Jehovah—The Supreme Example of Goodness
“Laud Jehovah of armies, for Jehovah is good!”—JEREMIAH 33:11.
1. Why are we moved to praise God for his goodness?
JEHOVAH GOD is good in the absolute sense. “O how great his goodness is!” exclaimed the prophet Zechariah. (Zechariah 9:17) Indeed, goodness is reflected in everything God did to prepare the earth for our enjoyment. (Genesis 1:31) We will never be able to comprehend all the intricate laws that God put into operation when he created the universe. (Ecclesiastes 3:11; 8:17) But the little we do know moves us to praise God for his goodness.
2. How would you define goodness?
2 What is goodness? It is moral excellence, or virtue. Yet, it is more than the absence of all badness. Goodness, a part of the fruitage of the spirit, is a positive quality. (Galatians 5:22, 23) We display goodness when we perform good and beneficial acts toward others. In this system of things, what is considered good in some circles may be viewed as bad in others. If we are to enjoy peace and happiness, however, there must be one standard of goodness. Who can rightly establish this standard?
3. What does Genesis 2:16, 17 indicate about the standard of goodness?
3 God sets the standard of goodness. At the outset of human history, it was Jehovah who commanded the first man: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17) Yes, humans need to look to their Creator for the knowledge of good and bad.
Unmerited Manifestation of Goodness
4. What has God done for mankind since Adam sinned?
4 Mankind’s prospect for eternal happiness in perfection was threatened when Adam sinned and refused to acknowledge God’s right to set standards of goodness. (Genesis 3:1-6) Before Adam’s offspring were born as inheritors of sin and death, however, God foretold the coming of a perfect Seed. Actually addressing “the original serpent,” Satan the Devil, Jehovah declared: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Revelation 12:9; Genesis 3:15) It was Jehovah’s purpose to redeem sinful mankind. In an unmerited manifestation of goodness, Jehovah has indeed made such a provision for the salvation of those who exercise faith in his dear Son’s ransom sacrifice.—Matthew 20:28; Romans 5:8, 12.
5. Though we have inherited a bad inclination of the heart, why can we display a measure of goodness?
5 Because of Adam’s sin, of course, we have inherited a bad inclination of the heart. (Genesis 8:21) Happily, though, Jehovah helps us to display a measure of goodness. Continuing in the things learned from his precious holy writings not only ‘makes us wise for salvation’ and ‘equips us for every good work’ but also enables us to do what is good in his eyes. (2 Timothy 3:14-17) To benefit from Scriptural instruction and to display goodness, though, we must have the attitude of the psalmist who sang: “You [Jehovah] are good and are doing good. Teach me your regulations.”—Psalm 119:68.
Jehovah’s Goodness Is Extolled
6. After King David had the ark of the covenant brought to Jerusalem, Levites sang a song containing what expression?
6 King David of ancient Israel acknowledged God’s goodness and sought His guidance. “Good and upright is Jehovah,” said David. “That is why he instructs sinners in the way.” (Psalm 25:8) Divine instruction given to the Israelites included ten important laws—the Ten Commandments—written on two stone tablets and kept in a sacred chest called the ark of the covenant. After David had the Ark brought to Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem, Levites sang a song that included this expression: “Give thanks to Jehovah, you people, for he is good, for to time indefinite is his loving-kindness.” (1 Chronicles 16:34, 37-41) How delightful it must have been to hear those words from the lips of Levite singers!
7. What happened after the Ark was brought into the Most Holy and following Solomon’s prayer of dedication?
7 The same words of praise were given prominence during the dedication of Jehovah’s temple built by David’s son Solomon. After the ark of the covenant had been placed in the Most Holy of the newly built temple, the Levites began praising Jehovah, “for he is good, for to time indefinite is his loving-kindness.” On that occasion the temple was miraculously filled with a cloud symbolizing Jehovah’s glorious presence. (2 Chronicles 5:13, 14) Following Solomon’s dedication prayer, “fire itself came down from the heavens and proceeded to consume the burnt offering and the sacrifices.” At the sight of this, “all the sons of Israel . . . immediately bowed low with their faces to the earth upon the pavement and prostrated themselves and thanked Jehovah, ‘for he is good, for his loving-kindness is to time indefinite.’” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3) After a 14-day festival, the Israelites returned to their homes “joyful and feeling good at heart over the goodness that Jehovah had performed toward David and toward Solomon and toward Israel his people.”—2 Chronicles 7:10.
