December 26 - January 2
God is Good
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Ps. 107:1-8; 77:1-13; Jer. 31:3; 1 Chron. 16:8-12.
MEMORY TEXT: "And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exodus 34:6).
KEY THOUGHT: God's revelation tells and shows us that He is good. God uses various means of revelation to help us understand His goodness. He wants us to trust Him in order that we might enjoy the best and the most of life and, in turn, reveal His goodness to others.
GOD'S GOODNESS REVEALED. Jesus came to reveal the Father (see John 1:1, 14; 14:9). If Christ were to talk to us personally, what would He say? His favorite theme while on earth was the noble character and abundant love of God. Wouldn't He speak to us about how much our Father in heaven loves us and how good He is? He would invite us as God's earthly children to trust our heavenly Father with a deeper, stronger trust than that which children have for their loving, earthly parents. The heart of our good God is moved by the loss of even one sparrow, let alone the tragic loss of one of His earthly children. He is continuously watching over His children. Isn't it a wonderful fact to contemplate that in our busy world, where the population is fast approaching the five billion mark, our good God knows each one of us intimately by name! Our God, in His goodness, generously provides our daily bread and all else we need to live. Because He wants us to trust Him, He has gone to great lengths to reveal His love for us.
Goodness is derived from the Old English godnes. Thus, it is associated with qualities that are like God. The Oxford English Dictionary defines goodness as "the quality or condition of being good . . . moral excellence, virtue."(Oxford, Great Britain: Oxford University Press, 1978), vol. III.
How did the psalmist outline the goodness of God?
1. Ps. 25:8 _________________________________________________________
2. Ps. 31:19 ________________________________________________________
3. Ps. 33:5 _________________________________________________________
4. Ps. 145:9 ________________________________________________________
Have you offered a treat to a child only to have the youngster draw away from you in fear or suspicion? You know that your gift is good, yet the child doesn't seem to understand that. What you have to offer is something that he or she would really enjoy if it were accepted. Think, then, how frustrated our loving God must feel when He offers so much to us, His earthly children, only to be met with our response of backing away fearfully, thinking that He wants to harm us or dilute our joy.
Our acceptance of what He reveals leads to a trust in Him that encourages us to reach out with the hand of faith, take Him at His Word, and accept all the precious blessings He longs to share with us.
Contemplate the familiar text 1 John 4:8, 16 in order to discover some implications deeper than those readily perceived when first reading it.
The text makes it clear that it is God's nature to love. Love is characteristic of His very being. He is not a far-off, disinterested God. Neither is He an angry dictator needing to be appeased. The text also implies that there never has been and never will be a time when God is not love. God does everything possible to lead us to understand that He is love, that He is good, and that He cares for each one of us.
|For reflection: Think of a time in your life when some terrible tragedy took away a friend or loved one. Did you find it difficult to understand why God allowed it to happen? If so, were you able to reconcile your doubts with the innate goodness and love of God?|
Study the following lists of God's attributes and compare those that help us understand the greatness of God with those that help us understand His goodness. As you think about such attributes, consider in what ways you can become more confident and secure in God in your daily life.
|Eternal existence (Ps. 90:2)||Love (1 John 4:8, 10)|
|All knowledge (Job 37:16)||Grace (Titus 2:11, 12)|
|Presence everywhere (Ps. 139:7-10)||Mercy (Jer. 31:20)|
|All power (Eph. 1:19)||Patience (Rom. 15:5)|
|Righteousness (Ps. 119:142)||Holiness (Purity) (Exod. 15:11)|
|Justice (Ps. 89:14)||Kindness (Isa. 54:8)|
|Truthfulness (John 14:6)||Unselfishness (Eph. 2:8)|
What else can you add to either of these lists? How have you experienced these qualities in your relationship with God?
"The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (Jer. 31:3). Think of ways God's lovingkindness has drawn you to Himself.
