"Expecting God's Goodness" -  January 2012

“Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.” (Psalm 65:11)  This is a familiar verse to most.  It tends to be preached a lot at the beginning of the year.  As we have just finished the first month of this new year (which is hard to believe) I have been feeling this verse in my spirit in regard to 2012.  I believe that this is going to be a “good” year- a year “crowned with God’s goodness.  Let me explain what I mean and what I don’t mean.

First, what I don’t mean.  When I say that it will be a good year, it doesn’t mean that I think we won’t have anything “bad’ happen this year.  It doesn’t mean that I think nothing will go wrong this year or that there won’t be trials, pain or suffering.  Neither do I mean that we won’t experience some heartaches, hard times or problems.  We are living in a world that is tainted by sin.  Sin brings death, disease, poverty and suffering.  As long as sin is present in the world there will be hardships in the world- even for the Christian, we aren’t exempt.  Jesus Himself warned us that we will have tribulations while we are living in this world.  “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We tend to think that good means the absence of bad.  That is not a true assumption.  They are opposites but can still be present at the same time.  Good things can happen even in the midst of something bad.  I have heard of tragedy (bad) bringing whole communities together in unity (good) to offer support and help.  What I am trying to say is that just because good is present doesn’t mean that there can’t be some bad present as well- or vice versa.

Now that I have covered what I don’t mean, let me tell you what I do mean- but as I do, keep in mind what I said I didn’t mean.  The “good” that I believe that is coming on this year is God’s goodness.  He said He crowns the year with His goodness.  Let’s break the meaning of this verse down a little first.  The Hebrew for “crown” mean to crown; encompass; surround; encircle.  In the dictionary there are a couple of meanings for crown that don’t refer to the headgear that is worn by monarchy.  Those definitions are:  1) to be at the top or highest part of; 2) to complete worthily; bring to a successful or triumphant conclusion.  According to these definitions in this verse, the Lord Himself sits at the top of this year (at the beginning) and He sits at the conclusion (at the end).  He completely encircles it.  He is present each and every day of the year- from January 1 all the way through December 31.  “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” (Revelation 1:8;22:13)  God is already at the end of the year before it even begins.  He is not limited by time or space like we are.  So nothing takes Him unaware because He already sees it.  He sees ahead, therefore, He sees things before they actually happen.  And when He sees it, He then makes provision for whatever it is.  He doesn’t wait until we get to the situation to provide for it.  He does it beforehand.

Creation bears this out.  When God created the world, He did it in six days.  What day did He create man?  On the sixth day, after He had created everything that man would need to be able to live once he got here.  God didn’t create man before He created oxygen for him to breath, water for him to drink, or food for him to eat.  He didn’t created wildlife before He created vegetation so that the animals would have food to eat.  He didn’t create vegetation before He created sunlight so that they would be able to grow.  (Genesis 1) 

We see this true through salvation.  God saw before He ever created the world that man would disobey Him by eating of the tree that he was told not to eat.  He saw the fall of man before He ever said the first, “Let there be”, or before He created man who would open the door to sin.  Thus the scripture, “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)  God had the plan to redeem mankind from his sin already in place before He ever even created the first person, or the world.  (What a truly awesome and amazing God He is!)  That is why nothing is hid from God.  “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:13)  It doesn’t even have to exist for Him to see it.  He is Omniscient- All Knowing!  He even knows our thoughts before we think them.  “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.” (Psalm 139:2)

This is one reason why I can say that this is going to be a good year.  Regardless of what comes our way; regardless of what need may arise; regardless of whether we may face economic crisis, food shortage, wars, terrorist attacks or any type of other disaster (natural or manmade), it will still be good because God is encircling the year and He sees not only what is happening, but what will happen.  When He sees what will happen, He goes ahead and begins the process of providing for it.  Remember the famine that came upon Egypt in the days of Joseph.  God saw it coming.  He gave Pharaoh dreams about it and placed Joseph in a position to interpret the dreams.  Pharaoh set Joseph up to oversee a plan to store food during the years of plenty that would carry them through the years of famine.  “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:  Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.  And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.  “And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?  But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.  Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.” (Genesis 41:39-41; 50:10-21)  The Lord also did this during the time that the plagues were coming upon the land of Egypt.  The Lord desired to deliver His people from Egyptian bondage and take them into their own land.  He raised up Moses as His instrument to bring deliverance.  Know that Pharaoh would not allow the people to go, God sent judgment upon Egypt.  During the plagues He provided a safe place for the Israelites in Goshen.  The plagues were all around them, but they were safe.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Go in, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.  For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.  Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail.” (Exodus 6:10,11; 12:12; 9:26)  There are numerous other examples in the Bible that describe times when the Lord provided for His people based on His foreknowledge of what they were going to face.

One of the Hebrew names for God is, Jehovah-Jireh.  The name means, “God the Provider”.  But it also carries a greater connotation than that He is just a Provider.  It literally means that He is God who sees ahead and makes provision for; He will see to it.  Isn’t that exactly what we have been talking about.  He sees what lies ahead and provides for it in advance.  The first time He is called Jehovah-Jireh in the scriptures is when Abraham was on Mt. Moriah.  God had commanded him to take his son Isaac up the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice.  “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.  And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” (Genesis 22:1,2)  As Abraham was getting ready to offer Isaac, the Lord spoke to him and told him not to sacrifice his son.  “And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.  And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.  And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.  And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.  And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.  And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.” (Genesis 22:8-13)  God had provided His own sacrifice.  He put a ram in the thicket.  The ram was already there, because God had seen that moment ahead of time.  Abraham didn’t see the ram until the Lord brought it to His attention.  We may not see now the provisions that the Lord has already provided for us.  We won’t see them until the time that they are needed-- just like Abraham-- but when they are needed they will be there waiting for us.  When you come to the place where you need a certain provision from God, He will have it already there waiting on you.  You will see His goodness through His provision because He sees the need before it arises and supplies it before you get to it.   

