Is God Good?

There is a site on the Secular Web that has a list of biblical contradictions. I’m going to read through them and talk about them a little bit, and see what we come up with. One of the first raises the question of ‘is God good?’

PSA 145:9 The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.

JER 13:14 And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.

At first glance, it does seem quite obvious that this is a horrible contradiction. God is obviously not good if he wants to dash them and destroy them. However, we need to read these verses in context to get a better understanding of what they are actually saying. Psalm 145 is a praise of David, and is poetic. Obviously a praise song is not looking for exhaustive theological viewpoints of the axiological nature of God. That’s a big worded sentence to say David isn’t critically exploring God’s morality. He is, however, praising God.

Jeremiah is a book that needs to be taken into context as a whole. The Psalms stand alone and we can examine them individually for the most part. But Jeremiah is a deeply interwoven work that has 56 cohesive chapters. Jeremiah is known informally as ‘the weeping prophet’ because of the woeful judgement he brings to Judah and Israel. Specifically to Judah and Jerusalem in chapter 13. Jeremiah brings warnings so that the God’s chosen people will repent.

Then I said to the people of Judah,
“Listen and pay attention! Do not be arrogant!
For the Lord has spoken.
Show the Lord your God the respect that is due him.
Do it before he brings the darkness of disaster.
Do it before you stumble into distress
like a traveler on the mountains at twilight.
Do it before he turns the light of deliverance you hope for
into the darkness and gloom of exile.
But if you will not pay attention to this warning,
I will weep alone because of your arrogant pride.
I will weep bitterly and my eyes will overflow with tears
because you, the Lord’s flock, will be carried  into exile.”

-Jeremiah 13:15-17

Let me be clear we are like children. I mean this in the way that we do not know what’s best for ourselves. We see a plug and a screwdriver and we get a devious grin and make plans to get ourselves killed. A hot stove looks like a play ground. Cigarets entice us and premarital sex becomes the number one goal in life. Thankfully, for those of us who believe, God does not allow us to go down these roads of self destruction. He actually promises to discipline us in order to teach us to be faithful and live a life of prosperity rather than to go on in our destruction. In this way, God uses ‘darkness of disaster’ and ‘darkness and gloom of exile’ as disciplinary tools.

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hat me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

-Exodus 20:4-6

God reveals his plan to punish sin, so that it does not go on for generations. He promises to cut it short. He is making good on his promise through the words of Jeremiah. This is not only biblical consistency within itself here, but it is also being consistent with Psalm 145. People have the choice to make decisions, right or wrong, good or bad, sinful or holy (which ever pair works for you). We have choices that often lead to destruction (The way of a man seems right to him, but in the end it leads to destruction). God lets us make that choice, but he also disciplines us to make better choices. There are consequences. Because of this I find that God is good to all, especially when speaking of tender mercy. I mean, if God lets us make choices, and has the ability to show us the error of our way through discipline of consequences, and he didn’t do so, then he would not be a good God. If he let us lead ourselves down a path of destruction with no warnings or signs to try and deter us, he would be an evil God. Instead he warns of us of the coming ‘darkness of the gloom of exile’ to try and get his people to repent, and when they don’t, he allows the ‘darkness of the gloom of exile’ to do it’s work so that the people will see their depravation and repent to live a life of love and prosperity.

So why is this so easily perceived as contradiction? Well, we are depraved, in my opinion. We see discipline not for what it produces (a harvest of peace and righteousness) but for what we feel at the time (pain). And so we forget that the painful discipline is from a loving father who wants us to be free from evil and evil desires that lead to destruction. In short we associate discomfort and pain with evil and comfort and ease with good. In the long term that is accurate, but in the midst of a difficult situation, there is a struggle and fight for the good, and it is not always comfortable and painless. 1 Timothy 1:7 says “for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but one of power, of love, and self discipline.” We need to have discipline and do the hard things, not the easy ones, for that is true, power and love, and goodness.

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