by Martin G. Collins
Quite often we hear people say: "Goodness!" "My goodness!" or "For goodness' sake!" What comes to mind when you hear these expressions? People use these exclamations without any intended meaning other than an expression of surprise or wonder.
Many recognize that goodness is directly or indirectly associated with an attribute of God. According to Webster's New Universal Dictionary, "goodness" is a euphemism for "God." Most people, however, do not realize that using the word "goodness" in a meaningless exclamation reflects on God in an irreverent way and is taking His name in vain (Exodus 20:7). Do we fear to take God's name in vain? Is it possible to fear God's goodness?
In a non-euphemistic sense, the term "goodness" refers to the state or quality of being good, specifically with regard to virtue and excellence. Goodness can be equated to such virtues as kindness, generosity, and benevolence. It also refers to the best part, essence, or valuable element of something. God is the personification of goodness, and He is the standard by which it is determined.
Although goodness is related to kindness, it differs from it in being a more openly active fruit of the Spirit. In this sense, goodness is more often directed toward those who do not deserve benevolence.
There is an aspect of God's goodness that is rarely associated with goodness. As surprising as it may seem, God's goodness can be feared!
In the relatively near future, all of the descendants of ancient Israel will fear God's goodness with respect and reverence. A prophecy in Hosea 3:5 says, "Afterward the children of Israel shall return, seek their God and David their King, and fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days." The Hebrew word for "fear" (pahad) in this verse means "to be afraid, tremble, or stand in awe of," even to the point of shaking in fear. Everything God does is good, but His goodness can be overwhelming, especially when it is obviously undeserved. It may appear harsh at times to a carnal human being because it may force a change of thought and action—a total reversal in lifestyle.
During the Millennium, Gentile nations will fear God's goodness with the realization and understanding that His judgment will come upon all nations. After God's judgment on Israel, resulting in terrible trials through the Tribulation and Day of the Lord, this fear of God's goodness will help bring about repentance and lasting blessings that will flow from the benevolence of God, but which will also require the obedience and submission of the previously rebellious nations. The future of Israel and Judah will be so glorious that the other nations will stand in awe of them and tremble at their greatness. Of this future time Jeremiah was inspired to write:
Then it shall be to Me [God] a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them [Israel]; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it. (Jeremiah 33:9)
Goodness is used in this context to convey the pleasant, joyful, and overwhelmingly positive effect of blessings on the people of Israel after their exile and captivity.
This exile of Israel will eventually result in both a physical and spiritual healing, testifying of God's awesome goodness to a previously rebellious people, who will receive incredible blessings upon repentance. Jeremiah 33:6 says, "Behold, I will bring it [Israel] health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth." The word "health" in this verse is literally "new flesh" in the original Hebrew. Their exile will have a healing effect, and the wounds of Israel will be wrapped in peace and security.
Verse 11 goes on to say:
". . . the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say: 'Praise the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for His mercy endures forever'—and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first," says the Lord.
Good health and healing are gifts from God for repentance, faithfulness, and service (Philippians 2:27-30). Many diseases come upon us as a result of tension and stress. Peace provides the tranquil environment needed for healing of all illnesses—both mental and physical (Philippians 4:7).
Even when God withdraws the "good" of outward prosperity and brings upon us "hardship" in its place, we still reap the benefits of His goodness. It is good for us to be afflicted, to receive correction, when we will benefit from it in the end. Hebrews 12:9-11 explains this in no uncertain terms,
Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Everything that God does is good and for our benefit (Romans 8:28). God's correction is a blessing and should not be complained about. Israelites have always carried the unthankful character trait of complaining. Even though we live in a world of unprecedented prosperity, there is more protesting, complaining, grumbling, moaning, griping, and whining on a global scale than ever before. Our social environment, a result of Satan's sway and our own human nature, has certainly pressured and influenced even God's people to behave the same way.
But should a Christian allow himself to bemoan God's goodness even during a trial? When Job's wife wanted him to curse God for bringing trials upon him, Job expressed the right principle of God's universal goodness and fairness when he rebuked her for grumbling: "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10).
There are times when we may feel like God is not treating us fairly. Job points out that, as God's creations and recipients of His generosity and benevolence, we have no right to complain when He allows us to be afflicted or tests us through hardship.
It is through the richness of God's goodness that we find repentance. In Romans 2:4, the apostle Paul writes, "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" "Goodness" here is from the Greek word chrestotes, which signifies more than goodness as a quality—it is goodness in righteous action, goodness expressing itself in deeds.
God's goodness is closely associated with "kindness." Chrestotes describes the kindlier aspects of goodness. From this we can understand that, through God's kind goodness, He works with us carefully and patiently to bring us to repentance. Sometimes He firmly corrects us if we are especially hardheaded about overcoming a problem, or He may only need to reveal the problem to us. Either way, our powerful but kind God provides His Holy Spirit to help us to overcome.
God Is Good
God Himself is good! It is what He is and what He creates, gives, and commands. Good is defined in terms of "God," not vice versa. God, and God alone, is good without qualification. He is the Judge and the only Standard of goodness (Psalm 100:5). He is good because He is morally perfect, gloriously generous, and the Standard of excellence and righteousness. Every attribute and every action of God is good, producing only good fruit.
The worksof God are good because they reveal His attributes of wisdom and power (Psalm 104:24, 31). Look at how wonderfully organized, beautiful, and pleasant all of God's creation is, and we see only a small portion of His infinite handiwork. God's works are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4), awesome through the excellence of His power (Psalm 66:3), honorable and glorious (Psalm 111:3), and gracious (Psalm 145:17). His creation of the angels and man is good. David was inspired to write, "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well" (Psalm 139:14).
The gifts of God are good because they express His generosity. Psalm 104 rehearses God's creation, and in verse 28, the psalmist was inspired to write, "You open Your hand, they are filled with good." Physically, He provides us with food, water, health, sleep, shelter, and all our needs. Spiritually, He provides us with the Holy Spirit, grace, wisdom, repentance, faith, a new Spirit, peace, rest, and in the future, glory and eternal life. All God's gifts are good, in both intention and effect. The apostle James tells us in James 1:17 that all of God's gifts are good and perfect.
The commands of God are good because they express the righteousness of His character, teaching us (Romans 7:12) and helping us to grow in understanding His goodness. God's goodness is a fearful attribute, but that fear has a positive effect on us when we obey Him because it produces good, spiritual fruit. Those who yield to God's commands profit by it. Paul tells Titus to remind the church: "This is a faithful saying, and these things I want to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men" (Titus 3:8). The right fear of God is accompanied by the trust that God will shower His good works (His acts of righteousness) upon us.
The goodness of God seems harsh to those who are disobedient, but the end result shows God's goodness as having either brought them to repentance or ended their suffering in sin (see Romans 11:22). We can receive the gift of unlimited blessings from God's goodness if we fear and revere our Creator, obeying Him with faithfulness and overcoming our sins with genuine repentance.
This seems like a tall order, but God, who is faithful and true, promises to help us. This, too, is part of His wonderful goodness. Psalm 31:19 enlightens and encourages us, "Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!"