The daily headlines relentlessly pound against the shore of our lives. We live in a world that suffers from the curse of sin. Ours is a world filled with pain. In such a cultural milieu, it is crucial that we know and affirm the goodness of God. The goodness of God reassures us when the world appears to spin out of control. The goodness of God comforts us when evil surrounds us. And the goodness of God encourages us when the world seeks to squeeze us into its mold. What does the Bible mean when it affirms the goodness of God?

Defining God’s Goodness

The Hebrew word for goodness may be defined as “pleasant, delightful, cheerful, and happy.” Wayne Grudem writes, “The goodness of God means that God is the final standard of good, and that all that God is and does is worthy of approval.” [1] A.W. Pink adds, “God…is the highest good. God is not only the Greatest of all beings, but the Best.”[2] And the great Princeton theologian, Charles Hodges writes:

Goodness … includes benevolence, love, mercy, and grace. By benevolence is meant the disposition to promote happiness … Love includes complacency, desire, and delight, and has rational beings for its objects. Mercy is kindness exercised towards the miserable and includes pity, compassion, forbearance, and gentleness … Grace is love exercised towards the unworthy … All these elements of goodness … exist in God without measure and without end. In Him they are infinite, eternal, and immutable.[3]

The goodness of God is assumed by Christian people. To ascribe goodness to God is a basic reality. However, we need to be prepared to address a worldview which actually opposes the goodness of God. When we view God’s goodness as the “final standard of all that is good,” we subtly confront a relativistic worldview that rejects any final standard or authority. “If God didn’t exist,” writes Dostoevsky, “everything would be possible.” Greg Bahnsen adds, “Even those who deny moral absolutes have at least one moral absolute: “You should not believe there are moral absolutes. You should believe there is no morality.'”[4] The bottom line of God’s goodness: All that he does is worthy of approval. God is the highest standard of good.

Describing God’s Goodness

First, the Scriptures affirm the goodness of God. Psalms 100:5 declares, “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Second, the goodness of God is reflected in creation. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Gen. 1:31). Third, the goodness of God is reflected in the good gifts he gives us. “Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Fourth, the goodness of God is reflected in his fatherly discipline. “For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:1-11). Fifth, the goodness of God is reflected in the ultimate gift of his Son. The most pronounced goodness of God is reflected in the gospel. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and set his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Responding to God’s Goodness

Consider several responses to God’s goodness as we meditate on Psalms 34:8. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

  1. Acknowledge the goodness of the Lord. To confess that God is good involves agreeing with all that he deems good. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
  2. Taste the goodness of the Lord. The Psalmist proclaims, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalms 34:8, ESV). To taste is “to savor.” Much like fine food is to be savored, so too, we taste the goodness of the Lord. We do so by soaking our hearts and minds in his Word. We taste the goodness of the Lord by meditating on his promises and by receiving forgiveness from our merciful Savior. And we taste the goodness of the Lord by worshipping in the context of a covenant community.
  3. Take refuge in the Lord. Such a person finds safety, rest, and comfort in the safe arms of Jesus. The Psalmist assures us, “This God – his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (Psalms 18:30). And when we take refuge in Christ we not only find ourselves in the safest place; we find ourselves in the happiest place – for “blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”
  4. Refuse to question God’s goodness. When the “chips are down,” and we experience bitter Providence; when life takes a turn for the worst; when we endure a season of pain – we make this resolution: We refuse to question God’s goodness. We stand with the apostle Paul who says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

In Summary…

We are called to mirror the goodness of God by welcoming people and extending kindness. We are called to mirror the goodness of God by listening to people and loving them. We are called to mirror the goodness of God by serving people and sacrificing for them. “So, then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). And we are called to mirror the goodness of God by inviting people to the cross: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Psalms 34:8).

This article first appeared in Theology for Life Winter 2016-2017 Issue. To download the rest of the issue click here.

[1]            Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 197.

[2]            A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), 57.

[3]            Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), 156-157.

[4]            Greg L. Bahnsen, Pushing the Antithesis(Powder Springs: American Vision, 2007), 171.