1, 2. How far-reaching is the goodness of God, and what emphasis does the Bible place on this quality?
BATHED in the warm light of sunset, a few longtime friends enjoy an outdoor meal together, laughing and talking as they admire the view. Far away, a farmer looks out at his fields and smiles in satisfaction because dark clouds have gathered and the first drops of rain are falling on thirsty crops. Elsewhere, a husband and wife are delighted to see their child take his first wobbly steps.
2 Whether they know it or not, such people are all benefiting from the same thing—the goodness of Jehovah God. Religious people often repeat the phrase “God is good.” The Bible is far more emphatic. It says: “How great his goodness is!” (Zechariah 9:17) But it seems that few today really know what those words mean. What does the goodness of Jehovah God actually involve, and how does this quality of God affect each one of us?
An Outstanding Facet of Divine Love
3, 4. What is goodness, and why might Jehovah’s goodness best be described as an expression of divine love?
3 In many modern languages, “goodness” is a somewhat bland word. As revealed in the Bible, though, goodness is far from bland. Primarily, it refers to virtue and moral excellence. In a sense, then, we might say that goodness permeates Jehovah. All his attributes—including his power, his justice, and his wisdom—are good through and through. Still, goodness might best be described as an expression of Jehovah’s love. Why?
4 Goodness is an active, outgoing quality. The apostle Paul indicated that in humans it is even more appealing than righteousness. (Romans 5:7) The righteous man can be counted on to adhere faithfully to the requirements of the law, but a good man does more. He takes the initiative, actively seeking ways to benefit others. As we shall see, Jehovah is certainly good in that sense. Clearly, such goodness springs from Jehovah’s boundless love.
5-7. Why did Jesus refuse to be called “Good Teacher,” and what profound truth did he thereby affirm?
5 Jehovah is also unique in his goodness. Not long before Jesus died, a man approached him to ask a question, addressing him with the words “Good Teacher.” Jesus replied: “Why do you call me good? Nobody is good except one, God.” (Mark 10:17, 18) Now, that response may strike you as puzzling. Why would Jesus correct the man? Was not Jesus, in fact, a “Good Teacher”?
6 Evidently, the man was using the words “Good Teacher” as a flattering title. Jesus modestly directed such glory to his heavenly Father, who is good in the supreme sense. (Proverbs 11:2) But Jesus was also affirming a profound truth. Jehovah alone is the standard for what is good. Only he has the sovereign right to determine what is good and what is bad. Adam and Eve, by rebelliously partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, sought to assume that right themselves. Unlike them, Jesus humbly leaves the setting of standards to his Father.
7 Moreover, Jesus knew that Jehovah is the Source of all that is truly good. He is the Giver of “every good gift and every perfect present.” (James 1:17) Let us examine how Jehovah’s goodness is evident in his generosity.
Evidence of Jehovah’s Abundant Goodness
8. How has Jehovah shown goodness toward all mankind?
8 Everyone who has ever lived has benefited from Jehovah’s goodness. Psalm 145:9 says: “Jehovah is good to all.” What are some examples of his all-embracing goodness? The Bible says: “He did not leave himself without witness in that he did good, giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying you with food and filling your hearts with gladness.” (Acts 14:17) Have you ever felt your spirits lift when enjoying a delightful meal? Were it not for Jehovah’s goodness in designing this earth with its ever-recycling fresh water supply and “fruitful seasons” to produce an abundance of food, there would be no meals. Jehovah has directed such goodness not just to those who love him but to everyone. Jesus said: “He makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.”—Matthew 5:45.
9. How does the apple illustrate Jehovah’s goodness?
9 Many take for granted the sheer generosity that is heaped upon mankind because of the continued action of the sun, the rain, and the fruitful seasons. For example, consider the apple. Throughout the temperate regions of the earth, it is a common fruit. Yet, it is beautiful, delicious to eat, and full of refreshing water and vital nutrients. Did you know that worldwide there are some 7,500 different varieties of apples, ranging in color from red to gold to yellow to green and in size from slightly larger than a cherry to the size of a grapefruit? If you hold a tiny apple seed in your hand, it looks insignificant. But from it grows one of the loveliest of trees. (Song of Solomon 2:3) Every spring the apple tree is crowned with a glorious halo of blossoms; every autumn it produces fruit. Each year—for up to 75 years—the average apple tree will yield enough fruit to fill 20 cartons to a weight of 42 pounds (19 kg) each!
