Our “Gospel Project” is studying in Exodus, specifically Exodus 17. The children of Israel have left Egypt not too long ago, and on their way to the promised land are facing some challenges. There are so many life lessons in this experience for us!
Particularly, they have lost sight of the goodness of God.
How many times do we step out in obedience to God, fully convinced that He is leading us, but then run into challenging circumstances? Our first instinct is to second-guess ourselves. Did we hear God correctly? Did I make the right decision? Our second instinct, as humans, might be to question what God has gotten us into!
This is why contemplating the attributes of God is key to our spiritual maturity. This life-journey that God has us on is treacherous. There will always be events and circumstances that challenge our faith. It is without question that a true follower of Christ will have difficulties, because this is the very tool that He uses to shape us into the image of Christ.
Is that not the goal of God? To form the image of His Son in us?
I believe everything He brings into our life is to this end and purpose – to rid us of our flesh, the old man, and to allow the beauty of Christ to be formed in and seen in us.
· Galatians 4:19 – My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.
· Colossians 1:28 – We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.
· 2 Corinthians 3:18 – But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
One of the key attributes of God is His goodness.
God defines good…He is the definition of good.
Mark 10:18 – And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.
Psalm 73 is a great scripture to help us understand how to have the proper perspective of God’s goodness. I feel like I’ve written about this Psalm before, but it is so helpful and clear – and so convicting – it bears repeating.
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart! 2 But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pains in their death, and their body is fat. 5 They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; the garment of violence covers them. 7 Their eye bulges from fatness; the imaginations of their heart run riot. 8 They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; they speak from on high. 9 They have set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue parades through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return to this place, and waters of abundance are drunk by them. 11 They say, “How does God know? and is there knowledge with the Most High?” 12 Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth. 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence; 14 For I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning. 15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children. 16 When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight 17 until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. 18 Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! 20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form. 21 When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, 22then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. 24 With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. 28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.
Our understanding of God’s goodness is skewed when we compare our own circumstances with that of others:
Psalm 73:2-3 – But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
® others are prosperous (v. 3)
® others are healthy (v. 4)
® others have easier lives (v. 5)
® others are violent and prideful, and they do not respect God, yet seem to be blessed (v. 6-12)
Our understanding of God’s goodness is skewed when we believe our lives should be easy because we obey Him:
® our hearts are pure and we follow the rules, yet we feel like God is never happy with us (v. 13-14)
Our understanding of God’s goodness is skewed when we allow ourselves to become bitter (v. 21-22)
® we let pain and anger make life “sour”
o Embitteredmeans to be leavened, be sour; a primitive root; to be pungent; i.e. in taste (sour, i.e. literally fermented, or figuratively), harsh, be grieved
o Interestingly, this word for “embittered” is the same word for “leaven” that the Israelites were to leave out of their bread on the night of the Passover, when they escaped Egypt. Perhaps we should leave the sourness of our pain and anger behind us when we begin this journey with Christ toward our promised land!
® we let circumstances wound us mentally, emotionally and spiritually
o Pierced within – the word for pierced is to wound, prick, sharpen; the King James uses the phrase “pricked in our reins”, literally in our “kidneys”. I believe the pictures is of allowing circumstances to wound us so deeply within, to the point where we cannot see things clearly because of the scars.
But there’s hope!! And not only is there hope, there are practical things we can do to change our perspective and live in the knowledge of the goodness of God.
Our understanding of God’s goodness is “righted” when we…
® restrain ourselves from speaking before truly seeking God (v. 15)
® take time to ponder, to meditate, to seek out the truth (v. 16)
® worship anyway, despite how we might feel (v. 17)
® adjust our perspective to the eternal (v. 17b-20,24,27)
® realize that God has never left us (v. 23)
® accept the wisdom He offers in His Word (v. 24)
® trust that He has the best end in mind (v. 24)
® be completely devoted to Him (v. 25)
® depend completely on Him (v. 25)
® seek His presence as the antidote to your feelings (v. 28)
® be faithful to proclaim His goodness, no matter what circumstance He brings you to (v. 28)
Verse 16-17 are the key verses in this chapter:
When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God.
If we look at circumstances only with our own knowledge, wisdom and understanding, we will remain confused, angry, bitter and defeated. It is only when we turn our eyes to God, and worship Him – in all His goodness, His sovereignty, His mercy, His love, His grace, His holiness, His infiniteness, His omnipotence, His omniscience, and all that He declares Himself to be – that we will gain the proper perspective.
God is a good God, and we don’t need to question that! Take a firm stand on the character of God, even when circumstances tell you otherwise. Your faith is built on fact: God is good. When we walk in faith grounded in truth, our feelings will follow.
Romans 8:38-39 – For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.