Analyze Jesus' statement to the rich young ruler in Mark 10:18 in which He emphasizes goodness as an attribute of God. In your own words tell what you think He is saying and why He says it.
The relevance of Old Testament thought to the New Testament development of Christ's ministry and sacrifice is found primarily in the emphasis on God's love and goodness. In the Old Testament one senses God's eagerness to reveal that which is almost impossible to understand fully about Him-His amazing trustworthiness, goodness, and love. However, in the New Testament we find not only the full revelation of God's love at the Cross, but even before Calvary, the life and teachings of Jesus make it clear that we serve a good God.
|Reflect on the things God has done in your life that reveal His goodness and His mercy.|
Love is set forth in the Scriptures as the very nature of God. Yet, His kind of love is not natural in a sinful world. The Bible reveals such a unique and distinctive understanding of God that it is not possible for human minds to comprehend this concept unaided. It can come to us through God's self-revelation alone.
Review God's kind of love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
WHAT GOD'S LOVE IS
WHAT GOD'S LOVE IS NOT
When His kind of love is seen in us, God is revealed.
The most natural thing in the world. "If we would but think of God as often as we have evidence of His care for us, we should keep Him ever in our thoughts, and should delight to talk of Him and to praise Him. We talk of temporal things because we have an interest in them. We talk of our friends because we love them; our joys and our sorrows are bound up with them. Yet we have infinitely greater reason to love God than to love our earthly friends; it should be the most natural thing in the world to make Him first in all our thoughts, to talk of His goodness and tell of His power." Steps to Christ, p. 102.
Merely to tell of His power and goodness is not enough. For those who can sing, the beautiful song "How Great Thou Art" is easy to present; but when the words are real within us, we do more than sing or tell it, we look for ways to demonstrate it.
|List some of the persons with whom you will interact this week and think of specific ways you might help them understand the goodness and greatness of God.|
God's love is so great that it makes us sons and daughters in His royal family. John, who was so closely associated with Jesus, describes the vastness of His love. For God will not be satisfied until He gathers us around His throne.
How is God's great love revealed to us in 1 John 3:1, 2? How does this affect your understanding of Him?
In Christ, God adopts us as His sons and daughters. He is at work restoring the image of God in us. The ultimate expression of His love will be evident in the new earth when, freed from every trace of sin, "The tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God (Rev. 21:3).
"People think it a privilege to see a royal personage, and thousands go great distances to see one. How much greater privilege it is to be sons and daughters of the Most High. What greater privilege could be conferred on us than to be given entrance into the royal family? ... Let no one be so deluded by the enemy as to think that it is a condescension for any man, however talented or learned or honored, to accept Christ. Every human being should look to heaven with reverence and gratitude, and exclaim with amazement, 'Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.'"Sons and Daughters of God, p. 8.
How did John, a son of thunder (Mark 3:17), become a son of God?
"John's was no faultless character.... He and his brother were called the sons of thunder.' . . . John was proud, ambitious, combative; but beneath all this the divine Teacher discerned the ardent, sincere, loving heart.
"John's was a nature that longed for love, for sympathy and companionship. He pressed close to Jesus, sat by His side, leaned upon His breast. As a flower [drinks] the sun and dew, so did he drink in the divine light and life. In adoration and love he beheld the Saviour, until likeness to Christ and fellowship with Him became his one desire, and in his character was reflected the character of his Master."Education, p. 87.
|For reflection: Is there a character quality in my life that is more like a son of thunder than a child of God? How does that compromise how I reflect God's character to others? How can I let God help me in this area today?|
In Job 11:7, Zophar asks the suffering patriarch, "Canst thou by searching find out God?" Certainly, we cannot. The greatest human mind cannot produce that which would be recognized as absolute scientific evidence of God's existence. How then can we know God? Only one way-through His self-revelation. God wants us to know all that we can about Him and His goodness.
How does God reveal Himself in ways we can understand? The Bible suggests some ways:
To this list add other ways from your experience and personal study of the Bible that show how God reveals Himself to us.
