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The Wednesday Word: God’s Hidden Face

By Pastor Joseph Terrell

Grace Community Church of Rock Valley, IA

I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding His face from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my trust in him. ~Isaiah 8.17

Child of God, do you not find that your most difficult times are those in which the Lord “hides His face”? When God leads a child of His into some deep sorrow of life – some sickness, reversal of fortune or some great loss – such sorrow is bearable if his child can say with confidence, “Even if He leads me through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for my God is with me!” If we sense that God is present with us, we fear no harm even if thousands upon thousands are opposed to us.

But God purposefully hides His face from His people. He withdraws the tokens of His presence. He lets our minds become clouded with doubts. He allows a fog of emotional distress to hide His presence with us. We cannot see Him for He has hidden Himself. The thought that God would hide himself from us only serves to strengthen our distress for we conclude that He would not do so if He loved us.

We surmise that any gracious thought of God toward us would certainly lead to His bestowing rich temporal blessings upon us – “smiling down from heaven” so to speak. But our experience teaches us differently. Sometimes at the very point at which it would seem most helpful to us for God somehow to affirm His presence with us He becomes invisible. He hides. We call out, yet it seems no one is listening. We read His Word yet it seems no one is speaking. We feel horribly closed off and alone

We are all familiar with lighthouses. They serve to warn ships of the location of the shoreline so as to prevent them from crashing on the rocks. But, what of foggy nights when the light cannot be seen? A lighthouse is useless in a dense fog until the ship is too close to avoid danger. At such times, a fog horn is sounded. It may not be as cheering as the light on a clear night. But it tells the captain of the ship all that the light could tell him. It assures him that those concerned for the safety of the ship are still there. And it provides him with the information necessary to avoid the shallow waters of destruction.

The Lord Jesus did not say, “My sheep see my face and they follow me.” He said, “My sheep HEAR MY VOICE, and they follow me.” His voice is the gospel. It is the gospel to which we must ever be attentive. Who knows, our seeking to “see Him” may be the very reason He has hidden His face. We have sought subjective experience rather than objective truth. So He hides His face so that we will be forced to listen to His voice. When we cannot see, let us listen carefully.

When the light is obscured by the fog of our natural selves or even by providential circumstances, let us listen. And as we listen, let us wait, knowing that the face of the Lord will once again appear to our hearts. His voice assures us that He is near and this gives us hope that, in time, He shall appear. And as we wait, let us trust. Sometimes, we do not “see His face” for very long stretches of time. In this our faith is tested. We walk by faith, not by sight. We must simply trust His word – His voice – or we will despair of His goodness and seek our safety elsewhere. God grant that in seasons of no sight, we will content ourselves with the sound of His voice.

(Joseph Terrell)

www.miles mckee.com 

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Happy Thanksgiving 2016

November 24, 2016 2 comments

Reformedontheweb would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

With that said, I will leave you with a quote by Spurgeon:

“But how shall we give crowning thanksgiving for this crowning mercy of the year? We can do it, dear friends, by the inward emotions of gratitude. Let our hearts be warmed; let our spirits remember, meditate, and think upon this goodness of the Lord. Meditation upon this mercy may tend to nourish in you the tenderest feelings of affection, and your souls will be knit to the Father of spirits, who pitieth his children. Again, praise him with your lips; let psalms and hymns employ your tongues to-day: and tomorrow, when we meet together at the prayer-meeting, let us turn it rather into a praise-meeting, and let us laud and magnify his name from whose bounty all this goodness flows. But I think, also, we should thank him by our gifts. The Jews of old never tasted the fruit either of the barley or of the wheat-harvest, till they had sanctified it to the Lord by the feast of ingatherings. There was, early in the season, the barley-harvest. One sheaf of this barley was taken and waved before the Lord with special sacrifices, and then afterwards the people feasted. Fifty days afterwards came the wheat-harvest, when two loaves, made of the new flour, were offered before the Lord in sacrifice, together with burnt offerings, peace-offerings, meat-offerings, drink-offerings, and abundant sacrifices of thanksgivings, to show that the people’s thankfulness was not stinted or mean. No man ate either of the ears, or grain, or corn ground and made into bread, until first of all he had sanctified his substance by the dedication of somewhat unto the Lord. And shall we do less than the Jew? Shall he, for types and shadows, express his gratitude in a solid manner, and shall not we? Did he offer unto the Lord whom he scarce knew, and bow before that Most High God who hid his face amidst the smoke of burning rams and bullocks? And shall not we who see the glory of the Lord in the face of Christ Jesus come unto him and bring to him our offerings? The Old Testament ordinance was, “Ye shall not come before the Lord empty;” and let that be the ordillance of to-day. Let us come into his presenoe, each man bearing his offering of thanksgiving unto the Lord. But enough concerning this particular harvest. It has been a crowning mercy this year, so that the other version of our text might aptly be applied as a description of 1863, “Thou crownest the year of thy goodness.””

