Behold Your God: The Goodness of God | Psalm 34:8
Lyndon Azcuna | October 25, 2020
I’m here to share about the goodness of God, one of the attributes that we’re studying, and the verse is Psalm 34:8, “O taste and see that the Lord; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”
The context of this was David fleeing from Saul, and he found his way to the Philistines’ camp. He was in front of Abimelech, and while he was in front of Abimelech he was pretending to be crazy so he wouldn’t be a threat to the Philistines.
During this time away from his people, he was discouraged and so forth, and he was calling us—he’s encouraging us, during these hard times, to call upon the Lord, to invite him into our lives, to experience him. The kind of experience is this, what David is saying; he’s saying to experience the Lord—not only discover him, but enjoy him. Taste and see that this Lord of ours is good, that he provides for us, that he protects us, and that he gives us good things. It’s not only a discovery but also that great experience, and he’s inviting all of us today to have this kind of experience also.
To apply this to our lives today, I want to tell you guys a secret, okay? A secret of the best dessert in Mishawaka. It’s found in Whole Foods. When I first went there, I saw this dessert, I took it; it’s called leche cake. When I first tasted it in my mouth, it was dynamite, it exploded in my mouth.
I was thinking, “You know what? This is really, really good! Where has this been all my life?” I also thought, “Okay, when is the next time I’m going to come here?” We don’t usually go to Whole Foods. Then I also thought about, “Wow, this is really the best compared to what I’ve ever tasted in desserts.”
My hope, brothers and sisters, is that when you experience the goodness of God you will think to yourself, “Wow, how come I didn’t know this before? When is the next time I can go to his word to experience this goodness of my God?” You know what? I’m hoping that when you see that goodness of God and taste it and savor it, all the things of the world will grow strangely dim.
Okay, so let’s go. There are four things that we’re going to learn about the goodness of God, okay?
1. What is the Goodness of God?
2. Where Do We See It?
3. What Are Some Objections?
4. How Should We Respond?
1. What is the Goodness of God?
Alright, here we go. What is the goodness of God? Let’s figure out what it’s not, first.
First, it’s like an illustration of this: The goodness of God is not about God being useful and relatively good. For example, a good lawnmower—all of us have a good lawnmower or snowblower, or a good pizza. When we talk about the goodness of God, God is not good because he’s useful, or he’s not good in comparison to other things. Okay?
Kevin DeYoung said it this way. He said, “Divine goodness is the overflow bounty of God by which he who receives nothing and lacks nothing communicates blessing to his creation and his creatures.” The idea here is God is overflowing with bounty, and God lacks nothing.
When we talk about the word “communicate” here, it talks about his provision, his protection, his care. He’s giving to us.
I’m going to go through the goodness of character of the goodness of God very quickly, but I want you to savor this, because this is foundational to how we respond and how we can trust in God. Okay? This is mouthwatering stuff. In fact, we don’t even know this if you only look at general revelation, God’s reflection of himself in the world, you can only see the power. You have to think deeply about how good is that power connected to my life. But when you open God’s word, you see direct, special revelation of God. So here it is.
Okay, let’s talk about what are the four things about the goodness of God?
(1) Number one, original goodness. This goodness means it’s original goodness. Stephen Charnock said it this way: “God is only originally good, good of himself. All created goodness is a rivulet [it’s like a small stream] from this fountain, but the divine goodness has no spring. God depends upon no other for his goodness, he has it in and of himself. Man has no goodness from himself; God has no goodness outside of himself.”
Think about a wellspring, okay? God is the only source of all goodness. Nothing else has its own goodness; only God does. Think about the spring that’s bubbling with water, and this is the source. God is the source of all goodness.
You can see that in James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” So, originally he’s the source of all goodness.
(2) Number two, perfectly good. Charnock again. “As nothing has an absolute perfect being but God, so nothing has an absolute perfect goodness but God.” If it was a dictionary and there was a definition of goodness, God’s picture should be there. He’s perfectly good.
An analogy is 24-carat gold, right? It’s the purest gold, 99 per cent, they say. God is even better than that.
Or, some of us grew up with Maxwell House coffee; what’s the slogan of Maxwell House? “Good to the last—drop.” “Good to the last drop.” So, this is God. God is good in everything; he’s perfect to the last drop.
The verses that show that are Psalm 25:8, “Good and upright is the Lord,” “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” (Psalm 145:9). So, God is originally good, he’s perfectly good.
