No Good

Updated: Aug 30

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord, apart from You I have no good thing.”


I love this passage from Psalm 16. For some time now it has been my very favorite verse in the entire Bible.


I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord, apart from You I have no good thing.”


This simple declaration is all encompassing. It reminds us of the fact that God is the One from whom all blessings flow.



A GREAT DANGER


There is a great danger that we face when it comes to the goodness of God. We can be tempted to take it for granted. Let me explain what I mean.


Time and time again we read about the goodness of God in Genesis chapter 1. Over and over again we hear the refrain, And God saw that it was good. By the time that the six days of creation were over, we read: God saw all that he made, and it was very good.


God is good. All that He makes is very good. The Lord defines what goodness actually is. But this is hard to see at times.



NOT ANY MORE


We don’t live in a Genesis 1 world anymore. When we look at the world, what do we see far too often? We see disaster, destruction, devastation, disease, and death.


We live in a Genesis 3 world now. What happened in the Garden of Eden changed almost everything. And the repercussions of the Fall continue to this very day.


Eve and Adam weren’t content to enjoy the goodness of God. They desired to live life on their terms. They wanted to answer to no one but themselves.


The serpent tempted the woman with the forbidden fruit. This temptation was accompanied by two great lies. The serpent told Eve that she would not die if she ate the forbidden fruit. To this the serpent added, For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.


Eve fell for the serpent’s lie, soon followed by Adam.


This isn’t ancient history—it’s our family history. Ever since the Fall all of humanity has inherited what is known as original sin.



ALL AROUND US


We see the effects of the original sin all around us when we turn on the news. We should also see it when we look in the mirror.


We see original sin most clearly in the Word of God: Furthermore, just as men and women did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.


So wrote the Apostle Paul in the first chapter of Romans.


Original sin hasn’t just infected our hearts and minds; it has also scarred and corrupted all of creation. Original sin has obscured the very goodness of God the Father Almighty.


I’ll talk more about sin and evil next month. As a matter of fact, I’ll be preaching on these very issues. But it’s time to get back to the subject at hand for today: the goodness of God.



THE SHADOW OF GOD


We see glimpses of the goodness of God even now in creation. We see it in the stars above. We see it in the sunrise and the sunset. We see it in the ocean depths below. And we see it when we look in the mirror: We are fearfully and wonderfully made.


Despite the devastating effects of original sin on humanity—and all of creation—the

goodness of God remains.


As I think about the goodness of God, I recall a quote I came across several years ago:


LOVE BEAUTY FOR IT IS THE SHADOW OF GOD ON THE UNIVERSE.


At the time, all I knew was that this sentence had been penned by a woman named Gabriela Mistral.


LOVE BEAUTY FOR IT IS THE SHADOW OF GOD ON THE UNIVERSE.


I went on a search to learn more about the woman who made such a statement. I discovered that Mistral was the first South American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. My search intensified in the process of working on this sermon. I wanted to know the context for Mistral’s belief. It took some digging. I found out that it comes from one of her poems: DECALOGUE OF THE ARTIST.


The poem begins with these three lines:


YOU SHALL LOVE BEAUTY,

WHICH IS THE SHADOW OF GOD

OVER THE UNIVERSE.


THERE IS NO GODLESS ART.

ALTHOUGH YOU LOVE

NOT THE CREATOR,

YOU SHALL BEAR

WITNESS TO HIM

CREATING HIS LIKENESS.

YOU SHALL CREATE BEAUTY

NOT TO EXCITE THE SENSES

BUT TO GIVE SUSTENANCE

TO THE SOUL.


Beauty is just one aspect of God’s goodness. Beauty is one of God’s good gifts; it’s woven into the fabric of creation.



EVERY SINGLE ONE


Our epistle lesson today reminds us of this. Echoing the confession of David in Psalm 16, James writes: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights . . .


The problem is, original sin and its effects are so pervasive that we often get confused when it comes to good and evil. The prophets remind us of this. Consider this Word of the Lord declared by Isaiah:


Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.


Such is the situation handed down to us by Adam and Eve. Our minds are darkened and our wills are held captive to sin. To this day—apart from the Word of God—we can easily end up calling good evil, and vice versa.


We must keep in mind what David teaches us: Good and upright is the Lord; therefore, he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.



THIS LEADS TO JESUS


In our Gospel lesson this morning we hear Jesus talk about this very subject.


In the the Sermon on the Mount Jesus declares: You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


Here, in Jesus’ words, we are reminded of the overwhelming goodness of God. God provides not just for the upright, but also for the unrighteous and the evil as well.

God’s goodness is seen in the love that he has even for his enemies.


It is in Jesus where we see the goodness of God on full display.


We see it in his healing of the deaf, the blind, and the lame. We see it in the cleansing of the lepers. We see it in the casting out of demons.


We see it in the feeding of the five thousand. We see it in the stilling of the wind and the waves.


We see in the upper room washing the disciples’ feet.


Most of all, we see it on the cross at Calvary.


What does the goodness of God look like?


How can we recognize it in a world so marred by sin and suffering?


Jesus shows us. He is the goodness of God personified.


We must look to Jesus. We must keep our eyes on him.



IN THE MEANTIME


We live by faith as we wait for Jesus’s return to fully restore the goodness of God in the new creation.


In the meantime:


Do not conform any longer 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 is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.


Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.


Today we stop to consider another reason for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.

It is because in him we find the goodness of God.


Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever.


His goodness and mercy follow us all of our days. And we will shall dwell in his house forever.


Amen.


Boethius and Lady Wisdom (Philosophy)


“We cannot raise the question: How can there be evil if God exists? without raising the second: How can there be good if He exists not?”


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