Charles H. Spurgeon- Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, September 27th, 1863 (Text that Spurgeon preached from: “Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.” —Psalm 65:11.)

Attributes of God: Goodness- Book 2- Chapter 2- Section 7

Book Second

CHAPTER II.

SECTION VII. – GOODNESS.

GOD IS INFINITELY BENEVOLENT.[49]

God’s goodness, as exercised towards his creatures, is often expressed in the Scriptures by the term love. Love is distinguished as benevolence, beneficence, or complacence. Benevolence is love in intention or disposition; beneficence is love in action, or conferring its benefits; and complacence is the approbation of good actions or dispositions. Goodness, exercised toward the unworthy, is called grace; toward the suffering, it is called pity, or mercy. The latter term intimates that the suffering, or liability to suffer, arises from the just displeasure of God.

Goodness implies a disposition to produce happiness. We are conscious of pleasure and pain in ourselves, and we know that we can, to some extent, cause pleasure or pain in others. Continued pleasure is happiness; continued pain, misery. God is able to produce happiness or misery, when, and to whatever extent he pleases. Which of these is it the disposition of his infinite nature to produce?

God’s goodness may be argued from the manifestations of it in the works of creation. The world is peopled with sentient beings, capable of pleasure; and sources of pleasure are everywhere provided for them. Every sense of every animal is an inlet of pleasure; and for every sense the means of pleasure are provided. What God gives them they gather. His open hand pours enjoyments into their existence at every moment. When we consider the innumerable living creatures that are, at this moment, receiving pleasure from the abundant and varied stores which his creating power has furnished; and when we reflect, that this stream of bounty has flowed incessantly from the creation of the world, we may well consider the fountain from which it has descended as infinite.

It demonstrates the goodness of God, that the pleasures which his creatures enjoy do not come incidentally, but are manifestly the result of contrivance. Food would nourish without the pleasure experienced in eating. We might have been so constituted as to be driven to take it by hunger, and to receive it with pain, but little less than that produced by the want of it. But God has superadded pleasure where it was not absolutely necessary, and has made the very support of animal existence a source of perpetual gratification.

It adds greatly to the force of this argument, that indications of malevolent design are not found in the works of God. Pain is, indeed, often experienced, but it never appears to result from an arrangement specially made for receiving it. There is no organ of our body to which we can point, and say, this was specially designed to give us pain.

Mere animal enjoyment is not the highest that God bestows. To his intelligent creatures he has opened another source in the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge. We need knowledge, as well as food; and we might be driven to seek it by a painful necessity, without deriving any pleasure from it. But here, again, the benevolence of the Creator is manifested. Pleasure is superadded when we acquire necessary knowledge; and, when the progress has reached the limit of our necessities, the pleasure does not cease. The intellectual appetite is never satiated to loathing.

But God has made us susceptible of far higher and nobler pleasure in the exercise of virtue and religion. To this he has adapted our moral nature, rendering us capable both of the exercise and the enjoyment. For the exercise of virtue and religion, the constitution of human society, and the various relations which we sustain in its organization, furnish abundant occasion; and in the moral sense of mankind, and the approbation which virtue extorts, even when the tribute is not spontaneously rendered, a source of enjoyment is opened. In the proper exercise of our moral powers, we are capable of loving and enjoying God; and, therefore, of experiencing a happiness that infinitely transcends all other enjoyment. This ocean of infinite fulness, this source of eternal and exhaustless happiness, gives the full demonstration of God’s infinite goodness. And this enjoyment, also, never cloys; but, with the progress, the delight increases.

The doctrine of God’s goodness, notwithstanding the abundance of its proofs, is attended with difficulties. Though sentient beings are not furnished with organs purposely prepared for the receiving of pain, they have organs for inflicting it, which are unquestionably the result of contrivance. The fangs of serpents, and the stings of insects, are instances of this kind; and to these may be added the talons and tusks, or beaks, with which carnivorous animals rend their prey. How is the existence of such pain-inflicting contrivances to be reconciled with the infinite goodness of God? How can we explain, in harmony with this doctrine, the suffering which animals endure from the violence of each other, from hunger, cold, and disease? Above all, how can we reconcile the innumerable miseries with which human society is filled, in every rank and condition of life? If God is infinitely good, why is human life begun in pain, and closed in pain, and subject to pain throughout its whole course?

