There’s an old saying. “God is good all the time and all the time God is good.” Have you ever heard that? I think I learned it in Sunday School, or maybe my parents taught me. I can’t remember. Usually people recite it back and forth to each other. It’s one of those stoic old formulaic things that really rubs me the wrong way … except it’s true.
But what does it mean to be good? Do we really grasp that? Because none of us are good. I mean, there are some of us who are okay. I don’t consider myself a bad person, but then, what is bad? What standard do you use to judge good and bad, right and wrong? If good is perfect, none of us are good enough.
Today’s verse is 1 Chronicles 16:34.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
This is actually part of the chapter I blogged about yesterday, but I just couldn’t get this phrase out of my head. The text actually comes out of an Old Testament history. The Chronicles are the history of the kings of Israel and Judah with a little more detail. And this is during the time that King David is bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem.
Yes, the Ark of the Covenant really existed. No, it was nothing like Raiders of the Lost Ark. And, since Jesus is our Mediator between God and Man now, the Ark is no longer needed, which is why it’s not around anymore. Just FYI.
Just a brief bit of explanation: the situation with the Ark started back during the time when Saul was king. I can’t remember exactly, but he did something foolish and allowed the Ark to fall into the hands of the Philistines, one of Israel’s enemies. I don’t remember the verse, but it’s a somewhat entertaining bit of Philistine history. So as king, David decided that the Ark needed to be returned to Jerusalem. But his first attempt was shoddy and not according to God’s rules. That happens in 1 Chronicles 13, and one of David’s people ends up dying because he touched the Ark when he wasn’t supposed to. So David left the Ark halfway to Jerusalem for three months before he realized that he had done it wrong. He comes back in Chapter 16 to do it right. And this verse comes out of a song that David sings when they get the Ark back to Jerusalem.
As a child, when I read this story, I didn’t understand it. Even now, I still struggle with it somewhat. Because it seems to me that these peoples’ intentions were true. They wanted the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence, to be returned to Jerusalem where it belonged. And just because someone who wasn’t in the right “class” of people touched it, he was killed?
That sounds harsh to me even now. But the truth is, God had told them a specific way to move the Ark. And David thought he knew better. Yes, his motivation was true, but even if your motivation is true, that doesn’t excuse your actions if they’re wrong.
This story is just one indication that we really don’t know what “good” is. We can tell you our interpretation of good. We can tell you the “good things” we’ve done. But are our “good things” even good? If we don’t know what good really is, how can say anything we’ve done is good?
What is good? And what does it take to be good?
Only God is good. And He’s good all the time. So if you’re trying to define “good” you have to look at God.
Good is the opposite of bad. Good is genuine and real, striking a balance between a true heart and correct action. Being good requires perfection. None of us can be good. Period.
Random people on the street who’ve lived in sin all their lives can’t be good. People who’ve grown up in the church and have decided to do their own thing can’t be good. People who’ve grown up in the church and have never left the church can’t be good. None of us can be good. Maybe we can try, but I guess what I’m saying is that none of us can be good enough.
God is good. In every situation. In every circumstance. In every life. Even when you feel bad, even when you are bad, God is good. He can’t be anything else.
If we want to be good, we need to run our actions through the filter of God’s goodness. We need to ask ourselves if the choice we’re getting to make is based on our own selfish desires or on what God has clearly told us in Scripture. We need to ask ourselves if the way we’re treating people is based in anger or love.
Are we living like Jesus did? Are we living like God has told us? Whether that means addressing your thought life or your pride or your improper relationships, we need to change. And even those of us with the best most pure intentions need to re-examine our hearts. Because even if we have good intentions, we’re still not good enough. And our good intentions can easily become something that destroys other people if our actions don’t match up with what God has said is right.
Another reason this verse won’t get out of my head is the new Casting Crowns song that’s been played all over the radio recently. I embedded it below. It’s a little creepy, but all music videos are, so I suggest getting it to play and looking at something else while you listen.
Just remember that nobody’s good enough. We’re all just beggars that Jesus gave bread. And while we are supposed to help each other and keep each other accountable, not one of us is better than someone else.
Only God is good. The best we can do is imitate Him, but we can’t pick and choose His qualities to imitate. Like Scripture, it’s all or none. He is good and righteous and just; but He is also merciful and loving. It’s a hard line to walk. But that’s why He gave us the Holy Spirit. That’s why we have Christ’s example in Scripture.