Good evening everybody. Turn with me in your Bible to the book of Hosea - ah, now you break out in a sweat! Yea, Hosea, where's that now? There's a wee thing at the front of your Bible called the 'Contents', and if you look it up you'll find it - don't be ashamed, I look it up now and again! It's after Daniel, thank you very much Sandra! You stole my thunder there, I was just about to say 'It's after Daniel!'. Daniel, Hosea, Joel, so if you can get the sandwich filling in between Daniel - Daniel is quite a big book, and if you can't find him, well, Ezekiel is before him, he's even bigger, and then Hosea.
Verse 1 of chapter 1 then. I want to speak to you tonight on 'The Goodness of God'. Verse 1 of chapter 1: "The word of the LORD that came to Hosea the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. When the LORD began to speak by Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: 'Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the LORD'". Then over to chapter 3 please, verse 1. The verse we're going to look at tonight is verse 5, but it's important just to get the run in to that and the context. Verse 1: "Then the LORD said to me, 'Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover'", or 'love your wife again who is loved by another lover', "'and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans'. So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and onehalf homers of barley. And I said to her, 'You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so, too, will I be toward you'. For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim". This is our verse tonight: "Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days". They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days - what that means is: in the latter days, in the last days, at the end of time if you like, people will begin to fear the Lord because of His goodness. Wow!
Have you heard the saying 'God is good...'? Not 'yes', you obviously haven't heard the saying! 'God is good all the time' - that's better - 'all the time...?'. You have to do better than that, OK! 'God is good all the time, all the time God is good' - not bad! Now, you can say it, but do you believe it? Maybe you say 'Yes, I do believe it', OK, let's go a step further. You say it, and maybe you believe it in some kind of conscious assent to a doctrinal truth, 'God is good' - where I really want to hit tonight is: do you feel it? Do you feel, down here in your feeler, down here in your heart, do you feel that God is good? Now, that's very different. I suppose what I'm asking is: do you embrace the goodness of God and declare it with your whole being? Not just something up here in your head that says 'I can tick that box, that's a belief of mine', but you actually, deep within your real being, have a conscious cognizance of the reality of the goodness of God irrespective of what's going on around you in your world.
Now, this is important because it affects everything. It affects your outlook on life, it affects your perspective on the things that happen in our lives. The psalmist said in Psalm 63:3: 'Your lovingkindness', just another term, I suppose, for God's goodness, 'Your lovingkindness is better than life'. That's a big statement! But whenever bad stuff happens in our lives, it can affect our perception of God's goodness. Can we then say 'Your lovingkindness is better than life'? So what we're really touching on is the raw question, the painful question of suffering. The problem of evil and suffering is probably the greatest both theological and philosophical question that has ever faced mankind. Why do bad things happen? Why is there pain? Why is there tragedy? If you haven't experienced any bad stuff yet, it's going to come along your way. I'm not a prophet of doom, it's just a fact: man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward. Maybe you're here tonight, and you have experienced a fair deal of suffering, and you have maybe asked the question: is God good? Is He really good? Is He good all the time?
What I'm bringing to you tonight is this central truth: that we must, as Christian believers, lay the foundation of the goodness of God if we're going to survive this life. It is the foundation not only of all good theology, but it is the foundation stone of all that we will experience with God in life. It must be there, and if it's not there we're going to get rocked one of these days. There is a book came out recently 'God Is Good', and the subtitle splash is 'He's better than you think' - that's so true, isn't it? How good do you think He is? He's better than anything you've ever conceived of His goodness! To put it another way, you cannot exaggerate the goodness of God. It would be great to have a competition here tonight and see who can extol and praise the wonders and attributes of God the best. Even if you won that, you haven't done Him justice, because you cannot exaggerate God's goodness. His goodness cannot be overstated, you can't embellish His character, you can't inflate His glory. No one can overemphasise, overestimate, or overdo the goodness of God. He's better than you think.
The good news for us as Christians, from our perspective, is that you cannot overdraw the goodness of God. You can't get too much of His goodness! The goodness of God is one of the few things, if not the only thing, that we are permitted to brag and boast about: His goodness. Psalm 34 verse 2 says: 'My soul shall make its boast in the LORD'. Do you boast in God? Do you brag about Him?