(3) Number three, he’s infinitely good. Charnock, one last time: “About this goodness that knows no limit, a goodness as infinite as his essence—not only good, but best; not only good, but goodness itself, the supreme, inconceivable goodness.” Limitless. No bounds. Brimming with goodness.
I don’t know if you know the symbol of infinity is this symbol: ∞ It just keeps on going and keeps on going. Going back to a commercial, what’s that commercial for the Energizer bunny? It keeps on going and going and going. This is God’s goodness to us.
Here’s a verse. Psalm 52:1, “The goodness of God endures continually.”
(4) Okay, so he’s originally good, he’s perfectly good, infinitely good. Number four, unchangingly good. We go to the Shorter Westminster Catechism. It says, “God is Spirit, whose being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.” God’s goodness is unchangeable. It’s not like a father who changes his mood, that you don’t know what is his mood—is he going to be mad or not? We go back to James 1:17, where “every good gift and every perfect is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Wow!
So we see this about our God. Wayne Grudem says, “The goodness of God means that God is the final standard for good and that all that God is and does is worthy of approval.” Okay?
A.W. Pink says, “God is the highest good. God is the only and greatest of all beings, but not only the good and great but also the best.” So, God is not just the greatest being; he is the best being.
If there’s a picture of “best,” the top—you know, everybody always gets—but God is the best.
Okay. Now that we now that God is like a wellspring of goodness, we know that God is like a pure goodness, 24-carat, and he’s “good to the last drop,” and he’s like an Energizer bunny, his goodness keeps on giving to us—when hard times come, do you trust in this goodness? When you sense that God is saying no to you, are you willing to trust that he is good and he has something better for you? When hardship comes, do you depend on the goodness of God to get you out of it, to get us out of it? When you feel like your job is treating you unfairly, can you trust in God’s goodness, that he has a better plan? When you’ve blown it, can you sense and can you trust in God’s goodness to forgive you?
I believe we need to see this, because this is the character of our God that does not change. This is wonderful news for us who are walking by faith.
2. Where Do We See It?
We see the goodness of God in that way. How is it manifested? Well, it’s seen in three areas: in creation, in providence, and in redemption.
(1) First, let’s go to the first one. We heard in the past lesson that God did not create the world because he needed to. Remember? He was full of—not in a negative way, but he was full in himself. Okay? He had a perfect relation with the Trinity; he didn’t need to create. But God, in his goodness, created, and he wanted to communicate this goodness to mankind.
When he created, we see in Genesis six times, “It is good,” “It is good,” “It is good,” and then the seventh day we see him say, “It was very good.” I want to emphasize here that all of God’s creation derives its goodness from the Creator. Okay?
Unfortunately, in Genesis 3, sin came into the world. But even when sin came into the world, we have a beautiful creation. Look how beautiful! You know, fall is one of my favorite times of the year, too, and like you—it’s gorgeous! Even though we’ve sinned, this is a marred image of his creation, it’s still beautiful. God is wonderful in his creation; his goodness still reflects, even in spite of sin.
But take note for a second: God gave us mountains and beaches, God gave us trees and flowers, he gave us the gift of marriage, he gave the ability to reproduce beautiful children, he gave us the moon and the stars as a gift. All of his creation is a gift of his glory and honor and goodness. They point to the goodness of God. They point to the goodness of God.
How long has it been since we thanked God for his goodness in creation? How long has it been? Here are some interesting—someone listed the ten favorite sounds. Listen to this. It just gives us a few minutes to reflect on how great God’s creation is.
A distant train whistle. A mother talking to her new baby. Those are beautiful sounds. Crunching of leaves on an autumn day. Seagulls crying. Absolute silence in the mountains. The crackling of fire on a cold day. A stadium crowd of people singing the national anthem.
I remember awhile back, about ten years ago, we went to the Desiring God conference. A thousand men singing “How Great Thou Art”—that’s a beautiful sound!
A hug from a friend, and one of my favorites, little feet—your children, when they’re still young, running through your house. Those are beautiful sounds.
Guys, there are literally hundreds and thousands of small pleasures that come from the good hand of God, that we can enjoy every day. Amen? Amen, right? How thankful are we for the goodness of God. “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.”
(2) So, in creation; another one is God’s providence. The Heidelberg Catechism says this, “What is providence?” This is the catechism. The question is, “What do you understand by the providence of God?”
“The almighty, ever present power of God whereby, as it were by his hand, he still upholds the heavens and earth with all creatures, and so governs that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty—indeed, all things comes not by chance but by his fatherly hands.” That’s the providence of God.