8, 9. (a) Although the Israelites praised Jehovah for his goodness, what course did they eventually pursue? (b) What was foretold for Jerusalem through Jeremiah, and how was that prophecy fulfilled?
8 Sadly, the Israelites did not continue to live in harmony with their songs of praise to God. In time, the people of Judah ‘glorified Jehovah merely with their lips.’ (Isaiah 29:13) Rather than conform to God’s standards of goodness, they began practicing what was bad. And of what did their badness consist? Why, they became guilty of idolatry, immorality, oppression of the poor, and other gross sins! As a result, Jerusalem was destroyed and inhabitants of Judah were taken captive to Babylon in 607 B.C.E.
9 God thus disciplined his people. Through the prophet Jeremiah, however, he foretold that in Jerusalem there would yet be heard the voice of those saying: “Laud Jehovah of armies, for Jehovah is good; for to time indefinite is his loving-kindness!” (Jeremiah 33:10, 11) And so it proved to be. After a 70-year desolation of the land, in 537 B.C.E., a Jewish remnant returned to Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 25:11; Daniel 9:1, 2) They rebuilt the altar at the temple site on Mount Moriah and began to offer sacrifices there. The temple’s foundation was laid in the second year of their return. What a thrilling time! “When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of Jehovah,” said Ezra, “then the priests in official clothing, with the trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph, with the cymbals, stood up to praise Jehovah according to the direction of David the king of Israel. And they began to respond by praising and giving thanks to Jehovah, ‘for he is good, for his loving-kindness toward Israel is to time indefinite.’”—Ezra 3:1-11.
10. With what significant expression does Psalm 118 begin and end?
10 A similar expression of praise regarding Jehovah’s goodness appears in a number of psalms. Among them is Psalm 118, sung by Israelite households to conclude the Passover observance. That psalm begins and ends with the words: “Give thanks to Jehovah, you people, for he is good; for his loving-kindness is to time indefinite.” (Psalm 118:1, 29) These may well have been the last words of praise that Jesus Christ sang with his faithful apostles on the night before his death in 33 C.E.—Matthew 26:30.
“Cause Me to See, Please, Your Glory”
11, 12. When Moses got a glimpse of God’s glory, what declaration did he hear?
11 A link between Jehovah’s goodness and his loving-kindness was first made centuries before Ezra’s time. Shortly after the Israelites worshiped the golden calf in the wilderness and the wrongdoers had been executed, Moses petitioned Jehovah: “Cause me to see, please, your glory.” Recognizing that Moses could not see His face and yet live, Jehovah said: “I myself shall cause all my goodness to pass before your face.”—Exodus 33:13-20.
12 Jehovah’s goodness passed before Moses’ face the next day on Mount Sinai. At that time, Moses got a glimpse of God’s glory and heard this declaration: “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, bringing punishment for the error of fathers upon sons and upon grandsons, upon the third generation and upon the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6, 7) These words indicate that Jehovah’s goodness is related to his loving-kindness and other aspects of his personality. Considering these will help us to display goodness. Let us first consider the quality mentioned twice in this marvelous declaration of God’s goodness.
“A God . . . Abundant in Loving-Kindness”
13. In the declaration of God’s goodness, what quality is mentioned twice, and why is this fitting?
13 “Jehovah [is] a God . . . abundant in loving-kindness . . . , preserving loving-kindness for thousands.” The Hebrew word translated “loving-kindness” also means “loyal love.” It is the only quality listed twice in God’s declaration to Moses. How fitting, since Jehovah’s dominant quality is love! (1 John 4:8) The well-known expression of praise to Jehovah “for he is good, for his loving-kindness is to time indefinite” highlights this quality.
14. Who especially enjoy God’s goodness and loving-kindness?
14 One manifestation of Jehovah’s goodness is that he is “abundant in loving-kindness.” This is especially evident in the tender care that he gives his dedicated, faithful human servants. (1 Peter 5:6, 7) As Witnesses of Jehovah can testify, he is ‘preserving loving-kindness’ toward those who love and serve him. (Exodus 20:6) The nation of natural Israel ceased to experience Jehovah’s loving-kindness, or loyal love, because they rejected his Son. But God’s goodness and loyal love toward faithful Christians of all nations will last forever.—John 3:36.
Jehovah—Merciful and Gracious
15. (a) The declaration heard by Moses on Mount Sinai opened with what expression? (b) What does mercy involve?
