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How Good is God?

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. (Nahum 1:7)
The USA's Barner Research Poll asked, 'If you can ask God only one question, and you knew he would give you the answer, what would it be?' The overwhelming response was, 'why is there pain and suffering in the world?' In other words, just how good is the God we worship in the middle of so much pain and suffering?


God’s people in the Old Testament during Nahum's time faced similar questions. Nineveh had overpowered them and were left wondering where His goodness was amid their broken lives. To comfort them God gave Nahum a vision. In the verse quoted above we learn three things about the goodness of God.

First, God is intrinsically good. Nahum thunders, "Lord is good!". No ifs or buts. God's goodness is intrinsic to his nature. It is not an add on. God is good and all the time! When God reveals himself to the children of Israel in Exodus he proclaims, "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.."(Exodus 34:6).

God not only does good, He is the standard of goodness. Something is good because God says it is! God’s goodness is the lense through which we must see the world and ourselves. We are poor judges of goodness. God’s goodness is therefore a direct rebuke of our human pride! Crucially, God's goodness is necessary. His goodness holds the world together.

His goodness is also what saves us. The goodness of God is fully expressed in the person and work of Jesus. Jesus means Yahweh saves. In Jesus we have a new covenant. This good God is now our God who died and rose to conquer death, sin and hell on our behalf!

Secondly, God is dependably good. The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble! I am reminded of a story of Zambian UN Soldiers who a couple of years ago run away from Sudanese rebels when the going got tough. God is not like that. Rather as the Psalmist says, God “is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”

But a stronghold from what? A stronghold in the day of trouble. This is usually trouble from our enemies who might want to do us harm. Much of our trouble in life is beyond our control. It may also be trouble that comes about through our foolishness. We are often our greatest enemy. Whatever the source, God has never promised there will be no day of trouble! God’s promise is to be a stronghold for His children in that very moment! If we have repented our troubles are now God's troubles!

Finally, God is intimately good. Nahum says the "Lord knows those who take refuge in him". The knowing is more than intellectual! The Hebrew word means “closeness” or "intimacy". God is intimately good to those who know him. His goodness is for us, not against us! All true Christians have intimacy with God through the Lord Jesus Christ - our Immanuel (God with us) . Through Jesus we have taken refugee in God and God the Spirit now lives in us! We therefore have access to God's goodness 24 hours a day!

But taking "refugee in him" is not just saying a quick prayer! It is trusting in God's goodness everyday. The image here is that of abandoning your house and taking up new residence in someone else’s care! God's children trust in God is ongoing and differs from the half-hearted “moment of trouble” cries! And as we trust him we become more and more like Him. We begin oozing out His goodness!

The reality of course is that though we claim to know this good God, we always sinfully treat him with insults and disrespect. We have encountered the infinite goodness of God in our lives and yet we easily wallow in the dirt of sin. We are creatures deserving full judgement. Our problem therefore is not a "problem of evil". The question is not, 'why is there pain and suffering in the world?'. Rather the question is 'why is God good to me at all?'. What we have is a “problem of goodness”. In a world that deserves hell, God’s goodness shines forth unavoidable like the sun!

This goodness of God not only cares and protects us as human beings. In Jesus Christ, God's arms of goodness are stretched out open on the cross of Golgotha. He is beckoning us to turn to Him alone! To focus on this cross as the full expression of His goodness. He is reminding us that he loves us unconditionally!

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

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