Look with me now at Exodus 33, keep your finger there in Hosea or a mark, and come with me to Exodus chapter 33. Some of you are aware of this passage of Scripture, where Moses asks God that he might see His glory. I referred to it, I think, I can't remember whether it was Wednesday or Monday, but in verse 13 Moses says: 'Show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace'. But go down to verse 18: 'And he said, 'Please, show me Your glory''. Now watch this, verse 19: 'Then God said, 'I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion'. Do you see? Verse 18, what does he ask for? He asks to see God's glory. What does God say in verse 19? 'I will make all My goodness to pass before you'. You see, the goodness of God is His glory. Have you got that? The goodness of God is His glory.
Look at chapter 34. God is revealing something of His character to Moses, this is an ongoing revelation right throughout the Old Testament, but Moses gets one of the initial great revelations of God's character through His names and so on. Verse 5: 'Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with Moses there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation''. But, as God revealed something critical to the covenant people that He is entering into a marriage with, He reveals Himself as a God who abounds in goodness because that is His glory. 'Show me Your glory', and God shows him His goodness.
So, His glory is His goodness. You can study other religions, world faiths, and you will find that the glory of their deity will be varied. For some of those faiths, the glory of their god will be his wrath, his anger, or his justice, or the law that he gives, or the power that he exhibits. But only our God is the good God - does that not make you rejoice tonight? Is it not incredible for us to turn to a world and say: 'Look, our God is good, you really should know Him!'. He is a good God, we have a good God - is that what we present to the world as the church? Is it? The goodness of God?
His goodness is His glory. I want you to see something else: His goodness transcends us. You don't have to turn to this passage, but Psalm 19 verses 1 and 2 says: 'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament', or the sky, 'shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge'. What that simply means is that you go out into the night sky where there is no light pollution, you look up, and if it's clear evening you'll see the glory of God displayed in the wonders of the heavens. So if God's glory is displayed in the heavens, it follows, doesn't it, that if His glory is His goodness, that God's goodness is displayed in the heavens - yes?
Have you ever considered that our planet, this wee emerald and blue ball, is 93,000,000 miles away from the sun. We saw it today, didn't we? It doesn't happen too often, but we saw the sun today - but have you considered how far away it is? 93,000,000 miles. Here is God's goodness: if that Sun was any closer to earth we would all fry, one fraction closer and we would fry; and if it were any further away from the earth we would freeze. In fact, our planet is exactly tilted at 23° on its axis, and that's what gives us four seasons every year. If it tilted at any other angle we would have massive continents of ice. The moon is the exact distance from the earth to give us two ocean tides a day. If it were any greater or lesser distance, the earth would be flooded. The ocean floor is at a depth that gives us oxygen which sustains all human life, and if the depth were any different the air we breathe would be poisonous. The atmosphere around us is the exact density to keep meteors and space objects from hitting us - if it were any thinner we would be constantly bombarded from outer space. The heavens declare the glory, which equals the goodness of God! It's incredible!
Psalm 36 verse 5 says, I'm reading it in the New Living Translation, listen: 'Your unfailing love', goodness, 'O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds'. God's goodness transcends us, it's as vast as the heavens! Do you know how vast the heavens are? The heavens are so vast that astronomers are now saying that it stretches beyond what we are capable of exploring, even with the most advanced telescopes. There are some astrophysicists that now believe that, in fact, the universe is ever expanding, that it's getting bigger moment by moment - that's incredible to me, because most of them don't believe in God, who is a big God, but they believe the universe can keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. The sun we talked about a moment or two ago is so massive that, if you took a huge ice cream scoop and hollowed it out, you would get 1.2 million planet earths in the sun - 1.2 million! If you tried to get the moon in, you would get 4.3 million moons in the hollowed sun. Our sun, of course, is the nearest star to our planet - but the next star after the sun is four times larger than our sun! Our galaxy that we inhabit, do you know how many stars we have got? 100 billion stars, and it has been stated that our galaxy is only one of 100 billion galaxies! Yet the lovingkindness, the 'hesed', the covenant faithfulness, the goodness of our God is greater than the heavens in its vastness! It reaches beyond the clouds!