All of these help to reveal that God is good. That He loves and cares for us is beyond our ability to comprehend.
Evidences of God's goodness. Katie was dying from cancer. She loved birds, but her viewing was restricted to those she could see from her bedroom window. When her daughter Mary saw a flock of beautiful birds in the backyard, she prayed, "Lord, please cause those birds to fly around to the tree in front where Mom can see them." Just then, the birds flew to her mother's window. God does not always answer prayer in this fashion, but this time He did. Mary was overwhelmed with God's goodness in answering such a small request, one that gave to Katie and to her specially needed encouragement during that difficult time.
Recall some of the personal goodness that God has intimately shown you in the past week.
|In what ways have you been able to demonstrate the goodness of God to those around you during the last week?|
FURTHER STUDY: Check the word goodness in your Bible or concordance. Note those verses that apply to goodness as an attribute of God. How many can you find? List several that indicate how God's goodness is reflected in the actions of those who serve Him.
"When men go forth to their daily toil, as when they engage in prayer; when they lie down at night, and when they rise in the morning; when the rich man feasts in his palace, or when the poor man gathers his children about the scanty board, each is tenderly watched by the heavenly Father. No tears are shed that God does not notice. There is no smile that He does not mark.
"If we would but fully believe this, all undue anxieties would be dismissed. Our lives would not be so filled with disappointment as now; for everything, whether great or small, would be left in the hands of God, who is not perplexed by the multiplicity of cares, or overwhelmed by their weight. We should then enjoy a rest of soul to which many have long been strangers."Steps to Christ, p. 86.
"Christ hungers to receive from His vineyard the fruit of holiness and unselfishness. He looks for the principles of love and goodness. Not all the beauty of art can bear comparison with the beauty of temper and character to be revealed in those who are Christ's representatives."Christ's Object Lessons, p. 298.
SUMMARY: One powerful way our families, church members, friends, and neighbors understand the goodness of God is by seeing His good ness in us. When our good God has full control of our lives, His unselfish goodness will be evidenced in our actions. This means more than professing goodness; it involves doing kind, loving, merciful, unselfish, generous, unexpected deeds that, by God's grace, enable others to see His goodness in us.
The world should have looked wonderful to 22-year-old Biruthe [bih-ROO-teh] Konciute [kon-CHOO-teh]. Her homeland, Lithuania, was free after a lifetime of Communism. But a dark cloud of hopelessness hung overhead. Jobs were scarce, and crime was increasing. Biruthe felt that something was missing in her life, something absolute, something stable. She called that something "truth," but she did not know where to find it or that it even existed.
A friend gave her a book to read. Biruthe flipped through it, hoping to find something that would lift her heavy heart. One chapter caught her attention. It began with the words of Jesus: "I am the way, the truth, and the life." The word truth jumped out at her. She realized that the ultimate truth is in God. But how could she find God?
When she was a small girl she had sometimes gone to church with her mother. She remembered that occasionally the priest had read from the Bible. She asked her mother where she could get a Bible, but her mother told her that only the priests read the Bible, not the laity.
Biruthe was determined to find a Bible and read it. She searched for a Bible in bookshops, but she found none. She prayed, "God, if You are truly God, please help me to find Your Word." That day she found a New Testament. Eagerly she began reading it. When she found Christ's words, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), she knew she had the right book!
As she read she noticed that some people called Pharisees did not like it when Jesus healed someone on Sabbath. She wondered what was Sabbath, and why did it make the Pharisees angry when Jesus healed on this day? She found other verses that referred to the Sabbath, and she realized that the Sabbath day was holy to God. But what day was Sabbath? In the former Soviet Union the calendar week started with Monday. But she had learned that other countries started the week on Sunday, which meant the seventh day was Saturday. How could she know which was correct?
(continued next week)
Biruthe Konciute of Lithuania (left). Charlotte Ishkanian is editor of Mission.
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