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Behold The Severity of God's Goodness

James R. Davis

"Behold therefore the goodness and the severity of God," Paul writes in Romans 11:22. Throughout biblical history individuals readily spoke of God as being Good.

2 Chronicles 30:18-19 But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, "May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God-- the LORD, the God of his fathers-- even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary."

The priests and Levites offered praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.

Ezra 3:11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: "He is good; his love to Israel endures forever." And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Ezra 7:9 He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him.

Nahum 1:7 The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,

Jesus said of himself. "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--" (John 10:14 )

I.  God Is Good

A. Sadly many refuse to acknowledge the goodness of God.  They wonder how he can allow bad things to happen, but they don't understand that his goodness prevents from us falling over dead whenever we commit a sin. Because of the Fall, God has every right to wipe out the human race.

Only because of His goodness are we able to keep breathing.

1. God hasn't brought judgment because it is a case of mercy triumphing over judgment.

James 2:13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

a. The Jews held the Gentiles in contempt for their ungodly lives. They thought that the Gentiles were worthy only of the fires of hell. Paul was explaining to them that the grace of God saves saint and sinner. So he ask the Jews in Romans 2:4 "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?"

b. To hold God's goodness in contempt is grossly underestimating the value or significance of something.  It is a failure to assess true worth. What do people underestimate? The riches of His kindness. It is the goodness of God that ultimately leads each of us to Christ.

2. Every person on the face of the earth has personally experienced the goodness of God in many ways.

Mt 5:45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

a. God provides us with food to eat, heat to keep warm, and water to quench our thirst.  He gives us blue sky, green grass, and beautiful mountains. He gives us people to love. Yet we often we take all of those blessings for granted and are not thankful. It is a sinful human tendency to make light of God's forbearance and patience.

Exodus 34:6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,

b. It is when we forget God's goodness that we become rebellious.

Nehemiah 9:17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,

c. It is when we remember his goodness that we are persuaded to return.

Psalm 103:8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

Joel 2:13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Jonah 4:2 He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

B. God's goodness is a common theme in Scripture. If you as a Christian have ever thought that God is unjust, you have revealed how easy it is to abuse the goodness of God. His goodness is designed to bring about repentance -- to cause us to long for Him and make us thankful that He allows us to live in spite of our sin.

2 Peter 3:9-10  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

1. What kind of response has the goodness of God produced in your life? Are you consistently thankful for what He has provided you?  Or have you forgotten the provider and become indifferent to Him?

2. Perhaps pride has led you, like it did the Israelites, to believe that the achievements and blessings you enjoy are from your own hand instead of His.

Deuteronomy 8:7-11 For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day:

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Psa 103:1-5 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-- 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

II. The Believer's Confidence In God's Goodness.

A. What can make Christ stop loving you?  The obvious answer:  Nothing. Paul went on to specify various afflictions that might cause a believer to question God's goodness.

2 Cor 11:24-27 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

Tribulation = pressure from external difficulties, from false accusations, rejection, or bodily harm.  Sometimes our difficulties introduce doubt concerning God's goodness.

1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

B. Comprehending God's Goodness

Eph 3:18-19 That you may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

1. God's love is broad enough to reconcile Jew and Gentile and make them one in Christ.

Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

2. Long enough to stretch from eternity.

Eph 1:4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love

3. Deep enough to reach us when we were dead in our trespasses and sin.

Eph 2:1-5 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-- it is by grace you have been saved.

4. High enough to raise us up and seat us in heaven with Him.

Eph 2:6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

Its breath -- it can reach anyone.  its length it runs from eternity to eternity.  its depth - it reaches to the pit of sin.  Its - height - it takes us to the presence of God and seats us on His throne.  That is the love and goodness we are to know and build our lives on.

C. It gives us confidence to know that God searches and tries our hearts in an effort to bring us to him.

Jeremiah 17:9-11
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."  Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay is the man who gains riches by unjust means. When his life is half gone, they will desert him, and in the end he will prove to be a fool.

1. Jeremiah says that the Lord searches our hearts and examines our minds.  That means in a very real sense God is presently examining our hearts and minds at the present.

2. Jeremiah says that God rewards a person according to that person's conduct and according to what that person's deeds deserve. But God is doing all this that he might bring his work in Christ to fruition in our lives.

Philippians 1:4-6
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

3. Jesus' life serves as an example of this work of God that takes place in our lives.

Hebrews 12:2
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

4. Just as he brought his eternal purpose to fruition in Jesus' life, God is at work in our lives to bring his purposes to fruition. Even though it may take the hand of judgment to do so.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
 

II. The Severity of God's Goodness.

A. Christ's death on the cross demonstrates the severity of the goodness of God like no other event in history.  It is the supreme expression of His goodness. Yet the cross not only tells us about the goodness of God to those who are lost. The cross gives a clue to the severity of God's judgment against sin. Sin was severe enough that it cost God the life of his only son. It was severe enough that God became sin for us. Let's take a closer look at it in the light of God's love.  You may see some things you've never seen before.

1. His goodness was so severe that the king over all endures mockery.

John 19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.

Instead of releasing Christ, whom he repeatedly pronounced innocent, Pilate tried to satiate the mob's thirst for blood by scourging Him. Christ was so badly beaten, He couldn't carry His own cross all the way to the place of execution. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.  And after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they kneeled before Him and mocked Him, saying, "Hail King of the Jews!"

Mt 27:27-29 Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said.

Historians tell us that Roman soldiers commonly did this as a cruel game to make sport of those they considered to be mentally deranged.

Mt 27:30-31 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Lord of life endures the severity of crucifixion and this an indication of the severity of sin.
Soldiers surrounded the cross as Jesus was carrying a man was out front with a placard stating the reason he was crucifixion. His strength gave out.

Mk 15:14 "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"

They gave him drink mingled with gall; after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink" (Mt. 27:34) Some suggest that drink was actually a narcotic to make it easier for the Roman soldiers to nail him to the cross.

The Gospel writers didn't give the details of what happened, but it's helpful to have some understanding of what Christ endured on the cross. The authorities did not seek a quick, painless death to preserve a small measure of dignity for the criminal. On the contrary, they sought an agonizing torture to humiliate him completely.

Even Christ's suffering on the cross was not enough to satisfy the evil desire of His enemies -- they had to torment Him as well.

Mt 27:39-44 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads  and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!"  In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.  "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.  He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, `I am the Son of God.'"  In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

Mt 27:46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"-- which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Here is something completely beyond human understanding:  God became separated from God.  God the Father turned His back on God the Son. Exactly what kind of separation was that?  The Son wasn't separated from his own divine nature -- He didn't cease to be God.

2. Why did he do it?

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Isa 53:5-6 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

2 Cor 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

3. God's love is so severe that he is willing to punish his own son for all of us.
Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

B. It is also the severity of God's goodness that brings judgment for our sin. When God led the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage by his gracious hand he closed the Red Sea upon the Egyptians and they drowned. The severity of his gracious hand in saving the Israelites in the crossing of the Red Sea was was the same hand that simultaneously killed the Egyptians. Likewise it is in the cross that God demonstrates the severity of his judgment against our sin. The love that saves is the same love that judges us.

God had revealed himself to Egyptian and Israelite alike. They both had experienced the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. The Israelite responded and the Egyptian hardened his heart. Both had experienced the goodness of God, one in judgment and the other in salvation.

The Psalmist said, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees." (Psalm 119:71) He is saying that the severity of God's good was manifested in God's discipline.

Conclusion:

We must learn to appreciate the goodness of God.
We must appreciate the patience of God.
We must learn to appreciate God's good discipline.

 

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