In spite of the fall, God has not abandoned us. He continues to care for us and provides for us. We can see this in the Bible, you know?
Matthew 6:26-28; it says there, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap...yet your heavenly Father feeds.” And the lilies continue to grow in God’s hands. Every single bird—imagine that—every single bird God controls and has his hand on it.
We can see this in the Bible when Paul was visiting Lystra and Athens. He explained to the people, “This is God.” Listen to the description of Paul about God. “Yet he did not leave himself without a witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful season, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” This is the care of God, the providence.
Then, Acts 17:25, “...nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives all mankind life, breath, and everything.” This is the case of God’s creation, but especially for God’s people.
How many instances in Scripture did God intervene, work in the lives of his people? We see that.
My question for us, a challenge for us, is, Have we affirmed in our hearts that all things come from a good God? Have we affirmed that? You know, we come from a prosperous nation. We all know that. We should have a lot of things to thank God for, if every single thing is from him, right?
(3) Third is redemption, and this is the most beautiful part of God’s goodness. In Colossians 1, we know that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God.” It says there it pleased God to have all his fullness dwell in him. Jesus is the goodness of God in the flesh, okay? Jesus is the goodness of God in the flesh. He demonstrated God’s desire to pour our his blessing in deliverance to all of us, and he does it in these three ways.
Very quickly here, Jesus took the judgment that our sin deserves upon himself. We know that. Romans 5:8: “And God demonstrates his own love for us...while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He took our place. That atoning sacrifice. This is the great part about our redemption that God has given us.
Secondly—this is very fascinating—Jesus includes a thousand other things in the gift of himself. Listen to this verse. He did not even “spare his own Son, but offered him up for us all, how will he not also with him grant us everything?” What is that “everything”? That must be a thousand things!
There’s Ephesians 8:9, “To me, though I am the least of the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” It includes a thousand other things, this redemption that God has given us.
Okay, and then last but not least, Jesus unlocks God’s goodness towards us in a new way. Listen to this verse that I’m sure you’ve heard many times here: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are yes in Christ.” Whatever those new promises, I think we’ll begin to discover those as we get to see him deeper and deeper.
The climax of God’s goodness is seen in the gospel, by the Father sending his Son as an atonement for our sin, and making us his children. This is the climax. This is the peak of his goodness towards us. Amen? That’s wonderful! Wonderful news!
If we receive Christ, this is something that we just need to begin to see and taste. You know, we’re just beginning to see and taste that here, but in all eternity I think we’re going to experience that more and more.
Have you connected the redemption of God to his goodness? I encourage you to put those two together, and I pray that it will boil up in your heart some joy and praise.
3. What Are Some Objections?
Okay, these are wonderful truths. They’re very encouraging, and I hope they are encouraging to you. But I know, because we’re all human, we have struggles. We’re in the flesh; we have these struggles that we’re still facing. So, what are some objections to God’s goodness?
Before I start, I want to say that this is not a message on the problem of evil. I’m going to leave that to the big boys. That’s the biggest challenge in Christianity, the problem of evil. But this is not that sermon, okay?
But I’m sure you and I have struggled with the goodness of God. I’m sure you and I have questioned in our minds, “If God really loves me, why has he allowed this thing to happen to me?” Right? “Why do I have cancer?” “Why is my child suffering?” “Why did my spouse leave me or has been taken away from me?” “Why is there evil in this world?” Right?
I’m just going to go through this very quickly, and before I go through this, studying church history and the Bible, there’s a bucket that can catch all these issues. I leave this bucket with you, because this is a deeper issue in our lives. You know, the tendency is for people to focus on their experience, other than the revelation of God. So, I want to give these three buckets that you can catch all the issues of life that are big questions. The three buckets are this (this is helping, it’s not really directly an answer)...
Job 38-42. You know the story of Job 38-42. Job goes through these trials, and he asks God, and all this, and God never answers why he sent those things into Job’s life. He never answered them. But in Job 38-42, God questions him. Instead of answering, he questions him. “Where were you when I divided the land and the sea? Where were you when I put the stars in place?” He goes throughout the four chapters, just sharing who he is.
Then Job said in the end, “I repent.” Job never got the answer that he wanted, but God shows his greatness. I think it’s the idea that, “Job, you don’t understand. As far as the heavens are above the earth, so are my ways from you.” I tell my kids, “You’re like a little glass and I’m trying to put the ocean in you.” You can’t.