So His glory is His goodness, and His goodness transcends us - it's beyond us. I want you to see something else: His goodness has a fearful side to it. His goodness is fearful. What I mean by that is: moral goodness means He must deal with badness. It makes sense, doesn't it? Romans 11 and verse 22 says: 'Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off'. So Paul says: 'Don't be imbalanced, consider the goodness and severity of God' - but what I'm wanting to say is that it is the goodness of God that becomes our problem, because we are not good like God. This is what I call the sinner's dilemma. We want a good God, don't we? Not a bad one, or a cruel, harsh one. We want to rejoice in the love of God and the graciousness of God, but hold on a wee minute! It is actually His goodness that causes humanity the great sin problem, because we have fallen into disobedience. God has given us His law to show us that we fall far short - what is it Romans 3:23 says? 'For all have sinned and fall short of the' - what? 'Glory of God'. What is His glory? His goodness. We fall short of the goodness of God.
So God's goodness becomes our problem, and then we are heading for judgement. Because if God is going to be good, He cannot just sweep sin under the carpet, He has to deal with it. Here's the wonderful thing: God is a God of judgement, but all of God's judgements are aimed at what interferes with His love and His goodness. Did you get that? All of His anger, all of His ire, all of His wrath is directed towards everything that interferes with love and goodness. You see, God's goodness does not avoid judgement, but is actually aimed at what is a threat to us, what is harming us. That's why He must judge sin. Maybe you've never thought about it like that, some people say to me: 'I've a bit of a problem, because there seems to be a disparity between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New'. Have you ever thought like that? I mean, just read the Old Testament, He doesn't seem the same as the one in the New! I mean, there's a lot of stuff going on there - but hold on a wee minute: I would urge you to read the Old Testament again, and this time read the Old Testament reading about a Father who is jealous over His children and will do anything to protect them. Read it like reading about a husband who is jealous over his wife and will do anything to shield and shelter her. That's different, isn't it? Then when you look at how He puts up with, tolerates these Israelites over and over again when they go through this cycle of failure, and turning their back on Him, and going after other gods, and engaging in all these sordid, immoral practices of paganism, sacrificing children, doing all sorts of terrible things, and God hangs in there with them - why? Because of His goodness!
How has God chosen to deal with our badness and answer the request of His own goodness to judge? How does He deal with it? Very simple: the cross of Jesus. Second Corinthians 5:19 tells us: 'God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself'. Do you know what that means? God came Himself in the Person of His Son, and took the judgement that we deserve so that judgement would be meted out, so that justice would be done and be seen to be done. So Jesus bears the anger of God towards all that is wrong and bad in creation, and He takes it upon Himself so that we can go free - that's God's goodness.
There could be someone here tonight, and you have never heard this message. He's the same God in the Old Testament. Do you see what you read tonight from Hosea, do you know the story of Hosea? In chapter 1 verse 2 that we read, God came to the prophet Hosea and said: 'I want you to go and get yourself a wife of harlotry'. What that means is, in case you haven't caught on yet, God is saying to this man of God, this professional servant of the Lord: 'I want you to go out and marry a prostitute'. Now, I'm sorry Alan is not here to question, but I would love to ask him - I don't know what he preached last night in the will of God - but, what would he do if some young fellow came to him after the meeting and said 'I think God is telling me to go and marry a prostitute'. What do you say to that? 'Oh, I don't think you're hearing from God, son, you couldn't possibly!' - but Hosea was being told by the Lord. It's staggering, isn't it? In fact, this is so controversial that Bible commentators are trying to spin a different aspect of this story that doesn't allow for Hosea actually marrying a prostitute. I don't know how you do that.