These difficulties are of too much magnitude to be overlooked. They perplex the understanding, and disquiet the heart; and, therefore demand a careful and candid consideration. The following observations are offered, to guard the heart against their influence.

1. Admit the existence of the difficulties in their full force, and what then? Does it follow that God is a malevolent being? Were he so, the proofs of his malevolence would abound, as those of his goodness now do. We should everywhere find animal senses adapted to be the inlets of misery, and the objects of these senses all adapted to give pain. Does it follow that God is indifferent whether his creatures are happy or miserable? The numerous provisions which are made with a manifest reference to animal enjoyment, forbid this supposition. Does it follow that God is capricious? This conclusion is precluded by the fact, that what suffering there is in the world, runs throughout along with its enjoyments; the happiness and the misery are entwined with each other, and form parts of the same system. By summing up the whole, we discover that animal life has more enjoyment than suffering, and that its pains are, in most cases, incidental. In our daily experience, blessings are poured upon us incessantly; and when suffering comes, we are often conscious that it arises from our abuse of God’s goodness, and is, therefore, no argument against it. In many other cases, we find present suffering conducive to future good; and we have reason to believe that it would always be so, if we endured it with a proper spirit, and made a wise improvement of it. It becomes us, therefore, when sufferings occur, the beneficial tendency of which we cannot discover, to remember that we comprehend but a very small part of God’s way. We have found every other attribute of his nature incomprehensible to us, and it ought not to surprise us that his goodness is so.

The sufferings which we experience in ourselves, or see in others, become an occasion for the trial of our faith. To the understanding of a child, the discipline of his father may appear neither wise nor kind. Indulgences which are craved may be denied; and toils and privations, exceedingly unwelcome, may be imposed. In these circumstances, it is the child’s duty to confide where it cannot comprehend. So we should exercise faith in the wisdom and goodness of our heavenly Father, and believe that his ways are full of goodness, even when they are inscrutable. Enough of his goodness is seen elsewhere to satisfy us of its existence when mystery hides it from view.

2. It cannot be proved that an admixture of pain with the large measure of enjoyment which God bestows on his creatures, is inconsistent with his goodness. The insect of a day, and the immortal near the throne of God, derive their enjoyment from the same infinite goodness. If the short-lived insect should pass its few hours in the sunbeams without pain, and should be annihilated without pain, the difficulty which now embarrasses us would not apply to its case. Its existence, filled with enjoyment, would correspond with our notions of the Creator’s goodness; and the finiteness, or very small measure of its enjoyment, would not disprove the source to be infinite from which it proceeds. Now, if a creature of another kind should have enjoyments a hundred fold greater, with an abatement of one measure of pain, its existence, on the whole, is ninety-nine times more desirable than that of the insect. Shall we, then, deny that this existence proceeds from the goodness of the deity? If the pain forms a part of the same system with the pleasure, we must attribute them to the same author; and the animal that has ninety-nine measures of enjoyment remaining, has no more right to complain of the abatement of one by the endurance of pain, than the insect supposed would have to complain of the absence of ninety-nine measures which the more favored creature enjoys. This consideration may satisfy us that the presence of some pain, connected with a far greater amount of enjoyment, is not inconsistent with the doctrine that God is infinitely good. Furthermore, it is perfectly conceivable that pain itself may, in some cases, enhance our pleasures, as relief from suffering renders subsequent enjoyment more exquisite: and, in other ways, which we are unable to comprehend, pain may produce a beneficial result. In this view, the existence of pain cannot be inconsistent with the goodness of God.

3. Much of the suffering in the world is clearly the effect of sin, and is to be considered an infliction of divine justice. The justice of God claims scope for its exercise, as well as his goodness. The goodness of God is infinite, if it confers happiness as widely as is consistent with the other perfections of his nature. It is a favorite theory with some, that God aims at the greatest possible amount of happiness in the universe; and that he admits evil, only because the admission of evil produces in the end a greater amount of happiness than its exclusion would have done. According to this theory, justice itself is a modification of benevolence; and the pain suffered by one being, is inflicted from love to the whole. But whether justice be a modification of benevolence, or a distinct attribute, its claims must be regarded; and goodness does not cease to be goodness, because it does not overthrow the government of God, or oppose his other perfections.

