April 30, 2012

Redefining Good

It is 1:00 A.M.  I just woke up again for the umpteenth time to pull furry little paws off my back so I don’t roll over and crush my dog in my sleep.  My 14-pounder is oblivious to my size, my weight, my strength and power to crush.  She can’t comprehend that I would ever hurt her, because she knows how much I love her and she trusts me.  She is right to trust me. I am the one who sleeps gingerly, worrying about her well-being while she sleeps undisturbed.  When she wakes to discover the distance between us, will she think I love her less when in fact it is a sign I love her more?
Our routine repositioning reminds me of when Moses asked to see the Lord’s face.  How close Moses wanted to be to God!  He just wanted more of God.  That must be a good thing, right?  But God refused.  Sin cannot exist in the presence of holiness.  Moses was still in human skin, woven throughout with sin.  If his sin disintegrated, then he too would disintegrate.  God was too good to allow Moses’ premature death.
          “And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
          Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
          And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:17-20)
Do you believe that God wanted to grant Moses’ request? He had announced,
“I am pleased with you.”
“I know you by name.”
Do you believe that God was able to grant Moses’ request?  He offered alternatives,
I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you.”
I will proclaim my name in your presence.”
I will have mercy.”
I will have compassion.”
I will not give you what you ask.”

“I will”, “I will”, “I will”, “I will not.”

How should Moses respond to this ‘no’ answer?  Kick and scream?  Proclaim his entitlement?  Recount the faithful labor he had done in God’s service to merit his request?  Subtly or not-so-subtly remind God that He’s supposed to be good, implying that a good God would be more generous?

This is how we behave when God tells us ‘no’.  This is how I behave.  God must not be good anymore if He denies what I ask for which is so absolutely unquestionably good.  Compared to my request, if my request is good and He says ‘no’, then He must not be.


When did the basis for good become my human logic?  My motives?  My ‘pure’ heart?  My 30-something years of experience and insight?

Stop the presses, I need to reset my definition of good.

Moses’ request is an important example of how a good God behaves and why. He always has a sensible, sacrificial reason for saying ‘no’.  In this case God revealed His reason.  Evidenced by the extent God went to compensate Moses, it appears that it was no more fun for God to say ‘no’ than it was for Moses to hear it.  God compensated with His goodness, His voice, His mercy and compassion.  God continued in efforts to fulfill the desire of Moses’ heart within the confines of Moses’ best interest.  Saying ‘no’ actually meant more work for God; in the verses which follow, God constructed a substitute for Moses. He hid Moses in the cleft of a rock, covered Moses’ eyes with His hand, and then removed His hand so that Moses could view His back.

Let’s pause to sync up our plights with Moses’.  An all-knowing, all-powerful entity is pleased with me, knows my name, tells me ‘no’ only when He is protecting my interests, and then obliges Himself to compensate me for saying ‘no’.  Whoa.  Heaven help me for ever daring to suspect that God might not be good.

I hear you say to me, “But Dana, God hasn’t compensated me.  He took my husband’s life, or my child’s, or has shortened my own life with an incurable illness.  God can’t compensate me now; therefore, He can’t be good.  No compensation = no good.”

Then I must ask you, “Would a good God crucify His only Son?  Can you see the good in that?"  If you can get your head around the goodness which sent Jesus to the cross, then I beseech you to realize that the same brand of good is making decisions for you too.  In the end, when all is known, you will regret nothing about your suffering. The reward will far exceed the pain and you will thank God for His good judgment.

Also I would dare to say that you have been compensated for your sufferings.  If you have accepted the blood of Jesus for your sins and asked Him to be the Lord of your life, then you will not spend eternity in hell.  You have been more than compensated, my friend.  I have been more than compensated.  I must remember this.

Would a good God draw Satan’s attention to a blameless man named Job, allow Satan to torment Job, only to reveal Himself and restore Job to blessing, making Job an inspiration for all mankind?  Yes, a good God would display His preeminence that way and a good God would compensate the sufferer that way.  Job’s story wasn’t one flawed exception to God’s reputation of good. It displayed exactly how a good God operates; He brings glory to Himself and draws the masses toward eternal life by that glory.  The terms He executes never make sense in the snapshot view of one lifetime, but the end makes perfect sense over the course of all lifetimes.


Long ago I embraced the definition of Truth as the person of Jesus Christ because John 14:6 taught me, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me’."

And I embraced the definition of sin as what the Bible calls sin for Romans 7:7 taught me, “ . . . I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

It is time to recruit ‘good’ into the ranks of concepts measurable only through spiritual interpretation.

Scripture says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will ishis good, pleasing and perfect will.” ~ Romans 12:2

The definition of  ‘good’ will no longer be subjective, quantifed by my judgment, or gauged in degrees of painlessness.   

From now on, good is what God does.


loukness said...

Hi Dana,

I just read this passage about Moses this morning. It was an extra special blessing to read your thoughts. Very insightful and convicting. Thank you for taking the time to write and share.

Dana said...

Thank you Laurel! This was the culmination of grasping for understanding in all the personal tragedies I have witnessed in life viewed against the backdrop of God's purposes. Redefining good puts to death the idea that I am entitled to an exemption from pain. God promises suffering AND good. This was my aim to reconcile the two. Now to apply this new perspective. Thank you again for your comment. Dana