The Amazing Scope of God’s Goodness
GOD is good! How many times have you heard that expression or even used it yourself? But did you ever reflect on the full scope of God’s goodness in your behalf? Such meditation deepens our appreciation of the kind of God we worship.
First, though, we need to understand what goodness is. Goodness, of course, is the quality of being good as opposed to being wicked. But goodness is more than that. It is an active quality. A good person does good. And God, in his goodness, does so many good things for us that our hearts warm to him.
The wide range of God’s goodness is seen in his words to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai. There, he promised his faithful servant: “I myself shall cause all my goodness to pass before your face.” Fulfilling that promise and using his own name, God further says: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin, but by no means will he give exemption from punishment.”—Exodus 33:19; 34:6, 7.
Therefore, God’s goodness includes his mercy as well as his graciousness, his loving-kindness, and his truth. In addition, his goodness is seen in that he is “slow to anger,” long-suffering. That does not mean, though, that he is like an overindulgent parent, allowing sin to continue unchecked forever. “By no means will he give exemption from punishment” to unrepentant sinners. A good God cannot allow wickedness to exist unchecked.
The Abundance of God’s Goodness
Consider, now, some of the ways God has shown his goodness. To start with, he was good to humans when he first created the earth. He did not provide merely the bare essentials for human life. Rather, he richly endowed our planet to make living on it a true delight. He gave food and drink in great variety. He made a fascinating diversity of animals and birds, and he created flowers that add color and beauty to our surroundings. Additionally, he made many different kinds of scenery that are a delight to look at. Why, each time we see a glorious sunset or a magnificent cloud formation, we see evidence of the goodness of God!
When he created man and woman, God’s goodness was seen again. He gave Adam and Eve perfect, healthy bodies and set them in the garden of Eden. Then he gave them an exciting and challenging commission: “Fill the earth and subdue it.” Thus, he set before them the prospect of enjoying life forever in a paradise earth among their many offspring. (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7-9) What a wonderful wedding present for the first human couple!
Even when Adam and Eve rebelled, God did not totally abandon them. At that point, if he had punished them with instant death, he would have been doing only what was just. However, he was good to the now sinful human pair. He allowed them to live on for a while and to have children.—Genesis 5:1-5.
Moreover, God’s goodness has continued toward fallen mankind since then. As King David said: “Jehovah is good to all, and his mercies are over all his works.” (Psalm 145:9) He provides abundantly so that human life can continue on his property, the earth. Jesus said to the Jews of his day: “Your Father who is in the heavens . . . makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) Any hunger or deprivation that exists is not because God has failed to provide for mankind. It is because of the corruption, cruelty, and inefficiency of humans.
God also allows mankind to exploit the earth’s mineral wealth, and he has not concealed from them a measure of understanding of the starry heavens and the physical makeup of things. Truly, Jehovah is good to mankind, even though many arrogantly say that there is no God, and others abuse his goodness for selfish ends, even to the extent of oppressing fellow humans.—Psalm 14:1.
God’s Goodness to Believers
If, though, God has been good to mankind in general, his dealings with believers truly warm the heart. To begin with, when Adam and Eve first rebelled, God prophesied that a “seed” would appear who would eventually overcome the bad effects of their sin. (Genesis 3:15) As time passed, many of Adam’s descendants worshiped God faithfully despite their imperfection, and this early prophecy gave them the hope of a better future. One of these faithful worshipers, Abraham, was even called “Jehovah’s friend.”—James 2:23.
God promised Abraham that his descendants would grow into many nations and that the principal line of his offspring would inherit the land of Canaan. In fulfillment of this, the Israelites, Abraham’s descendants, were later organized into a nation. (Genesis 17:3-8; Exodus 19:6) Again, God was good to this new nation, delivering them from slavery in Egypt, protecting them in the wilderness, providing them a law code and a priesthood, and finally giving them the fertile land of Canaan as an inheritance.
Eventually, Israel became a kingdom, and Jehovah commissioned its third human king, Solomon, to build a temple in Jerusalem as a world center for His worship. When the temple was completed, there was a magnificent dedication ceremony and a joyous festival. Afterward, the record says, the Israelites “began to bless the king and to go to their homes, rejoicing and feeling merry of heart over all the goodness that Jehovah had performed.” (1 Kings 8:66) There were other occasions too when the Israelites’ hearts overflowed because of God’s goodness to them.
