God’s Glorious Attributes
By Rayola Kelley
When you talk about the Lord with others, the one quality you will hear is about His goodness. We all know that the Lord is good and sometimes we can use it like a platitude more than a wonderful truth, but what is goodness when it comes to the Lord? The problem with people is that they can confuse the Lord’s goodness with their idea of goodness.
The challenge for most Christians is that they compare what they consider to be personal goodness with the world, which is void of any goodness, to establish what they think is good to God. Granted, there are decent enough people to bring some contrast in this world, but decency and goodness are not the same thing. Decency points to propriety or being conformed to standards of taste and service, while goodness is a virtue that points to qualities that prove to be beneficial to the one who possesses it as well as those who encounter it.
God clearly benefits all of His creation, especially man. Anything that benefits us is because of the goodness of God. God can express this goodness in many ways such as through blessings, His mercy, and grace, but keep in mind these attributes are an extension of God goodness.
Clearly, we may do what we consider to be good things that benefit others, but in light of God, there is no one who is good in the sense that they can be beneficial when it comes to salvation or being able to do the impossible to better someone’s existence. Even though Scripture told me that only God was good, it was hard for me to believe that man’s best was fifthly rags and that there was no good thing to be found in the flesh that could benefit another person (Isaiah 64:6; Matthew 19:17; Romans 3:10; 7:18). Granted, I can share the Gospel with someone, be a godly witness to others, or an extension of God’s hand, but only God can save a person’s soul and touch those qualities that will truly benefit others.
Too many times we confuse our personal piety with God’s goodness, but as already alluded to, man’s goodness and God’s goodness are two different virtues because God has a means to benefit man’s life for eternity where man may make a temporary difference but never a lasting one.
Another tendency is to accredit religion with goodness. Such piety is decent, but outwardly it can simply conform to some standard or ritual but the real test of what is good comes down to whether it is the result of the transforming work of the Spirit in us. If man does not become an extension of God’s mercy and grace towards others, the goodness of God will never be realized in someone else’s life. Once again, what benefits a person in a lasting way solely comes from God alone and not from us. We may be an avenue to His goodness, but we will never be the source of it.
I realize that I have talked about the Lord’s goodness in the past, but can such a subject lose its luster and beauty by speaking of it many times? After all, we make many references to God’s goodness but do we even know what we are talking about or making reference to? Granted, the fact that God is good and He is good all the time leaves us with sentimental feelings and encouragement, but is that the proper response towards this attribute?
One of the Scriptures that always gives me a small glimpse into God’s goodness is often overshadowed by the idea of His glory being all consuming, and yet as we will learn, God’s goodness is an important component when it comes to God’s glory. This Scripture is found in Exodus 33:18-19, “And he (Moses) said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he (the Lord) said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” (Parentheses added.)
When Moses asked to see the Lord’s glory, the Lord stated that He would make all of His goodness pass before him as He proclaimed His name. Keep in mind Moses could not look into the fullness of God’s glory without dying. What does this tell you about God’s goodness? Is it something that can be taken lightly or considered in a sentimental, casual way to stir up some feeling or fanciful notion? I think not.
I often make a statement that our understanding of God will determine our level of worship, but I believe that our understanding of His goodness is going to determine our level of sobriety. How much sobriety do we display towards God’s goodness?
Let us consider some things about God’s goodness to gain insight about it for ourselves. We know that God’s goodness is beneficial, but it also can prove to be beautiful to receptive souls, accepted and preferred by those who are righteous, prove valuable to those seeking, worthy of consideration by those who are true worshippers, and will express itself in kindness, mercy, and pity.
Consider what Psalm 25:8-9 says about God’s goodness, “Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.” We can see that the one way we benefit from God’s goodness is that He wants to teach the sinner in the way he is walking and guide the meek in judgment as well as teach him His way. However, to be receptive of such goodness in this way, we must be meek towards the Lord, ever ready to come under the disciplines that come with His goodness. Psalm 119:68 says, “Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statues.” God does everything to benefit others but to experience His goodness we must learn how to please Him.
In Psalm 34:8, we are told that, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” We can taste His goodness and to the upright it will be sweet, but to the unbelieving it probably carries a bit of bitterness with it. Tasting the Lord entails believing what He says and assimilating it in our lives as being so. Clearly, one cannot taste the goodness of the Lord without obedience that is an act of genuine faith.
Isaiah 63:7 states, “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.” Here we see that His goodness is bestowed on us. It is not earned or deserved but a matter of His loving-kindness. Lovingkindness has to do with mercy and pity. Love can be forgiving and kindness can show grace. It is clear that God bestows His goodness on us through the mercy and pity He shows us.
When you look up lovingkindness, it is not only associated with mercy and pity, but as pointed out, it is also used in place of grace in the Old Testament. Lovingkindness is a way of showing favor towards someone. The psalmist in Psalm 25:6 asked the Lord to remember His tender mercies and loving kindnesses that have always been, and in Psalm 40:11 the psalmist admitted that it was the Lord’s loving kindnesses and truth that had continually preserved His people. Psalm 36:7 makes mention of the excellence of His lovingkindness and goes on to speak of how it allows believers to put their trust under the shadow of His wings. Psalm 36:10 requests that the Lord continues His lovingkindness towards those who know Him and Psalm 42:8 tells us that the Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime where it can be clearly witnessed by others.