But it gets worse than that, because we read from chapter 3, you know what happens. He marries a prostitute, and he probably takes some of her children - her name was Gomer. Then it says that she actually went off again, left him, and played the harlot again, and committed adultery again; and then - you'd think God would say 'Right, enough is enough, we had that experiment, it didn't work! Once a prostitute, always a prostitute'. No. What happens is, the Lord says: 'I want you now to go and get her back again. She's in slavery, you're going to have to redeem her, you're going to have to pay a price, buy her back, and take her home'. You read what it says, that this was to illustrate the harlotry of God's people, Israel. They are meant to be married to Jehovah in covenant at Mount Sinai with the law and all the things we've been talking about that Moses was getting up the mountain, and yet they were unfaithful, they were spiritual adulterers. But do you not see the goodness of God? What!
We see it in the New Testament, John chapter 8, I love the story of the woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees drag her, probably half naked, before Jesus. They thought they had got Jesus in a trap, His back was against the wall because the law did say that an adulteress should be stoned - and an adulterer, so where he went, I don't know, that was convenient, the two of them were meant to be stoned. She was there, and they knew Jesus, a rabbi, would have to make sure that she was stoned if He was to honour the law - but they knew He had a reputation of grace and mercy, so how is He going to get out of this one? Do you know how He got out of it? 'Let whoever among you who has never sinned cast the first stone', and they all went out from the eldest to the youngest, because the only one who was worthy to do that was Jesus. Then what does He say to the woman? 'Where are your accusers? Who accuses you now?'. 'No man, Lord'. 'Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more'. Wow! If that's not your Jesus, it's not Jesus. Do you hear me? If that's not your Jesus, it's not the true Jesus.
The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. There are many other stories I could tell you, about the woman at the well - five husbands, cohabiting with a guy, Jesus meets her and Jesus changes her life. Luke chapter 7, a prostitute woman, an infamous sinner comes, washes Jesus' feet with her tears, kisses His feet with her lips, dries His feet with her hair - in a Pharisee's house! It's asking for trouble! But Jesus knew what was in her heart: she was forgiven much, so she loved much. But what I want to ask you tonight is: do you know anything about this goodness? His goodness is displayed through mercy, love, and grace. Romans 5 verse 8: 'God has demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us'. So if you're scratching your head in life, whether you're a believer or not, thinking 'Is God really good? God has never shown His goodness to me! Do you know the problems I've got? Do you know the childhood I had?' - look to the cross where Jesus took all the sin, all the pain, all the sorrow, all the sickness, all the brokenness of our humanity on Himself, and there you will see His goodness!
To put it another way: His goodness is Jesus. His goodness is Jesus. There is great debate goes on about 'What is God like? Is He the God of the Old Testament or the God of the New? Is He like Allah? Is He like Buddha? Is He like Jehovah of the Witnesses? What is God like?'. He is like Jesus! He is the express image of His Person, He is God's expression. He is the Word of God. Your word is the expression of your thoughts and your emotions through your mouth, and Jesus is the Word of God the Father, He is the expression of God's mind, God's heart. He is what God wants you to know about Him! What is He like? He is the Friend of sinners. He reveals the Father as the father in the prodigal son parable. You see, Jesus is pure goodness, isn't He? He is what God is like.
I wonder have you ever experienced the Father Heart of God? I don't know, you've maybe been sold a pup? Many people in Ireland have, on both sides of the divide - and there's more than one divide, let me tell you. Many have got religion, the Christianised version of it, and they've got this despotic god who terrorises them. It was expressed through clergy, through the orders or denominations, whatever side - I'm not talking about one of the other, I'm just saying: we have many times misrepresented what God is like. Jesus never misrepresented Him, He represented the Father's heart. Have you got into the Father's heart yet? Have you seen into His goodness? Peter says He is not willing that any should perish. Don't think He's slack with His promises, He's going to fulfil His word, Peter says - but He's not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Have you come to repentance yet?