Not only does God encircle and encompass the whole year, beginning to end with His presence, He also sits above the year looking from the highest point over everything that happens.  He doesn’t miss a thing.  Nothing is hid from Him, He sees it all.  “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:13)  “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3)  And since He sees it all, He can orchestrate and work things out for the greatest success.  Nothing- no trial, no test, no situation- will be wasted because He knows how to bring good out of bad when it happens.  He can cause all things to work together for our good.  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  The verse doesn’t say that all things are good- they aren’t, not everything that happens in our lives is good- but He causes them to work together for the good-- even those bad things.  We talked about Joseph earlier.  Was it a good thing when his brothers threw him into the pit and sold him into slavery?  Was it a good thing when he was lied about by Potiphar’s wife and thrown into prison?  Was it a good thing that he missed the opportunity to grow up with his family?  None of those things were good.  Yet, God brought something good out of it.  He saved the whole nation of Israel by being put in a place of authority in Egypt.  Had the events, that his brothers meant for evil, never transpired, he would have never been in the position to be the instrument that the Lord used to preserve Israel and the covenant that He had made with Abraham.

When bad things happen to us, and they do, God knows how to work them together in such a way where something good can come from it.  So, whatever bad may come our way this year, we can expect to see God’s goodness at work bringing something good, something eternal, something that will strengthen us, something that will transform our lives to where we look more like Him, or something that will bring Him much glory.  He will be working all things together for our good.

Another reason it will be a good year is because even when bad things are happening around us, God’s presence will be with us- He is encircling the year.  That means His presence will be there everyday and in every place.  And where His presence is we will find His goodness.  “And thy paths drop fatness.” (Psalm 65:11b)  Let’s talk about some examples of this:  “bad” situations that happened to individuals in the Bible and yet the goodness of God was present. 

When Pharaoh finally let the Israelites leave Egypt, he changed his mind and decided to pursue them and bring them back.  Here was the nation hemmed in between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army.  They only had two options:  drown in the sea or return to Egypt and continue to be in slavery.  That was definitely a “bad” situation.  But we see the goodness of God come into their situation.  He opened up the Red Sea and made it become dry ground so that the Israelites could safely cross and escape Pharaoh’s army.  Then He closed the sea up on Pharaoh’s army and destroyed them all.  It was a bad situation but the goodness of God was present to save and deliver.  “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.” (Exodus 15:1)

King Darius made a rule that forbid the people to pray to anyone but him.  The penalty for anyone breaking the rule was to be thrown into the lion’s den.  Daniel continued to pray to the Lord God as he always had, therefore, he was thrown into the lion’s den.  This was not a good situation at all, but through it Daniel saw the goodness of the Lord.  God’s goodness was present even in a bad situation.  The Lord shut the mouths’ of the lions and kept Daniel safe.  “Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.  And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?  Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.  My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.” (Daniel 6:19-22)

The Bible records another story about three Hebrew young men who were thrown into a fiery furnace because they would not bow down and worship the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar.  I would not call this a good situation; it was a bad one to be in.  Yet, again we see God’s goodness in the midst of their trial.  “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.  He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.  Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.” (Daniel 3:24-26)  God’s goodness was present with them in the furnace.  He was right there with them-- the fourth man in the furnace.  He does not leave us nor forsake us in our times of trial and testing.  He is right there with us.  His presence goes with us even through the fiery trials that we may go through.  “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5b)

When David faced the lion and the bear, God’s goodness was there giving him the strength to slay the bear and the lion and rescue the sheep.  When he faced the giant, His goodness was there directing the stone to bring down the giant.  When Joshua stood before the walls of Jericho, God’s goodness brought down the walls so he could go forth and conquer the enemy.  When the Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years, the goodness of God was present supplying manna from heaven, water from a rock, shoes and clothes that did not wear out.  When Naomi and Ruth went to Judah as widows, the goodness of God was present in sending Ruth to glean in Boaz’s field- her kinsman redeemer.  When the Lord decided to destroy the earth with a flood because of the wickedness of mankind, His goodness was present with Noah by directing him to build an ark.  I could continue to go on with example after example of bad situations that happened to different ones in the Bible, yet the goodness of God was obviously present in each one. 

The Lord has not changed.  He does not withdraw His goodness from us today.  He did not stop showing goodness in bad times after the Old Testament was written.  He is still showing His goodness today.  He is a GOOD God-- always has been and always will be.  There will be two things that we can count on during this year:  1) bad things will continue to happen in this world; 2) when they do, we can trust that the goodness of the Lord will be present for His children.  So expect His goodness to be present even in the midst of calamity.  Expect His goodness to overshadow what may seem devastating.  Expect His goodness to follow you this year-- and all the days of your life.  Regardless of what may come our way this year, we will see the goodness of the Lord shining through it.  We will see Him working all things together for our good.  We will see His power prevail and His presence will go with us.  We will see His goodness entwined in every situation, and some how even when things aren't right, His glory will be revealed.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” (Psa.23:6)  “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!” (Psalm 31:19)  “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)

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