Some persons attribute all the sufferings of brute animals to the sin of man, but the Scriptures do not clearly teach this doctrine; and we have shown that the pain which brutes endure, may be otherwise reconciled with the goodness of God. That animals suffer because of man’s sin, is clear in the cruelty which they often experience from human hands; but that all their sufferings proceed from this cause is not so clear. Unless the order of things was greatly changed at the fall of man, hawks had their claws and beaks from the day they were created, and used them before man sinned, in taking and devouring other birds for food; and, therefore, pain and death, in brute animals, did not enter the world by the sin of man. Brute animals have, on the whole, a happy existence. Free from anxiety, remorse, and the fear of death, they enjoy, with high relish, the pleasures which their Creator has given them; and it is not the less a gift of his infinite goodness, because it is limited in quantity, or abated by some mixture of pain.

4. It may be, that God’s goodness is not mere love of happiness. In his view, happiness, may not be the only good, or even the chief good. He is himself perfectly happy; yet this perfection of his nature is not presented to us, in his word, as the only ground, or even the chief ground, on which his claim to divine honor and worship rests. The hosts of heaven ascribe holiness to him, and worship him because of it; but not because of his happiness. If we could contemplate him as supremely happy, but deriving his happiness from cruelty, falsehood, and injustice, we should need a different nature from that with which he has endowed us, and a different Bible to direct us from that which he has given, before we could render him sincere and heart-felt adoration. In the regulation of our conduct, when pleasure and duty conflict with each other, we are required to choose the latter; and this is often made the test of our obedience. On the same principle, if a whole life of duty and a whole life of enjoyment were set before us, that we might choose between them, we should be required to prefer holiness to happiness. It therefore accords with the judgment of God not to regard happiness as the chief good; and the production of the greatest possible amount of happiness could not have been his prime object in the creation of the world. We may conclude that his goodness is not a weak fondness which indulges his creatures, and administers to their enjoyment, regardless of their conduct and moral character. It aims at their happiness, but in subordination to a higher and nobler purpose. According to the order of things which he has established, it is rendered impossible for an unholy being to be happy, and this order accords with the goodness of God, which aims, not at the mere happiness of his universe, but at its well-being, in the best possible sense.

If these views are correct, the miseries which sin has introduced into the world, instead of disproving the goodness of God, proceed from it, and demonstrate it. They are means used by the great Father of all, in the discipline of his great family, to deter from the greatest of all evils. Precisely this use the wisdom from above teaches us to make of his judgments and threatenings; and when these awful means have taught us the evil of sin, and have been blessed to us as means of sanctification, we may perceive in them a manifestation of God’s goodness.

5. To infer the infinitude of God’s goodness from it effects, we must view them in the aggregate. The perfection of his justice appears in its minute and precise adaptation to each particular case. Every part of his administration must, when brought to the line of rectitude for comparison, be found to agree with it precisely. But as in estimating the length of a line, we do not examine its parts, so the infinitude of God’s goodness must be judged from the aggregate of its effects, as we learn the power of God, not from a single grain of sand, but from the whole extent of creation.

To comprehend this vast subject, we need the infinite mind of God himself. In events which now appear to us dark and mysterious, the seeds of future benefits to his creatures may be wrapped up, which will bring forth their fruit hereafter, for the use of admiring and adoring intelligences. The parts of the great system are so wonderfully adjusted to each other, that no finite being dare say that this is useless, or that pernicious or hurtful. Why God has made precisely such orders of creatures as inhabit the world with us, and why he has appointed to them their various modes of life, with the advantages and inconveniences peculiar to each, we are wholly unable to say; and, if we undertake to say why he has made any creatures at all, we may assign a reason which we think we understand, but of which, in reality, we know but little. If the united intelligence of the universe could lift up its voice to God, as the voice of one creature, and say, “Why hast thou made me thus?” it would be daring impiety. How unbecoming then for man, who is a worm, to arraign the wisdom and goodness of his Maker!

The goodness of God is the attribute of his nature, which, above all others, draws forth the affection of our hearts. We are filled with awe at his eternity, omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence; but we can imagine all these attributes connected with moral qualities which would render them repulsive. But the goodness of God, while it is awful and grand, is at the same time powerfully attractive. It is this, when understood in its proper sense, not as the mere love of happiness, that renders Jehovah the proper centre of the moral universe. It is this that attracts the hearts of all holy intelligences now in heaven, and that is drawing to that high and holy place whatever on earth is most lovely and excellent; and if the hearts of any repel this centre, and recede further from it, they are “wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.”

[49] Ex. xxxiv. 6; Ps. ciii. 2-8; Zech. ix. 17; Matt. vii. 11; Luke ii. 14; xii. 32; Rom. v.8; 1 John iv.8.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

A twofold knowledge of God, viz., before the fall and after it

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015A twofold knowledge of God, viz., before the fall and after it. The former here considered. Particular rules or precautions to be observed in this discussion. What we are taught by a body formed out of the dust, and tenanted by a spirit.