Unhappily, though, they did not always appreciate their privilege of being worshipers of the one true God. Eventually, the Israelites as a whole became unfaithful, and in 607 B.C.E., Jehovah allowed them to be carried off as captives to Babylon. As God had said to Moses, because of His very goodness “by no means will he give exemption from punishment.”—Exodus 34:7.
However, after 70 years God kindly brought a faithful remnant of Israelites back to their own land. What moved him to do so? His goodness. Jeremiah wrote prophetically of the Israelites’ return from Babylon: “They will certainly come and cry out joyfully on the height of Zion and become radiant over the goodness of Jehovah.” The prophet went on: “‘With my goodness my own people will become satisfied,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Jeremiah 31:12, 14.
Eventually, Jesus came to earth and proved to be the “seed” foretold in that prophecy uttered back in Eden. (Genesis 3:15) The Bible says: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) The death of Jesus provided a ransom to buy humans out of sin and restore them to perfection. Thus, the bad effects of Adam’s sin would finally be overcome. As Paul wrote to the Romans: “Through the disobedience of the one man many were constituted sinners, likewise also through the obedience of the one person many will be constituted righteous.” (Romans 5:19) Thanks to God’s goodness, righthearted humans now had the hope of attaining everlasting life. They may even become friends of God, as Abraham did.
God continues to show goodness even today to those who worship him. He gives counsel through the Bible to help them handle their problems. (Psalm 119:105) He offers the free gift of his spirit to help them measure up to his righteous standards. And he reveals his purposes, so that true Christians look forward to a new world of righteousness that will be ushered in after this old world passes away. (Proverbs 4:18; 2 Peter 3:13) Christians are confident about such things because God, in his goodness, has revealed them in his infallible Word.—2 Timothy 3:16.
Yes, a consideration of God’s goodness surely warms our hearts toward him. But it also raises a question:
How Much Will You Benefit From God’s Goodness?
In fact, whoever you are, you already benefit from God’s goodness. You breathe, you eat, you drink, you enjoy life—all gifts from God. But do you benefit as fully as possible? Remember, God’s goodness to Adam and Eve was limited after they sinned. Similarly, he will limit his bounty to us unless we respond in the right way to his kindnesses. How can we do this?
The psalmist prayed: “Teach me goodness, sensibleness and knowledge themselves, for in your commandments I have exercised faith.” (Psalm 119:66) That should be our prayer too. As God is good, we need to learn to be good like him. Paul urged: “Become imitators of God, as beloved children.”—Ephesians 5:1.
We do this, first by studying the Bible to learn what goodness is. Then, we ask for God’s help in developing this quality. Goodness is a fruit of the spirit, along with “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, . . . faith, mildness, [and] self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) We can cultivate all these qualities by relying on God’s spirit, studying the Bible that was inspired of God, praying to him for help, and associating with like-minded Christians.—Psalm 1:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Hebrews 10:24, 25.
The Bible also says: “With the mention of the abundance of your goodness they will bubble over, and because of your righteousness they will cry out joyfully.” (Psalm 145:7) Yes, God expects us to tell others about his goodness. We should talk freely about our heavenly Father.
Finally, we should not presume on God’s goodness. True, Jehovah forgives sinners. King David was confident of a favorable answer when he prayed: “The sins of my youth and my revolts O do not remember. According to your loving-kindness do you yourself remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Jehovah.” (Psalm 25:7) Does that mean that we can allow ourselves to commit sins in the confident expectation of God’s forgiveness? By no means. Remember, God’s goodness means that “by no means will he give exemption from punishment” to unrepentant sinners.
Enjoying God’s Goodness
Once we fully experience God’s goodness, how our hearts warm toward him! We are encouraged to follow the fine admonition of the apostle Paul: “Go on walking as children of light, for the fruitage of the light consists of every sort of goodness and righteousness and truth.”—Ephesians 5:8, 9.
Every day, we are conscious of God’s loving concern for us. Even under the most difficult circumstances, we know he does not abandon those who love him. Yes, we experience the sublime peace of mind of the psalmist: “Surely goodness and loving-kindness themselves will pursue me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of Jehovah to the length of days.”—Psalm 23:6.