Let me turn you, for a moment, to Romans chapter 2. Romans chapter 2, and here's where it gets really practical. We've seen that His glory is His goodness, His glory transcends us, His goodness is fearful, His goodness is Jesus. I want you to see that His goodness ought to transform us. Chapter 2 of Romans, verse 4: 'Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance', patience, 'and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?'. That's interesting, isn't it? Because I always thought it was putting the fear of God in somebody, dangling them over hell for half an hour, that got them to repentance. Now, I'm not against preaching the law, and I have preached hell, and I do, these are real things, we've got to be honest with people. But the Bible says it's the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. I wonder, whatever your background is, has the goodness of God transformed you? You see, the goodness of God is not only the cornerstone of all good theology and teaching, it's the foundation of all our lives. Here's why, listen to me: if you're not being transformed by the goodness of God, you're being transformed by whatever you have believed about God. To put it another way: you become like the God you worship. So if you worship a cruel, despotic, dictator god, who is all about law and justice and judgement, you're going to turn out like him.
Psalm 115 speaks of idol worshippers, and it says they take stone, metal, wood, and they make a god out of it. But the god has eyes, but it cannot see; it has ears, but it cannot hear; it has a mouth, but it cannot speak; it has hands, but it cannot move. Listen to what the psalmist says in his parting shot: 'Those who make them are like them, so is everyone who trusts in them'. So when you worship an idol - and listen, Christian, if you worship a misrepresentation of God, you become like that misrepresentation of God. So, what are you like? There are a lot of cranky Christians about, aren't there? Real sourpusses, and long faces, baptised in lemon kind of Christians - do you know what I'm talking about? Is that what it's about? Are we displaying the goodness of God in our lives?
So, what I'm saying from Romans 2:4 is: the goodness of God leads us to repentance. You know that repentance, I've told you this a thousand times, is made up of two Greek words: 'metanoia', which 'means a change of mind'. When you change your mind about the goodness of God, it will transform you forever. If you get the Father heart of God into your heart, and you realise you're not an orphan, you're not a beggar, you're a child, a kingdom kid, a son or daughter of Abba Father, that you're an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. Everything that comes in the will to Jesus, you get - His destiny is your destiny. Is that not amazing? Someone said: 'If we question God's goodness, we will question His promise. If we question His promise, we undermine our own destiny'. If we question His goodness, we question His promise; and if we question His promise we undermine our own destiny - that's what happened at the very beginning of this book. In a good creation, all goodness, Satan the serpent came in and said: 'Has God really said?'. He was questioning God's goodness, and when he questioned God's goodness he questioned His promise; and when Adam and Eve gave in, they undermined their destiny and ours.
Don't underestimate my appreciation, tonight, of what some of you have gone through in this life - because life is filled with questions, many mysteries. I referred to the problem of evil and suffering at the beginning. Nobody has the answers, however they portray to have, only God has the answers. But can I, with all the understanding and sensitivity in the world, can I caution you tonight? Listen: don't attribute to God what He hasn't done. 'What do you mean?'. We believe in God's providence, we believe in His sovereignty, we believe in Him leading and so on - but sometimes I hear Christians say: 'Oh, God has given me this cross to bear'. Maybe it's a sickness, or maybe it's some kind of trial, or it could be a besetting sin or something like that. I'm treading carefully here, because there are mysteries, but what I am saying is this, John 10:10, Jesus is the final revelation of God, Jesus said: 'It's the thief, the enemy comes to steal, to kill, and destroy'. Sometimes we attribute to God things that the devil is doing, things that the world is doing, things that our own flesh is doing, things that are just the fallout from living in a fallen universe - where we come a cropper of the choices of other people that affect us. Jesus says: 'I have come that you might have life, that you might have it abundantly, that you might have it overflowing, over the brim'. There are things, at times, we've attributed to God that He didn't cause! But the wonder is, even though the things He hasn't caused can come into our lives, He is big enough to use any problem that surfaces. What the enemy means for evil, God can work together for our good to those who are called according to His purpose. Joseph, Romans 8.
Now there are mysteries, and I'm not saying I have the answers. I don't know why some people are healed, and many people aren't. I don't know the answer to that, I don't know why tragedies happen, and some people are never touched with tragedy. I don't know why that happens, but here's the thing: we cannot get to the place where we allow these questions and mysteries to affect our foundational assurance in the goodness of God. Beware of a theology that makes God an ogre. Listen: I have a bigger problem making God the ogre, and the author of all this stuff, than trusting Him when I don't understand what's going on all around me, and learning to lean on Him and leaving all the unanswered stuff to His goodness. Are you with me? We've got questions, no matter what we do, but let's not question the goodness of God.