Psalm 69:16 says, “Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good; turn unto me according to the multitude of they tender mercies,” and Psalm 119:149 confirms this by saying, “Hear my voice according unto they lovingkindness.” It is clear that the Lord’s lovingkindness is beneficial and actually serves as an avenue to hear us while His tender mercies inspire His response. However, according to Psalm 107:43, it takes those who are wise to observe those things the Lord does and understand His lovingkindness in doing it. It is by understanding how His lovingkindness works on our behalf that Psalm 119:88 states that it will help the person to keep His testimonies and Psalm 119:159 talks about being quickened to His lovingkindness. Quickening has to do with reviving the spirit.
Psalm 138:2 states, “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified they word above all thy name.” God’s lovingkindness should inspire praise in us because once again it talks of His grace and His goodness. It is for this reason the Psalmist asked the Lord in Psalm 143:8 to cause him to hear His lovingkindness in the morning for in Him he trusts, and he adds, “cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.” Jeremiah 9:24 tells us that God exercises lovingkindness along with judgment and righteousness for it is in such things He delights. However, Jeremiah 31:3 tells us it is with lovingkindness He draws us, but Jeremiah 16:5 reminds us He can also take away His lovingkindness
Needless to say, God’s lovingkindness greatly benefits us because it manifests itself in the forms of mercy and compassion. Lamentations 3:21-23 states, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” We have great hope because we know that because of the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed and it is His desire and good pleasure to enter in with us by showing compassion. God’s mercies and compassions are new every day and as a result can meet us in our present struggles and needs.
Pity is a type of regard or compassion for someone. Out of regard, a person’s plight is considered, and out of compassion one enters in with the person, and as a result that individual can be spared of judgment. In God’s goodness, He is apt to show pity to the vulnerable and those who are struggling in a wretched state. Psalm 106:46 talks about God showing pity on those taken into captivity. He shows regard towards those who have pity on the poor, it was out of pity that the Lord redeemed His people, and it is when they call out to Him that will He have pity on His people in their affliction, but He can also keep such pity back if His people are in rebellion (Proverbs 19:17; Isaiah 63:9; Lamentations 2:17, 21; Joel 2:17-21). Psalm 103:12-13 puts God’s pity in this light, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgression from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.” It is clear that we must be able to enter in with the less fortunate but we will do so because we fear Him.
It is important to point out that we must seek God’s mercy and desire His pity before we can obtain His grace. Every time God forgives us it becomes a matter of His grace. He always wants to show His goodness to us, but it will never be recognized or received if we are being rebellious about something. After all, the pride in rebellion believes it deserves good things. We need to see a need for His mercy before seeking it. When we seek His mercy, He will refrain from judging us, while it is His heart to bestow on us His blessings and promises. However, to seek mercy, we have to recognize that we have a problem, become humble enough to agree with God’s evaluation about it, broken over the reproach it has brought Him, and ready to repent by changing attitudes and turning back to Him with our whole heart.
Lamentations 3:3:25-26 tells us this about the goodness of the Lord and acts that are considered to be good where man is concerned. “The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.” Those who wait on God to bring forth a matter according to His will and plan will greatly benefit from the results, and it is for this reason that it is a good practice for man to seek the Lord and live in expectation because of hope as he quietly, with confidence and assurance, believes that in due time the Lord will deliver him into the life that has been promised.
Jeremiah gives us another good thing a man can do in Lamentations 3:27-26, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke of his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.” It is important to point out that Jeremiah wrote lamentations because of the great grief he felt about the judgment that was coming upon Jerusalem. This judgement would not be God’s wrath because that would require destruction; rather, it was a grievous chastisement coming on them. The people of Judah had been in great rebellion. The judgment coming at them like a freight train could not be stopped but those who believed on the Lord could benefit even during a time of great chastisement.
The Lord wanted to show mercy to all of Judah but only a remnant responded. It was in this type of environment that Jeremiah revealed what a believer could do in such a time that would be beneficial. He needed to learn to wait for the Lord, but he also had to carry the heavy yoke without complaint or seeking some type of recognition.
We know that chastisement regardless of how severe it is, is a sign of love and identification. This is brought out in Hebrews 12:6-14. The Lord only chastens those whom He loves. Such individuals are His children, identified to an eternal inheritance that will never cease. He chastens so people can be partakers of his holiness for without holiness a person will not see the Lord.
As we can see, God is good in all He does and desires to show His goodness to man. On the other hand, man is not good and is not able to be a source of real goodness in relationship to God and others. It is only as a person becomes a vessel and instrument of God can God’s goodness be extended to others. It comes in the form of mercy, pity, and grace. It shows love in patience, mercy in forgiveness, pity in compassion, and grace in kindness.
The next time you hear that God is good, consider what His goodness means for you, and when you hear that old adage that He is good all the time, stop and meditate on the many qualities that come out of His goodness. If you do, it is possible God’s goodness will not just leave you with a simple sentiment, but it will cause you to realize that His goodness is like an unlimited lake where the bottom can never be reached, the treasures uncovered, or the full beauty of it discovered.