledge of the truth about who we are before He deals with the consequences of our sin. Elihu said that, by this understanding of the deep things of our souls, God does not preserve the wicked. God doesn’t immediately cast off the wicked, but they don’t last very long in this world either. The reigns of the evil kings in Israel’s history prove this concept as true. While many evil people have had influence in this world for moments in time, those moments are just blips on the radar of eternity; and it is in eternity that the wicked are utterly cut off. Still, God is good because He gives the wicked some time to seek His goodness, but when they don’t, He expresses His goodness to cut them off fairly.
Though God is mighty, He doesn’t despise the weak and the oppressed. The world teaches that his planet operates on the principle of “survival of the fittest;” that only the strong survive. As a result, many people with strength have despised those without it, feeling that their association with the weak might bring them to weakness too. God doesn’t think this way. Though He is supremely powerful, He doesn’t cast off the weak and the oppressed. Though God is eternally glorious, He isn’t ashamed of the widows, the orphans, and fatherless. God exercises His power to give justice to those who are oppressed. He might not do it in the manner or time that we recognize, but God responds to all people according to His mercy. Job felt that God had departed from him because of the change in his condition. Job felt that God was ashamed of Job and thus, an enemy of his. Elihu reminded Job that his pitiful condition doesn’t change God’s nature or character. It might have seemed to Job that God was distant, and it was true that God tuned out Job’s whining and complaining, but Elihu reminded Job that God never takes His eyes off of the righteous. God might seem silent, but He is always aware. God might seem non-responsive, but He is always attentive. Though God is supremely mighty, He doesn’t cast His eyes to more pressing matters of more glorious subject. Instead, God keeps His eyes of those who trust in the supremacy of His goodness, no matter how our circumstances seem.
There is evidence of this truth. It is not often, but God has put many faithful people in influential positions, showing that His eyes and mercies are poured out to those who trust Him. God has made weak people kings and priests. God has taken the oppressed and made them strong and powerful as influential leaders throughout history. It’s true that these people are the minority among the total congregation of God’s people, but those who trust in the Lord have been assured an eternal throne with eternal crowns of righteousness formed in the likeness of His own glory. Should the oppressed receive such a reward? Should the weak be exalted in such a way? God doesn’t mock the weak and oppressed by His strength. He shares it by abounding grace unto His glory!
Again, this is just the premise of Elihu’s points about God’s goodness. Yet, the excessive nature of God’s goodness is clearly evident. God doesn’t treat people the way people deserve to be treated. Whether wicked or faithful, God gives everyone a fair chance to receive the benefits of His goodness. He deals justly with all people in the end, and even the final judgments of God are deemed as good on both sides of the spectrum. Since this is true, then how should we respond to God? Should we respond with complaints against Him because life isn’t the way we think it should be? Does that mean God is less good? Then let us praise His goodness, remember that He could despise us as we deserve, but He doesn’t. Let us remember His goodness instead of focusing on our issues.