1. We have now to speak of the creation of man, not only because of all the works of God it is the noblest, and most admirable specimen of his justice, wisdom, and goodness, but, as we observed at the outset, we cannot clearly and properly know God unless the knowledge of ourselves be added. This knowledge is twofold, — relating, first, to the condition in which we were at first created; and, secondly to our condition such as it began to be immediately after Adam’s fall. For it would little avail us to know how we were created if we remained ignorant of the corruption and degradation of our nature in consequence of the fall. At present, however, we confine ourselves to a consideration of our nature in its original integrity. And, certainly, before we descend to the miserable condition into which man has fallen, it is of importance to consider what he was at first. For there is need of caution, lest we attend only to the natural ills of man, and thereby seem to ascribe them to the Author of nature; impiety deeming it a sufficient defense if it can pretend that everything vicious in it proceeded in some sense from God, and not hesitating, when accused, to plead against God, and throw the blame of its guilt upon Him. Those who would be thought to speak more reverently of the Deity catch at an excuse for their depravity from nature, not considering that they also, though more obscurely, bring a charge against God, on whom the dishonor would fall if anything vicious were proved to exist in nature. Seeing, therefore, that the flesh is continually on the alert for subterfuges, by which it imagines it can remove the blame of its own wickedness from itself to some other quarter, we must diligently guard against this depraved procedure, and accordingly treat of the calamity of the human race in such a way as may cut off every evasion, and vindicate the justice of God against all who would impugn it. We shall afterwards see, in its own place, (Book 2 chap. 1: sec. 3,) how far mankind now are from the purity originally conferred on Adam. And, first, it is to be observed, that when he was formed out of the dust of the ground a curb was laid on his pride — nothing being more absurd than that those should glory in their excellence who not only dwell in tabernacles of clay, but are themselves in part dust and ashes. But God having not only deigned to animate a vessel of clay, but to make it the habitation of an immortal spirit, Adam might well glory in the great liberality of his Maker.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 15-Henry Beveridge Translation

Announcements of Mercy

The Wednesday Word:  Announcements of Mercy

 

Have you ever asked yourself why is it that God’s people believe the truth of the gospel? The answer is simple. We believe because God persuades us that He is to be trusted (Numbers 23:19). Faith, real faith, has a divine foundation.

As believers, God Himself is our teacher and we learn from Him primarily by reading, listening to and meditating on His word. He is the God who does not lie. His word teaches us, for example, what His mercy is (Psalm 119:41). When trying to discover what mercy is we should let God speak for Himself.

Here then are some announcements from heaven that inform us of God’s stunning mercy towards us.

 

“The Lord is long suffering and of great mercy” (Numbers 14:18).

“His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 118:1).

“Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:5).

“Thou art a God full of compassion and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15).

“Thy mercy is great unto the heavens” (Psalm 57:10).

“His tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:9).

” He retains not his anger forever, because he delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18).

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6).

“God, — is rich in mercy, for the great love wherewith he hath loved us, even when we were dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:4).

“According to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).

 

These are but a few announcements concerning mercy from the One who cannot lie and each of these announcements are faithful and true. Each of them is fresh and life giving! Beware of saying, “I know these verses! What use is it to read and meditate on them?” When I hear words like that, I catch the sound of alarm bells! This is the thinking of someone who has become too familiar with the gospel and his familiarity is blocking the life of the Word from reaching his soul. This kind of familiarity with the things of God is a spiritual death sentence!

The announcements listed above are declarations of the riches of God’s mercy! Through the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit, we read them as if it were the first time we have heard them. The mind of God towards us is wrapped up in these faithful announcements, and it is out of words like these that the Spirit ministers grace and peace to us. These verses are God’s personal messengers to us. If they don’t minister peace to you, read them again. If you still can’t find peace through them, read them again. If you still find nothing, meditate on them again for, “The word of God is quick and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12). “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29).

John Newton, the writer of the classic hymn, ‘Amazing Grace’ was a man who lived in the life of the scriptures. He knew a thing or two about mercy! Right before he died, he said to a friend, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Saviour.”

Newton was a man who had listened to and believed the Divine Announcements. He never forgot that he owed his redemption entirely to the mercy of God. He made this clear in the following epitaph he wrote for himself and had written on his tomb.

 

‘John Newton

Once an Infidel and Libertine,

A Servant of Slaves in Africa,

Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,

Preserved, restored and pardoned,

And appointed to preach the faith

He had long laboured to destroy.’

 

And that’s the Gospel Truth

Miles McKee,

Minister of the Gospel

www.milesmckee.com