Let me turn you to two passages of Scripture before I finish. Lamentations - oh, that's another tricky one. Jeremiah, he's the big fella, then after him is Lamentations. Now if you don't know anything about Lamentations (which you probably don't if you can't find it), but it's quite a horrific book. It talks about Jerusalem being destroyed by their enemies, and completely razed to the ground. There was pillage and starvation to the extent - I know it's gruesome, but it's in here - that even mothers were eating their own children. This is the most awful picture you could imagine, humanity is delving to the very depths of brokenness, depravity and degradation. Yet right in the middle of it, right in the centre of this book there is a jewel and a gem. Look with me at verse 21 [of chapter 3], Jeremiah who is the weeping prophet (is it any wonder when you consider what he had to prophesy to?), he says: 'This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion', says my soul, 'Therefore I hope in Him!'. The LORD is good to those who wait for Him'. Would you say that with me? 'The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth'.
Look down at verse 31 now for a moment: 'For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief', He can allow grief, 'Yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies'. Now watch this phraseology: 'For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men'. God doesn't want us to suffer. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it's necessary, but He desires that we should know His goodness. Life is hard, nobody here is living a pipe dream - OK? We are not in denial, sticking our head in the sand: life is hard - but our confession has to be, if we're going to get through - life is hard, but God is good! No matter what!
Oh, but what about Job? Don't you love Job? All preachers love Job, because everybody comes and says: 'Oh, but what about Job. You know, Job suffered so much. You talk about abundant life, you talk about overflowing life, and healing, and health, and Shalom and all the rest - what about Job?'. Well, yes, Job lost his cattle, lost his business, his farm, lost ten of his children, lost the confidence of his wife, lost his health, lost his dignity, lost his respect and reputation in the community. He's sitting on a heap of ashes scraping sores off him with clay pots, that's Job. But we know what went on in the background, God didn't do this to him. Yes, God allowed it - do you know why He allowed it? Because Satan came to Him, the sons of God came before the LORD, and Satan said: 'He's only serving You for what he can get out of You, but touch his body and he will curse You'. Before that, I will grant you that God said: 'Have you considered My servant Job?'. God said: 'Right, I'll take the hedge from around him. You can't kill him, but watch what happens'. In all that Job went through, he never sinned against God. I'll tell you, if you haven't read Job, you read it. He asks a lot of hard questions of God and everybody around him, OK? He has a good, hard argument with God, but it says he never sinned in all his sufferings.
But what's it all about? Turn with me - and this is the final thing I want to share with you - James. You know James was the half-brother of Jesus, did you know that? One of Mary's other children, and James is writing - it's the New Testament, it's thousands of years after Job, Job was the first book written in the Bible, not Genesis, Job. This is thousands of years after Job, and this is the Holy Spirit's interpretation of the book of Job - the next person says 'What about Job?', you just point them to this verse, OK? James 5 verse 11: 'Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job', there it is, 'and seen the end intended by the Lord; that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful'. Read the book, he ends up better off at the end than he ever was at the start. Job is all about the goodness of God. We're not minimising the trials, and the difficulties, and the burdens - please don't think that. I don't want God to test me on this word, sending it all my way, I can assure you. But what I am saying is: we have got to maintain this confession, 'God is good all the time, all the time God is good'. His goodness is His glory. His goodness transcends us. His goodness is fearful. His goodness is Jesus - but His goodness must transform us, to change our minds, to change our hearts, and even to change our ways!