Jehovah is “giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons”
10, 11. How do the senses demonstrate God’s goodness?
10 In his infinite goodness, Jehovah has given us a body that is “wonderfully made,” with senses designed to help us perceive his works and delight in them. (Psalm 139:14) Think again of those scenes described at the outset of this chapter. What sights bring joy to such moments? The flushed cheeks of a delighted child. The curtains of rain descending on the fields. The reds, golds, and violets of a sunset. The human eye is designed to detect hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of different colors! And our sense of hearing catches the nuances of tone in a well-loved voice, the whisper of the wind through the trees, the toddler’s ecstatic laugh. Why are we able to enjoy such sights and sounds? The Bible says: “The hearing ear and the seeing eye—Jehovah has made both of them.” (Proverbs 20:12) But those are only two of the senses.
11 The sense of smell is another evidence of Jehovah’s goodness. The human nose can distinguish vast numbers of different odors—estimates have ranged from the thousands up to one trillion. Think of just a few: your favorite food cooking, flowers, fallen leaves, the hint of smoke from a cozy fire. And your sense of touch enables you to feel the caress of the breeze on your face, the reassuring embrace of a loved one, the satisfying smoothness of a piece of fruit in your hand. When you take a bite, your sense of taste comes into play. A symphony of flavor greets you as your taste buds detect subtleties created by the fruit’s complex chemical makeup. Yes, we have every reason to exclaim regarding Jehovah: “How abundant your goodness is! You have stored it up for those who fear you.” (Psalm 31:19) How, though, has Jehovah stored up goodness for those who have godly fear?
Goodness With Everlasting Benefits
12. What provisions from Jehovah are the most important, and why?
12 Jesus said: “It is written: ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every word that comes from Jehovah’s mouth.’” (Matthew 4:4) Indeed, Jehovah’s spiritual provisions can do us even more good than can the physical kind, for they lead to everlasting life. In Chapter 8 of this book, we noted that Jehovah has used his restorative power during these last days to bring into being a developing spiritual paradise. A key feature of that paradise is the abundance of spiritual food.
13, 14. (a) What did the prophet Ezekiel see in vision, with what meaning for us today? (b) What life-giving spiritual provisions does Jehovah make for his faithful servants?
13 In one of the Bible’s great restoration prophecies, the prophet Ezekiel was given a vision of a restored and glorified temple. From that temple flowed a stream of water, widening and deepening as it went until it became a torrent. Wherever it flowed, that river brought blessings. On its banks flourished a crop of trees that provided food and healing. And the river even brought life and productivity to the salty, lifeless Dead Sea! (Ezekiel 47:1-12) But what did all of that mean?
14 The temple vision meant that Jehovah would restore pure worship. It would again meet his righteous standards. Like that visionary river, God’s provisions for life would flow out to his people in ever-greater abundance. Since the restoration of pure worship in 1919, Jehovah has blessed his people with life-giving provisions. How? Well, Bibles, Bible literature, meetings, and conventions have all served to bring vital truths to millions. By such means Jehovah has taught people about the most important of his provisions for life—Christ’s ransom sacrifice, which brings a clean standing before Jehovah and the hope of everlasting life to all those who truly love and fear God.a Hence, throughout these last days, while the world has suffered a spiritual famine, Jehovah’s people have enjoyed a spiritual feast.—Isaiah 65:13.
15. In what sense will Jehovah’s goodness flow to faithful mankind during Christ’s Millennial Reign?
15 But Ezekiel’s visionary river does not stop flowing when this old system of things meets its end. On the contrary, it will flow even more abundantly during Christ’s Millennial Reign. Then, by means of the Messianic Kingdom, Jehovah will apply the full value of Jesus’ sacrifice, gradually lifting faithful mankind to perfection. How we will then exult over Jehovah’s goodness!
Additional Facets of Jehovah’s Goodness
16. How does the Bible show that Jehovah’s goodness embraces other qualities, and what are some of these?
16 Jehovah’s goodness involves more than generosity. God told Moses: “I will make all my goodness pass before your face, and I will declare before you the name of Jehovah.” Later the account says: “Jehovah was passing before him and declaring: ‘Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loyal love and truth.’” (Exodus 33:19; 34:6, footnote) So Jehovah’s goodness embraces a number of fine qualities. Let us consider just two of these.
