Is God Good ALL the Time?
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Take this example from 1 Chronicles 19. David is busy defeating Israel’s enemies. In this case he is faced with both the Ammonites and their allies, the Arameans. He splits his forces, sending Joab off to deal with the Arameans and Abishai to rout the Ammonites. The deal is that if Joab is in trouble Abishai will come to his rescue and if Abishai has problems Joab will come and lend a hand.
Joab then makes this interesting statement: “Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight” (1 Chronicles 19:13).
This is where it might be important to be present, not simply to hear what Joab is saying, but to read his body language. Skeptics could say that Joab’s language suggests a kind of fatalism, something like “what will be, will be.” Others might say that Joab’s statement clearly expresses his belief in the power and sovereignty of God.
At the same time as Joab is expressing his confidence in God (which is, I believe, what his body language would have shown me had I been there), David’s general also says something else that is important. He not only says: “The Lord will do what is good” (his definition no doubt being victory for the Israelites), but he says: “The Lord will do what is good in his sight.”
The addition of this last phrase reminds us that it isn’t what we think is good that is, necessarily, what God is going to do. While it might be a safe bet to assume that God would give Joab and Abishai the victory against their enemies, they had no way of knowing what God might have in mind as He looked at the “bigger picture.”
Joab was going to go out and do everything in his power to defeat the Ammonites and the Arameans. But he was willing to trust God to give him the victory, if that was God’s choice—or to do something else. Either way, he was confident that God would do what was right.
That’s an exceptional faith, a kind of faith that most of us struggle with. To go bravely into our battles, determined to do all we can to bring whatever is happening in our lives to a satisfactory conclusion, and still believe that God might make other choices that might not seem good to us, but are good to him, is a challenge.
We are faced again with trusting that He will keep His promises, promises such as Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Considering that this was directed to those who had been ripped from their homes and exiled to Babylon, the Hebrews might have had a hard time believing that God was doing them “good.”
The essence of faith is believing when we can’t see or understand (Hebrews 11:1). In that great chapter on faith we often focus on the great saints of the past like Noah, Abraham and Moses. We seldom read past verse 32 when the list begins to include those who were tortured, imprisoned, exiled, and murdered who, right to the end, continued to believe that God was doing what was “good in his sight.”
Such faith is hard to imitate, but essential. Hebrews 11:6 tells us: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
My own prayer is that I will increase continually in the kind of faith that truly believes that what God chooses to bring into my life is good, whether I understand it or not, whether His “good” corresponds to what I think is “good,” or not. In the meanwhile, like Joab and company, the challenges of life need to be bravely met head-on accompanied by that faith that knows without doubt that God is good ALL the time.