Are you still complaining about social distancing? About wearing a mask in public? Let’s face it, at some point we were all griping and murmuring about the extended pandemic. But most of us have now gone through a phase where we have asked ourselves, “What’s good about the pandemic?” At least that’s better than complaining. After all, God is good, so whatever he ordains for us has some functional component in it. I was curious about what people considered good about the global Covid-19 event, so I checked multiple websites. Some results included decreasing carbon footprints, clearer waterways, more family time, appreciating the outdoors more, re-examining our priorities, stronger community relationships, increased virtual programming, and improved internet access. When we are under stress during long trials or challenges, we tend to start looking for positive effects to avoid getting depressed by the negative and sometimes catastrophic results. Positive results, good deeds, and hopeful attitudes go a long way toward overcoming potentially circumstances. As one who has endured chronic, and sometimes intense pain, I am very familiar with the process. However, naming the pandemic’s temporal benefits only go so far to encourage us. On the other hand, God’s enduring goodness, especially Christ’s atonement, and the Spirit’s indwelling presence have the power to refresh our souls and minimize our focus on our circumstances. God’s goodness in this life is a reality for Christians. Living in, through, and for Christ is a unique and superior way to experience God’s goodness now. David found great comfort in God’s goodness and reminds us to look to him rather than to the world for what is wholesome, virtuous, or noble. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalms 23:6) “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” (Psalms 27:13)
Today’s verses focus on being in the presence of God in this life, in addition to our eternity with Christ (Psalm 23). I was grateful when a friend texted a link to a podcast from “Revive Our Hearts” on anxiety. In this episode, Janet Mylin defines anxiety (for Christians) as fearing a future without God’s grace and mercy. (1) The Psalms offer us the antithesis—a future with God, resting in his goodness. Those of us who are redeemed already know the best thing God can do—save us from the custodial power of sin that imprisoned us. We were captured by our fears, driven to look for hope in a condemned world, and searching for the power to gain control over our lives. Our idols failed us, our dreams disappointed, and people never quite met our expectations. We were deceived, thinking we could find substantial, fulfilling goodness from ourselves, others, or the world. But only God is our protective, restorative, calm, generous, righteous Good Shepherd, who leads, comforts, and anoints us. His goodness and mercy follow us forever through Christ. Only the goodness of God in Christ will satisfy our longing for peace, security, and love. The good news of the gospel means that God’s goodness is our reality in this life, even amid a pandemic or other devastating trial.
“This hymn [Psalm 23] is usually classified as a psalm of confidence in the Lord’s care. It uses two images: the Lord as Shepherd who cares for the sheep (vv. 1–4), and the Lord as Host who cares for his guest (vv. 5–6)…These images would be familiar from everyday experience (for David’s own, cf. 1 Sam. 17:34); but they also evoke other ideas common in the ancient Near East (including the OT), with the deity as shepherd of his people and the deity as host of the meal…The enemies are powerless to prevent the enjoyment of God’s generous hospitality (perhaps they are there as captives at a victory celebration).” (2) We celebrate God’s gracious mercy and grace, which cancels our enemies’ power over us; that is Satan, the world, and our sin. David wrote, “‘and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever; ‘which may denote his constant attendance on the public worship of God, of which he had been deprived in time past, being driven out from it, but now he enjoyed it, and believed he ever should; or it may design his being a member of the church of God, and a pillar in the house and temple of the Lord, that should never go out; see Revelation 3:12; or it may regard the assurance he had of dwelling in the house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens, Christ’s Father’s house, in which are many mansions, sure dwellings, and quiet resting places for his people, and that to all eternity.” (3) While we may not know for sure which of these blessings David had in mind, we have them all in Christ; as a result, we can and do live in God’s goodness without the anxiety of fearing what is bad, evil, evil, destructive, deceitful, or hateful. God’s goodness leads to our goodness rather than divisiveness and conflicts in world events, politics, economics, social issues, personal matters, or organizational struggles.
The goodness of God is not just intellectual, emotional, or attitudinal. We can “look upon the goodness of the Lord.” David believed it, and so do we if we belong to Christ because the Spirit testifies to God’s goodness and empowers us to imitate it. (See Romans 7:4; Galatians 5:22.) The King James Bible translates Psalm 27:13, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” The New American Standard Version reads, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” They remind us that without Christ, we would faint or despair of seeing anything good here, and help us to rise to an exalted view of goodness that eclipses the world’s poor imitation. Psalm 27 is another hymn psalm, and “in singing Psalm 27, God’s people have a way of not simply expressing confidence in him but of cultivating that confidence for the widest range of challenging life situations…The singing worshiper addresses each of the other worshipers, with the admonition to live in continued confidence.” (4) “The psalmist believed that he should ‘see’; that is, enjoy all these, or whatever was needful for him; all the good things of life, all special favours; as supports under afflictions, views of pardoning grace under a sense of sin, strength against Satan’s temptations, and deliverance out of them; the discoveries of the love of God, and the light of his countenance, after desertions, and divine refreshments in his house, from his word and ordinances; and at last all the glories of the other world; and faith in these things is the best antidote against fainting.” (5)
How have you tasted God’s goodness recently? Have you proved that there is no comparison with the goodness the world professes? How does the gospel of Jesus Christ encourage your goodness? Are you living in the Spirit’s power and holiness to avoid being caught by worldly controversies? Can you say with assurance that your greatest desire is to be in God’s presence and pray as David did? “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalms 27:4)
(2) English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Psalm 23, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
(3) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 23:6, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-23.html
(4) ESV, Ibid, Psalm 27.
(5) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 27:13, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-27.html
July 17, 2020