Monday, June 23, 2014

An Old Lie Trumped by an Eternal Truth

It’s Monday morning, which means that Sunday is coming. I am working on that approaching Day’s sermon from Genesis 3:4,5. In this text the serpent contradicts the Word of God, and worse, slanders the character of God

The serpent implies that God is not good in His character, His plans for His people, and in His Word. The antivenom to this lie is a firm belief that God is good. He is good no matter what. He is good all the time.

The Bible assures us that the covenant relationship-God, “the LORD” (יהוה) is good:
  • “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).
  • “O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8).
  • “For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).
  • “Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing praises to His name, for it is lovely” (Psalm 135:3).
  • The LORD is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9).
  • “Thus says the LORD, ‘Yet again there will be heard in this place, of which you say, “It is a waste, without man and without beast,” that is, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, “Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting”; and of those who bring a thank offering into the house of the LORD. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were at first,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 33:10,11).
  • The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him” (Lamentations 3:25).
  • The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him” (Nahum 1:7).

The Old Testament does affirm that “God is good” (the generic אלהים used by the serpent, who avoids the covenant title יהוה) but only does so one time, and that one time limits this goodness to His covenant relationship with His people: “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart!” (Psalm 73:1).

However, there’s an interesting exchange between Jesus and an inquirer in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 19:16,17//Mark 10:17,18//Luke 18:18,19). In Jesus’ first answer to this man, He seems to deny His own deity. Arians (in their various heretical incarnations) have pointed to these verses from generation to generation as proof that Jesus Himself did not claim to be God. However, in doing some background reading as part of sermon prep, I found Stephen Charnock’s (1628-1680) commentary on this text. The connection between the goodness of God and the deity of Christ becomes beautifully coherent in this Puritan’s observations: “Some think that Christ hereby would draw him to an acknowledgement of Him as God; you acknowledge me ‘good’; how come you to salute me with so great a must own me to be God, since you own me to be ‘good’; goodness being a title only due, and properly belonging, to the Supreme Being. If you take me for a common man, with what conscience can you salute me in a manner proper to God...He doth not here deny His Deity, but reproves him for calling Him good, when he had not yet confessed Him to be more than a man. You behold My flesh, but you consider not the fullness of My Deity; if you account Me ‘good,’ account Me God, and imagine Me not to be a simple and a mere man. He disowns not His own Deity, but allures the young man to a confession of it...why dost thou own Me to be ‘good,’ unless thou own Me to be God...had He said, there is none ‘good’ but the Father, He had excluded Himself; but in saying, there is none ‘good’ but God, He comprehends Himself...if you are serious, why do you call me ‘good,’ and make bold to fix so great a title upon One you have no higher thoughts of than a mere man?” (The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 2, Discourse XII).

The serpent implies that God is not good, an all-powerful Denier of goodness to His Creation.

Jesus Christ implies that to confess Him to be good is necessarily to confess Him to be God, Him Who is both eternal God and - at the same time - the boundlessly good Provision of God for His people.

May we in every moment of every day walk away from the lie of the serpent and run toward our good God in His Son Jesus Christ. “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Draw near. He is good.

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