Look back at Hosea again, just to remind you of our text at the end of chapter 3: 'They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days'. Let's pray. Let's just bow our heads. I don't know how you were brought up, what system you were in, what religious persuasion or denomination or anything like that - but we have really done a bad job at times misrepresenting God. He is holy, He is awesome, He is just, our God is a consuming fire, but let's remember everything we've heard tonight. He is the God who came in human flesh and died and took our hell and shame. Maybe you have never heard that before, or maybe you're a Christian for years but you've never seen into the Father's heart, the heart of Father God? I want to make an appeal tonight. I'm not interested in counting the hands or anything like that, OK? So if nobody puts their hand up, that's OK, I'll not lose any sleep. But I want you to have an opportunity that if you have, yourself, misrepresented or misinterpreted the nature of God; maybe it's because of what you were taught, what you received, or the people who claimed to be the representatives of God to you, ministers, clergy - and you realise you need to change your mind about God and His goodness - would you put your hand up? God bless you. God bless you. Anybody else? You know you have to change your mind, you can put your hand down once you've put it up. Anybody else? You know that you've got it wrong somewhere, or somebody has taught you wrong, you've come under Pharisaism, legalism, but you've never seen into Father's heart.
Do you know another end time prophecy? It's at the end of Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament, that the Elijah ministry of the end times will be to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to the fathers. The Father heart of God is what's going to heal our generation, the truth of the Father Heart of God is what's partly going to revive the church. Is there anybody else, and you need to have a revelation tonight of the Father Heart of God? Would you raise your hand before I move on? Would you raise your hand? I want to pray for you now, OK, I want you to come to the Lord and I want you to repent of any wrong beliefs that you have had about God. Maybe it has been your earthly father, or those religious leaders that have given you an estrangement with God where you have feared the Lord in a wrong way? Would you just repent of that? Just say: 'Lord, I'm sorry for believing wrong things about You. I'm sorry for relating in a wrong way to You'. Maybe you need to forgive those who have misrepresented Him, your father, or an authority figure, or church leader, maybe you need to forgive them? Then would you say these words: 'Father, would You reveal Your heart to me? Would You show me how You really are? Just like Moses, I pray: show me Your glorious goodness in Jesus'.
Is there anybody here tonight, and you're a backslider, you've wandered far from God, and you're afraid because so much has gone under the bridge as it were? You'd feel like a hypocrite if you were to come back to the Lord because so many things have gone down, but you're realising God is not like that. He's abounding in goodness, He's the Father in the prodigal son parable who is running out to get you, if you would only turn and come to your senses and turnaround. Is there anybody that, realising the goodness of God, you want to come home tonight, prodigal, you want to come home? Would you raise your hand where you are? Is there anybody? There might be nobody like that, but we want to give an opportunity - is there anybody? Just raise your hand, would you?
Just finally: is there anybody and you've never become a Christian before, a true Christian in this Bible sense? Maybe you've had bad PR from what you thought was God, how He has been represented to you has been bad - maybe you had a Bible-thumping father who was cruel and controlling? I don't know what it was, but you're starting to realise that you didn't get the true story. Or maybe it's the first time you've ever heard this Gospel, and you want to receive Jesus as your Saviour and Lord tonight, and know that your sins are forgiven, know that you're bound for heaven, know that you have this life now and in the life to come, you want to become a true child of God tonight and know God as your Father? Would you raise your hand where you're seated? Just raise your hand where you are, while heads are bowed and eyes are closed, we will see it and we will pray for you and with you. Just quickly, there might be nobody who is not a Christian here tonight, but just to give an opportunity in case there is.
Now, I'm not asking for a show of hands on this, I said that was the final appeal. But what I will ask you all, listen, listen to me: do you see what the world outside of here, what they are crying out for? Do you know what? Goodness! A good God! A good, good Father! 'Well, they need to know they are sinners', yes they do, most of them tend to know that. 'They need to know God is angry with the wicked every day', well, yes, I hear you - but are we showing them the goodness? Jesus said: 'They shall see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven'. Would you resolve tonight to tell people about your good God, and to show His goodness to even your worst enemy?
Father, I thank You for what You're doing tonight - I don't really know all of what You're doing, but I thank You that You're doing something. Thank You for the revelation of Your heart tonight. Receive our worship, receive our praise, receive our gratitude, Lord, our thanksgiving for Your faithfulness. We bless You that You are a good, good God, a good, good Father. May we know more of Your goodness, and may we repent because of Your goodness. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Loughbrickland Mission Hall in N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "The Goodness Of God" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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