That’s one way. Another way is seeing what Christ did on the cross. This is important, because even though we don’t understand evil, God paid a great sacrifice to cover that evil. He was sending his Son. If you see the greatness of the sacrifice, you can understand the greatness of the evil.
Last but not least, you see God in his word that he protects, he provides, he orchestrates, he does all these things. I’m just saying these four things; I hope they will help you. Isaiah 55:9, again, “As high as the heavens, so are my ways different from you.”
Okay, so I’m going to go through three questions that people usually ask about the goodness of God, okay? As an objection.
Number one, God withholds his goodness. It seems like it’s unfair. Number two, God’s punishment and retribution—why is he punishing people? Number three, why is there suffering in the world? Let me go through these.
(1) You’ve heard people say (or you’ve even said), “What about the unequal—it seems like, Lord, you’re giving those people more, and you’re not giving me that much,” or, “There’s an unequal distribution of your goodness.”
I want to say this as a counter to that: First, God’s goodness is given to us according to grace, not according to merit. This is not a consumer transaction. “I do this, you do this.” No, God is giving his grace to us! Okay?
You can see this in Matthew 20:25. It’s like the master of the house. Listen to this. Jesus said, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” That’s very interesting.
Also, how can we really see how God is distributing his goodness across the world? How do we really see everything? We don’t see everything that God’s doing.
An illustration of this: Once in awhile my children call me unfair. I have six kids; I’ve gone through this. They say I’ve been unfair, either with the chores were not distributed evenly, or somebody goes to sleep sooner than later, so they complain. I also know that my kids—you know, they’re evil, they’re sinners, and they don’t see the fairness there. They’re only thinking about themselves. But I know my wife and I, even though we’re sinners, we have given to our children tremendously throughout all their lifetimes. That’s just an idea of how God has given us a lot of things, and sometimes we only see these little things that’s “not fair” in our lives.
(2) Secondly, there’s another one. “Hey, what about God punishing people? Isn’t that kind of not—” even Christians say that, “You know what? God shouldn’t punish people. He shouldn’t retribution to people.” But one counterpoint to this: the punishment of evil is not a mark against God’s goodness, it is an expression of it. God could not be good and leave injustice unchecked. God could not be good if he left injustice unchecked.
When we see this as human beings, we always see it, “That’s not right,” we see the injustice. If we see it, surely God sees it, right? He’s the holy and just God! He sees all that! But God cannot separate his justice from his goodness. He’s one God.
Sometimes the reason why we have struggles in this is that either, one, we don’t understand how horrible sin really is, or two, that we haven’t had personal injustice happen to us. When we experience that, we want retribution. You know what? God will provide retribution.
Look at Romans 3:24-26. This is how he provides it. “This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
The point there is this: If you are a sinner, you need grace, you need God to justify you. If you have been caught in injustice, if you’re on the other side of the picture, you will want to have God’s goodness and holiness acted upon. You want—and I’m looking forward to—you know, there is some evil that has been done, and I know that God will punish that eventually, and I will trust in his goodness.
The beauty of Romans 3, we know, through the substitutionary death of Christ, that God is both the just and the justifier. In other words, if there’s evil that’s been done to you, you know that God will bring judgment to that. If you have done that evil, God’s grace can also be given to you.
(3) Last but not least, suffering in this world. Finally, what about the issue of suffering in our world? What about the issue of suffering? When we have a hard time accepting the suffering, how is this an expression of God’s goodness?
Let me illustrate this by just saying, you know, we have kids, and when you have kids, sometimes the medicine that you have to give them to heal them, they don’t like. It tastes awful. Or if a kid needs stitches, you have to hold him down. I remember one of our kids, we had to hold him down so the stitches could be put there.
I don’t know what suffering you are going through, I really don’t, or what this global pandemic that’s happening in our nation, but I know this: there are hundreds and dozens of times that, whatever the suffering we see in the Bible, God turned it for good. There’s a beautiful verse: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:71). God is inviting us to trust him, to lean on him.
In Luke 13 we can also see that there is an invitation of God’s grace to repent in the midst of our suffering and our struggles.
4. How Should We Respond?
Okay, so we’ve seen the nature of God’s goodness, we’ve seen how it’s manifested, we see the issues, our struggles, objections to it. How do we respond? Very quickly, five quick things, but they’re really important.