15 The declaration that Moses heard on Mount Sinai opened with the expression: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious.” The Hebrew word translated “mercy” may refer to “bowels” and is closely related to the term for “womb.” Mercy therefore involves feelings of tender compassion that are deep inside a person. But mercy includes more than genuine pity. It should motivate us to do something to relieve the suffering of others. For instance, loving Christian elders see the need to be merciful toward fellow believers, ‘showing mercy with cheerfulness’ when this is appropriate.—Romans 12:8; James 2:13; Jude 22, 23.
16. Why can it be said that Jehovah is gracious?
16 God’s goodness is also manifested in his graciousness. A gracious person is “markedly considerate of another’s feelings” and displays an ‘endearing kindliness especially to inferiors.’ Jehovah is the finest example of graciousness in dealing with his faithful servants. By means of angels, for instance, God graciously strengthened the aged prophet Daniel and informed the virgin girl Mary of the privilege she was to have of giving birth to Jesus. (Daniel 10:19; Luke 1:26-38) As Jehovah’s people, we surely appreciate his gracious way of appealing to us through the pages of the Bible. We praise him for this manifestation of his goodness and seek to be gracious in our dealings with others. When those having spiritual qualifications readjust a fellow believer “in a spirit of mildness,” they try to be gentle, gracious.—Galatians 6:1.
A God Slow to Anger
17. Why are we grateful that Jehovah is “slow to anger”?
17 “A God . . . slow to anger.” Those words call attention to yet another manifestation of Jehovah’s goodness. Jehovah patiently puts up with our failings and gives us time to overcome serious weaknesses and make spiritual advancement. (Hebrews 5:12–6:3; James 5:14, 15) God’s patience also benefits those who have not yet become his worshipers. They still have time to respond to the Kingdom message and repent. (Romans 2:4) Although Jehovah is patient, however, his goodness sometimes moves him to express his anger, as he did when the Israelites worshiped the golden calf at Mount Sinai. God’s anger will soon be expressed in an even greater way when he brings an end to Satan’s wicked system.—Ezekiel 38:19, 21-23.
18. With regard to truth, what contrast is there between Jehovah and human leaders?
18 “Jehovah [is] a God . . . abundant in . . . truth.” How Jehovah differs from human leaders, who make big promises and then fail to live up to them! By contrast, Jehovah’s worshipers can rely on everything said in his inspired Word. Since God is abundant in truth, we can always trust in his promises. In his goodness, our heavenly Father unfailingly answers our prayers for spiritual truth by providing it in abundance.—Psalm 43:3; 65:2.
19. What outstanding display of goodness has Jehovah shown toward repentant sinners?
19 “Jehovah [is] a God . . . pardoning error and transgression and sin.” In his goodness, Jehovah is ready to forgive repentant sinners. We surely are very grateful that our loving heavenly Father has made provision for forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice. (1 John 2:1, 2) We are happy, indeed, that all who exercise faith in the ransom are able to enjoy a favored relationship with Jehovah, with the hope of endless life in his promised new world. What outstanding reasons to praise Jehovah for displaying goodness toward mankind!—2 Peter 3:13.
20. What proof do we have that God does not condone badness?
20 “By no means will [Jehovah] give exemption from punishment.” This is actually another reason to laud Jehovah for his goodness. Why? Because a vital aspect of goodness is that it does not condone badness in any way. Moreover, “at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels,” vengeance will be brought “upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news.” They “will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction.” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9) The surviving worshipers of Jehovah will then be able to enjoy life to the full without being disturbed by ungodly men, who are “without love of goodness.”—2 Timothy 3:1-3.
Imitate Jehovah’s Goodness
21. Why should we display goodness?
21 We unquestionably have many reasons for praising and thanking Jehovah for his goodness. As his servants, should we not do our utmost to display this quality? Yes, for the apostle Paul urged fellow Christians: “Become imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1) Our heavenly Father consistently displays goodness, and so should we.
22. What will we consider in the next article?
22 If we are wholeheartedly dedicated to Jehovah, undoubtedly we keenly desire to imitate his goodness. Because we are descendants of sinful Adam, we do not find it easy to do what is good. In the following article, however, we will see why it is possible for us to display goodness. We will also consider various ways in which we can and should imitate Jehovah—the supreme example of goodness.
How Would You Answer?
• What is goodness?
• What Scriptural expression highlights the goodness of God?
• What are some manifestations of Jehovah’s goodness?
• Why should we imitate Jehovah’s example of goodness?
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Jehovah disciplined his ancient people because they did not live up to their expressions of praise
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A faithful remnant returned to Jerusalem
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Moses heard a marvelous declaration of God’s goodness
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Jehovah’s goodness is seen in the way he appeals to us through the pages of the Bible