What do you think about when you hear the word “justice?” Unfortunately, most of us immediately think of the injustice in the world, rather than positive lawfulness, moral uprightness, or equitableness. Today, Black Lives Matter, and other movements force us to think about justice, which God must intend since he is the sovereign first cause of all events and circumstances. But when we compare the court rulings for crimes to “issue-related” injustice, we can be a bit stymied. For example, compare these three recent news items: “A federal judge in San Antonio sentenced 32-year-old Trorice Crawford of San Diego, California, to 46 months in federal prison for his role in an identity-theft and fraud scheme that victimized thousands of U.S. service members and veterans, the Department of Justice announced today… A Tennessee healthcare executive was sentenced to 42 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release today for his role in an approximately $4 million kickback scheme…Yesterday, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice held a hearing on community trust and respect for law enforcement.” (1) The first two are easy to appreciate—punishment for those who have committed crimes against individuals or organizations. However, the third item, about “trust and respect for law enforcement” may make us a little uncomfortable, and raise questions about the power and force used by law enforcement officers, or their roles in protests and public events. However, a biblical worldview reminds us that our sinfulness has always infected humankind’s justice. Therefore, worldly justice will never be perfect or as successful as we might like. But God’s justice is perfect because he is perfect. His righteousness, moral purity, and absolute holiness are all aspects of his goodness.
As we segue to the next fruit of the Spirit, goodness, (Galatians 5:22-23), we will begin with a consideration of God’s goodness, as we experience it in life, and as he intends that we understand it. Psalm 145:4-9 provides our theme for this devotion to begin our study of biblical goodness. “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” (Psalms 145:4-9)
God’s people spoke of his great deeds and mercies, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and especially Joseph, who clearly understood God’s sovereign goodness. When confronted with a visit from his estranged brothers, what was his response? “So Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come near to me, please.’ And they came near. And he said, ‘I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.’” (Genesis 45:4-9) Later he proclaimed, “‘As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’” (Genesis 50:20-21)
“What gave Joseph the grace to make this remarkable reply? There is only one answer: Joseph knew God. In particular, he knew two things about God. He knew that God is sovereign—that nothing ever comes into the life of any one of his children that he has not approved first; there are no accidents…And he knew that God is good—therefore, the things that come into our lives by God’s sovereignty are for our benefit (and for others’) and not for our harm. What Joseph saw and spoke of in this next-to-last scene of his earthly life is what the apostle Paul wrote about eloquently hundreds of years later… ‘We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Rom. 8:28). It is impossible to overestimate the wonder of this verse…If all things worked together for our good without our knowing it, it would be a wonderful fact even though we might not find out about it until much later. But we do not have to wait until later. We can know it now. We can know that all that enters our lives is actually working for good now. This knowledge is by faith…It is not always by sight. But it is nevertheless certain, because it is based on the character of God, who reveals himself to us as both sovereign and benevolent….in proof of this conviction I submit the example of the greatest evil in all history producing the greatest good imaginable. I refer to the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2) God’s goodness is seen in his majestic works, especially in Christ’s merciful, gracious, and loving atonement. Will we embrace and remember God’s joyful, extraordinary goodness in Christ that is our inheritance?
Psalm 145 speaks of remembering, but do we actually know what we remember? We tend to remember the hard times and trials in our lives more than those when God’s goodness covers us, protects or prevents difficulties, or intercedes in practical ways. So we have to learn how to remember biblically. The more time we spend in God’s Word, the better we know him and are content with his goodness. We can work for and expect the highest level of goodness in the world without so many disappointments, knowing that God’s goodness and justice will prevail in the new heavens and new earth. The birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ provide us with a complete picture of God’s goodness. We love to sing about Jesus’s love and work for us because, by it, God covers us, remakes us, and seals us with his goodness. Hymns such as “Amazing Grace,” “Fairest Lord Jesus,” “I Know Whom I Have Believed,” “To God Be the Glory,” and many others remind us of God’s divine goodness in his mercy and justice performed on the cross.
Verse 9 of Psalm 145 states, “‘The Lord is good to all,’…which is to be understood not of the general and providential goodness of God to all men, to all his creatures, and the works of his hands; but of the special goodness of Christ…which extends to all the chosen people of God; who are all loved by Christ, redeemed by him, justified and glorified by him; and to Gentiles as well as Jews; for whom he tasted death, laid down his life a ransom for them, and became the propitiation for their sins.” (3) God’s goodness is especially seen in Christ’s merciful, gracious, and loving atonement. Therefore, our virtue is particularly biblical when it is grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ. But how often do we remember God’s joyful, extraordinary goodness in Christ that is our inheritance? And if we are so forgetful, how can we hope to grow in biblical goodness? Be encouraged—“I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.” (Jeremiah 32:41)
(2) Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Genesis 50:15-21, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
(3) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalms 145:9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-145.html
July 10, 2020