17. What is graciousness, and how has Jehovah displayed it to mere imperfect humans?
17 “Gracious.” This quality, from a word which is also rendered as “compassionate,” tells us much about Jehovah’s manner of dealing with his creatures. Instead of being brusque, cold, or tyrannical, as is often true of the powerful, Jehovah is gentle and kind. For example, Jehovah said to Abram: “Raise your eyes, please, and look from the place where you are, to the north and south, east and west.” (Genesis 13:14) Many translations omit the word “please.” But Bible scholars note that the wording in the original Hebrew includes a word particle that changes the statement from a command to a polite request. There are other, similar instances. (Genesis 31:12; Ezekiel 8:5) Imagine, the Sovereign of the universe says “please” to mere humans! In a world where harshness, pushiness, and rudeness are so common, is it not refreshing to contemplate the graciousness of our God, Jehovah?
18. In what sense is Jehovah “abundant . . . in truth,” and why are those words reassuring?
18 “Abundant in . . . truth.” Dishonesty has become the way of the world today. But the Bible reminds us: “God is not a mere man who tells lies.” (Numbers 23:19) In fact, Titus 1:2 says that “God . . . cannot lie.” He is far too good for that. Thus, Jehovah’s promises are completely reliable; his words, always sure of fulfillment. Jehovah is even called “the God of truth.” (Psalm 31:5) Not only does he refrain from telling falsehoods but he dispenses an abundance of truth. He is not closed, guarded, or secretive; rather, he generously enlightens his faithful servants from his boundless store of wisdom.b He even teaches them how to live by the truths he dispenses so that they may “go on walking in the truth.” (3 John 3) In general, how should Jehovah’s goodness affect us individually?
“Become Radiant Over the Goodness of Jehovah”
19, 20. (a) How did Satan seek to undermine Eve’s confidence in Jehovah’s goodness, and with what result? (b) Jehovah’s goodness should rightly have what effect on us, and why?
19 When Satan tempted Eve in the garden of Eden, he began by subtly undermining her trust in Jehovah’s goodness. Jehovah had told Adam: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction.” Of the thousands of trees that must have graced that garden, only one was placed off-limits by Jehovah. Yet, notice how Satan worded his first question to Eve: “Did God really say that you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 2:9, 16; 3:1) Satan twisted Jehovah’s words to make Eve think that Jehovah was holding back something good. Sadly, the tactic worked. Eve, like so many men and women after her, began to doubt the goodness of God, who had given her everything she had.
20 We know the depth of sorrow and misery brought on by such doubts. So let us take to heart the words of Jeremiah 31:12: “They will . . . become radiant over the goodness of Jehovah.” Jehovah’s goodness should indeed make us radiant with joy. We need never doubt the motives of our God, who is so full of goodness. We may trust in him completely, for he wants nothing but good for those who love him.
21, 22. (a) What are some ways in which you would like to respond to Jehovah’s goodness? (b) What quality will we discuss in the next chapter, and how does it differ from goodness?
21 Further, when we get an opportunity to talk to others about God’s goodness, we are delighted. Regarding Jehovah’s people, Psalm 145:7 says: “They will bubble over as they recall your abundant goodness.” Every day that we live, we benefit in some way from Jehovah’s goodness. Why not make it a practice each day to thank Jehovah for his goodness, being as specific as possible? Thinking about that quality, thanking Jehovah for it daily, and telling others about it will help us to imitate our good God. And as we seek ways to do good, as Jehovah does, we will draw ever closer to him. The aged apostle John wrote: “Beloved one, do not imitate what is bad, but imitate what is good. The one who does good originates with God.”—3 John 11.
22 Jehovah’s goodness is also associated with other qualities. For example, God is “abundant in loyal love.” (Exodus 34:6) This quality is more specific in its focus than is goodness, for Jehovah expresses it particularly toward his faithful servants. In the next chapter, we will learn how he does so.
a There can be no greater example of Jehovah’s goodness than the ransom. Of all the millions of spirit creatures to choose from, Jehovah selected his beloved, only-begotten Son to die in our behalf.