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Goodness of God

Nahum 1:7-8

mp3 audio
 

“The Lord is good, a stronghold in a day of distress; He cares for those who take refuge in Him. [8] But He will completely destroy Nineveh with an overwhelming flood, and He will chase His enemies into darkness.” (HCSB)
 
Last week we studied some difficult scriptures that lead us to ask the question, “How can a loving God do that?”  We concluded that God is love, but He is more than just love.  To the point of last week’s message, God is also holy, and because He is holy, he must judge sin and protect the integrity of His holiness.  In today’s text we see the same tension.  Verse seven declares that the Lord is good, but verse eight says that He will destroy Nineveh and its inhabitants.  While Nineveh’s enemies would be quick to agree that God is good, the inhabitants of the evil city might want to argue the point.  They might ask, “How can a loving God destroy our city?”
 
The book of Nahum is a prophecy that foretold the historic event of the fall of Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, which occurred in 612 BC (ZPEP, 356).  Jonah referred to the city as an "exceeding great city." It was so big that he said it would take three days to walk it (Jonah 3:3).  It had a palace with 80 rooms, many of them adorned with sculptures.  The city was about 1800 acres and had and aqueduct and 18 canals bringing water from the hills.  The water system could supply 200,000 people. It wasn’t just a great city because it was big; it was a city of great influence.  
 
The Medes joined with the Babylonians and Susianians to attack the city and when they destroyed it, they razed it to the ground and massacred or deported the survivors.  The Medes and the Babylonians divided its providences and the Assyrian empire was demolished. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineveh)
 
Historians may look at the events I’ve described and ascribe the victory to the allied forces of the Medes and the Babylonians, but theologians read the prophecy of Nahum and have a different take.  They see the goodness of God at work destroying the enemies of Israel.
 
God is good.  But that doesn’t mean that those who encounter His wrath with think so.  It is all a matter of perspective.  Those from Nineveh would say God was good to their enemies, but they wouldn’t say that He was good to them. 
 
1 Chronicles 16:34 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” (HCSB)
 
Psalms 25:8 says, “The Lord is good and upright; therefore He shows sinners the way.” (HCSB)
 
Psalms 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (HCSB)
 
Psalms 106:1 says, “Hallelujah! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.” (HCSB)
 
Psalms 119:68 says, “You are good, and You do what is good; teach me Your statutes.” (HCSB)
 
GOD IS GOOD; EVEN WHEN EVIL PEOPLE BENEFIT FROM HIS GOODNESS.  Psalms 145:9 says, “The Lord is good to everyone; His compassion [rests] on all He has made.” (HCSB)  Life itself is a gift from God and proclaims His goodness.  God brings blessings in the lives of evil men as well as good men.  Matthew 5:45 says, “so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (HCSB)  Depending on your perspective, rain can be a good or a bad thing.  In flood stage, it is bad, in the midst of a drought, it is good.  In this passage, the Lord declares that rain falls on the just and the unjust and that the son shines on each.  God’s goodness is evident, even in the lives who declare that He isn’t good.  They enjoy the earth He’s created and the life that He sustains.  
 
GOD IS GOOD, EVEN IF PEOPLE FROM NINEVEH DID’T THINK SO. Which leads me to make an absolute statement:  God is good, even when I’m not receiving good things from his hands. Exodus 33:19 says, “He said, ‘I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name Yahweh before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’”  (HCSB)  The first part of that verse declares the goodness of God, but the second section shows that God is not obligated to show someone compassion, just because He is good.  
 
Job understood this.  Job 2:7-10 says, “So Satan left the Lord’s presence and infected Job with incurable boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head. [8] Then Job took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself while he sat among the ashes. [9] His wife said to him, “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die!” [10] “You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said.” (HCSB)
 
GOD IS GOOD, EVEN WHEN OUR LIVES AREN’T.   
 
Just over four years ago, one of our church families began walking through a nightmare that was as close to the suffering of Job as I’ve ever witnessed.  Some of you will remember the events I’m about to recall.  But even if you know the Monterey part of the story, you will be surprised at the depth of the suffering this family went through as you hear the rest of the story.   Together, we grieved with Terry and Maria as they buried their daughter Zoe.   Shortly thereafter Terry went through a "cut-look-repeat" cancer operation that took seven “cuts” before he was cleared and right as they were leaving to move to Florida, Maria discovered from her doctor that they’d lost another child.  Shortly after their move, their son Zac had surgery for a life-threatening tumor in his ear.  They lost another child during pregnancy, their fourth loss.  
 
Recently, Maria wrote me about these events and said, “After Zoe's death I was sure of the definitive existence of God. He woke me from a sleep that was not restful.  He patiently forced air into and out of my lungs, when I did not want to breathe.  He moved me out of bed when all I wanted was a quiet coffin of my own to escape the immeasurable grief.  He gave me tears to wash the pain from my eyes.  And so He began the rest of my life on this planet without Zoe.”
 
She continues, “Sleep is restful. I can take a deep breath of air and slowly let it out.  I can get myself out of bed every morning.  There is taste in food again.  The ocean is so beautiful.  There are tears of joy more than tears of grief.  God is good.  And He is not man-made.  His serenity is not man-made.  His will is not man-made.  I could not face this world without Him.  Everything in this world, in this life, on this planet is more that I can handle.  God constantly lets me know I cannot do it without Him.  He is God.  The ‘happy ending’ is not that I have other children and my husband lived.  The ‘happy ending’ is that I have God's love, peace, and serenity.”
 
“God is good” Maria writes, “God is good.”  Like Job, she is willing to accept more than just good things from the hand of God and she hasn’t allowed the bad things she’s received to color her view of the goodness of God.
 
Just as God is holy, God is good.  Psalms 36:9 says, “for with You is life’s fountain. In Your light we will see light.” (HCSB)  God is the fountainhead from which all goodness springs.  Without Him there could be no good, and when He is involved, He is able to turn evil into good.  When evil surrounds us and we are receiving other than good from the hand of God, we claim the promise of Romans 8:28 that says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” (HCSB)
 
Perhaps, Like Job and Maria, you’ve been receiving other than good from the hand of God.  Are you able to trust in the goodness of God and His power to work all these things out for good?  Are you able to trust in Him even if you never know the good that He is doing through your suffering?

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