Trusting God’s Goodness

Dear Reader,

We have been reading through the Pentateuch. It is hard to miss the Israelites’ constant complaining, especially have just seen great wonders done by God. I am struck by one particular allegation they make, that God brought them out of Egypt only to kill them in the desert (Deut. 1:27). Of course, this on first reading sounds laughable to us. How could they possibly think this way? But I think it is all too tempting. I never really struggle with whether God can do the things I want Him too. I do not think I question His power much. But what ties me in knots is whether He will do the things I want. It is about His character and motivation. Now I know that Romans tells us God will always act for the good of those who are His, but it is often hard to see this when we are in the midst of a situation. And then again what seems good to us is not often the good God is leading us to. I think Romans 8:28: “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”  is often misinterpreted to mean that God will give us the things we ask for specifically, that He will do what we consider good. But what is good for us is not always what we would label good. Paul goes on to say in v.29, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” The key phrase here to me is “to be conformed to the image of His son.” This is what God wants for us, to be Christ-like, to be holy, in Christian-speak sanctification.

I think we see this at the end of Deuteronomy 1. The Israelites have not obeyed God by refusing to enter the land and possess it. So He chastises them and they repent. He tells them they will not now enter the land. But they gear up and charge forward and enter it anyway. And fail miserably. To the Israelites, this may not make sense. They think, “God wanted us to possess the land. We sinned by not moving forward, but now we are ready to do it. So why isn’t God giving the land to us? Isn’t that what He wants for us?” But they are mistaken in that what God most wants for them is obedience to His command. They sin two ways here, first by not attacking when told to and then by attacking when told not to. It is not about whether or not they get the land; it is about listening to God. And it is often the same for us. We think “Why isn’t God giving me success? I am doing His work. What I am doing should prosper.” But we forget that God’s primary work in each of our lives is our sanctification. He measures success very differently then we do. So often we are grumbling that God is not good because He does not give us what we want, but really the problem is that His goals are not our goals and His definition of goodness is not ours.

Nebby

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