(1) Number one is we need to repent. We need to repent as God’s people. Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you despise the riches of his kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” Paul is saying here, “Do you think that these blessings are here, visiting you today, because you’re a nice person, or we’re nice people? No. All the goodness of God is meant for us to lead us to him.” Every single thing, as I said, that you and I have experienced, the good things that we have, they’re meant to point us, to lead us to God. Like I said, as a nation, that we have a lot of things, there’s a lot of things pointing to God, folks.
We need to turn and we need to repent. We need to stop taking from God and learning to give thanks to God.
I say to my kids regularly, “Don’t disconnect the gift from the giver.” When we experience good things, let’s thank God for them. So, number one is repent and thank God.
(2) Number two, trust in the patience of God when we go through trials. Lamentations 3:25 says the goodness of God should make us all patient and trusting. “The Lord is good unto those who wait for him.”
Now, I’m sure you’ve seen the moon, you know, when some days it’s full moon, some days it’s half a moon, one fourth of a moon. Does the moon change its shape? No, it doesn’t. God, even though there are dark times in our lives, we can still trust in the goodness of our God.
Spurgeon said it best: “God is too good to be unkind, and he’s too wise to make a mistake. When you cannot trace his hand, you must trust his heart.” If difficult situations, folks, we will see a glimpse of God’s goodness that we don’t see any other way. So, when you experience trials and hardship, look for that goodness of God.
(3) Three, pray! Pray and plead more! Look at these beautiful verses. Jesus asks us to pray. It’s like this is an unending wealth of goodness. We can pray to our God.
In Luke 18:1 there’s a parable of a woman pleading to this lawyer, “Hey, help me! Help me! Help me!” He is saying that God is not a mean lawyer; he’s a good God. Remember the attributes? It says this: “And he told them in a parable to the effect that they ought to always pray and not lose heart.” Don’t lose heart when you pray for that unsaved loved one, for that spouse, for a child who’s walked away. Don’t stop praying, because there’s a good God who’s listening.
He even says, more, if we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will our heavenly Father give us his Holy Spirit, who ask of him.
In Ephesians 3:20 God gives to us the wisdom that he is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ever ask. He’ll even give us above and beyond, more than we can ever imagine.
(4) Number four, give. This is what I wanted to say. Now that you have this God who’s overflowing with goodness, wouldn’t it be great that you are a channel of that goodness?
Remember Jesus and the feeding of the five thousand. That little boy was a channel of God’s blessing.
Remember Elijah and the widow with the oil? Why can’t we be a channel of God’s blessing? You know the stories of people just giving generously. We can’t outgive God.
(5) Last but not least, thankfulness and worship. We have to connect—I mean, what do we do with a great God who’s good in all of his essence, who provided for us through redemption? What do we do? We’re thankful and we worship God.
I just want to close with John Gilbert. He lived only to the age of 25. At the age of five he was diagnosed with degenerative muscular dystrophy, a genetic progressive debilitating disease. Twenty years later, it claimed his life. But before it claimed his life, it took everything away from him. Every year, John lost something. He had lost every ability that we all take for granted.
But there was one moment in John’s life, and it happened when he was invited to the National Football League fundraising auction. When the auction began, there was one particular item that caught John’s eye; it was a signed basketball by all of the players in the Sacramento King. John desperately wanted to put a bid on that ball, and he raised his hand when it was the ball’s turn for the auction, but his mom quickly put it down and said, “No. We can’t afford that.”
The bidding started happening, and people wanted that basketball. They were excited. People were bidding back and forth, showing the value of the ball. It became one of the most valuable items. One man made a bid that no one else could possibly match, so he won the prize. The man went up, he grabbed the basketball. Instead of going back to his seat, he gave it to John. He gave it to John, and John would never play basketball. He would never be able to shoot a ball. He would never be on a basketball team. He would never fire from the foul line. But he cherished it for the rest of his life.
John said this; he wrote these words: “It took me a moment to realize what the man had done. I remember hearing gasps around the room, and then thundering applause and weeping of eyes. To this day, I am amazed. Have you ever been given a gift that you could never have gotten for yourself? Has anyone sacrificed a huge amount for you without getting anything in return?”
I want to say, everyone in this room answers that question with a yes. Let’s pray.
Father in heaven, thank you for your goodness. You are so good, Lord, and we just want to praise you for what you’ve done in Christ for us, even creating us and giving us good things that point to your goodness. I just pray, Lord, that you’d push that truth deeper into our hearts, that it may transform us, that it may make us more like you. Continue to be with us in our worship. We pray all these things in the name of Jesus, Amen.