Forest Stream in Lehigh Gorge State Park, PA.

The Goodness of God

Leads to Repentance

    My wife and I had planned to visit some national parks in PA, but there was a government shut down and the national parks were closed. We drove around a good part of one day looking for some state parks that were open. We had difficulty finding the LeHigh Gorge State entrance even using our GPS and had even been complaining about it. Then we came across one entrance and found this beautiful little stream as pictured above. It was really refreshing! We then became thankful to God for His goodness in leading us there.  Seeing the goodness of God, brought us from complaining to praising.

    I have had a misconception. I have believed that the fear of the Lord leads to repentance. I was wrong!  It is very important to understand the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is much more than just having a reverential respect of God. It is KNOWING that there consequences for our wrong thoughts and actions. However, there are two sides to the coin. One side is the fear of the Lord and the other side is the goodness of God through Jesus. "Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). One side without the other is truth out of balance! We may need to begin with the fear of the Lord. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10). Again, the fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of wisdom (seeing from God's perspective). However, it is not the full motivation for repentance. On the other hand, the goodness of God is meaningless, unless we also understand the fear of the Lord. Grace, mercy, and goodness need something by which to be measured. Once we understand the fear of God, then it is the goodness of God that leads one to repentance (a change of mind . . . an about face). Again, it is the Goodness of God that leads one to repentance. "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Romans 2:4).  If the goodness of God leads one to repentance then we should be able to test it by other scriptures.

    This truth is more about God's love toward us than our love toward Him. However, our love toward God is absolutely based upon His love toward us.  "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us"  (I John 4:19).  We can only love Him to the extent we can see His love for us.

Scriptural Examples:

1. Story of Zacchaeus: (Luke 19:1-10). Zacchaeus was tax collector who was used by the Romans to collect taxes from the Jewish people and hated by the Jewish people for  the collection of their taxes. He would have seen himself trapped between the two cultures even through he may have been quite wealthy. Furthermore, he was a rather short man who could not see over the crowd when Jesus came. Therefore, he had to climb a sycamore tree just to get a look at this important figure, Jesus. Jesus stopped and called Zacchaeus by name. When Jesus honored him with his presence as a guest, Zacchaeus, repented saying that he would give half of his goods to the poor and return up to four fold of anything he had stolen. "And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:9-10).

2. Story of the Prodigal: (Luke 15:11-30). When the prodigal remembered the goodness of his father toward his servants, the prodigal repented and returned home. "And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants" (Luke 15:16-19). He first experienced shame and the fear of starvation, but then remembered the goodness of his father toward his servants. He repented and returned home just to be a servant. However, when he returned home, his father ran to him, embraced him and kissed him. His father put shoes on his bare feet, a robe on his back, a ring on his hand, and had the servants to kill a fatted calf and throw a party for his return.

3. The keeper of the prison: (Acts 16:19-36). Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison after Paul cast an evil spirit out of a woman who the magistrates had hired to be fortune teller for them. At midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto the Lord. There followed a great earthquake and the prison doors were opened and their bands were loose. The keeper of the prison, fearing torturous punishment from his superiors because of the escape of the prisoners, drew his sword and was about to kill himself when Paul shouted and stopped him saying that no one had fled. The keeper of the prison dropped to his knees and was repentant. "And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts 16:30-31). His whole house believed and was saved.

4. The Story Of Peter: (Luke 5:1-11). The disciples had been fishing with their nets is the Sea Of Galilee all night and caught nothing. They were exhausted and disappointed. They had given up, came to shore and washed their nets. Jesus got into the boat where Peter was and asked him to move the boat off shore a ways that he could preach to the people on the shore. When Jesus finished teaching, he told Peter to cast his net into the deep for a big haul of fish. Peter complained that they had fished all night and caught nothing, but neither the less he would do what Jesus said. When he cast in the net they caught so many fish that the net began to break and he had to call for another ship to help them. The catch was large enough to fill both ships. "When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken" (Luke 5:9). Jesus' goodness toward Peter led him to repent.

5. The Story of Jonah: (Jonah 1:1-4:11). Jonah knew of the goodness of God, but had difficulty extending it to the people of Nineveh. He considered them to be his enemy. They had burned the fields of the Israelites, stolen their cattle and sheep, and covered they wells. Therefore, when God wanted Jonah to warn the Ninevites, he ran from the presence of God and the Word of God. However, we keep seeing God intervening in his life. He found himself on a ship that was about to be sunk by a raging sea. He was thrown overboard into a stormy sea, but God prepared a large fish to swallow him. The fish went to be bottom of the sea for three days, before Jonah awakened to the goodness of God. "When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD" (Jonah 2:7-9). He only half-way repented however, because he only preached the destruction of Nineveh and nothing about the good news about God being a good God showing mercy and grace. The people of Nineveh repented in hope that God was good. This made Jonah very angry. "And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil" (Jonah 4:2). Again, God intervenes and provides a vine for shade for him to protect him from the hot sun and wind. Then God removes the shade by having a worm to eat the vine.  This makes Jonah very angry and he becomes suicidal. Then God questions Jonah as to why he shouldn't be merciful and gracious to the Ninevites who didn't know their right hand from their left hand and also the much cattle. NOTE: We are not only to receive the goodness of God, but we are to extend the goodness of God to others.

Some conclusions:

    God, by nature, wants us to receive His GOODNESS.
"And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him" (Isaiah 30:18).  
God is the Good Shepherd: (Psalms 23:1-6). "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 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" (Psalms 23:6). Note: The word translated "follow" means to "to chase" or "to eagerly pursue" or "to run after". "Surely goodness and mercy shall eagerly pursue you all the days of your life." It is a picture of a blood hound chasing after a jackrabbit. We want to be a slower jackrabbit.

    When we don't see the goodness of God, the pain becomes more than we can bear.  David looked around and saw all the wicked people and how the people of God were oppressed, he failed at the first to see the goodness of God. When he didn't see the justice and goodness of God, it was too painful for him. "When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me"  (Psalms 73:16). It was not until he went into the sanctuary he begin to see God in the picture.  Seeing the goodness of God, changed David's who perspective.  He repented. "Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins"  (Psalms 73:21). He then felt sorry for the wicked and saw that it was good for him to put his trust in God. "But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works" (Psalms 73:28).

    A failure to see the goodness of God by faith leads to an evil report and sin. God promised to give the Israelites the land of Canaan. It was a land flowing with milk and honey. When Moses sent the 12 spies into the land, they all came back except Joshua and Caleb with an evil report not seeing the goodness of God (Numbers 13:32). When Eve failed to see the goodness of God when the serpent tempted her to believe that God was not good she also sinned.   

    We are not only to receive the goodness of God, but we are also to extend it to others.  Jesus told his 12 disciples, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give"  (Matthew 10:8).  The man who was set from from evil spirits wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus redirected his thoughts.  "Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee"  (Mark 5:19). Paul stated to the church at Corinth, "Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;  Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (II Corinthians 1:1-4).  

Some important questions:

*** Is there some area of your life where you need to see the goodness and mercy of God? _________________________________________________________________.

*** Is there some area of your life where you need to come to a place of repentance? ___________________________________________________________________ .

*** Do you need to offer the goodness of God to someone that you know of? (II Corinthians 1:4). (Matthew 10:8). Who? _________________________________.