Theme: The Goodness of God
In this week’s lessons, we learn to praise and thank the Lord for his goodness to us.
Scripture: Psalm 136:1-26
The first verse of Psalm 136 sets the tone for everything that follows, for it gives an overall answer to the question, Why should we thank God? The answer is that we praise him because he is good. We thank him for his many good acts toward us and to all persons.
There is an echo in the first three verses of this psalm in Deuteronomy 10:17, which says, “The LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome.” The names or titles for God in Psalm 136 are from that verse: the LORD (Jehovah), God of gods, and Lord of lords. This is the only true God, and he is mighty, as the following verses that deal with his power in creation remind us. But God is also good, which means that his mighty acts are good acts and for our benefit. That is why the refrain “his love endures forever” is so appropriate as a response to each of the psalm’s twenty-six assertions about God.
How good is God? The answer is that he is superlatively good, wonderfully good. Here is how Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes of God’s goodness: “He is good beyond all others; indeed, he alone is good in the highest sense; he is the source of good, the good of all good, the sustainer of good, the perfecter of good, and the rewarder of good. For this he deserves the constant gratitude of his people.”1 If you want to know what real goodness is and enjoy it, the place to find goodness is in God.
The first place God’s goodness is seen is in his creation. So this is the first thing the psalm mentions (in vv. 4-9). It is also what we confess first in the Apostles’ Creed when we begin: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” We confess that God has been good to us by making the world he has made and by placing us in this very good world to enjoy his creation.
What a difference there is between the biblical approach to creation and the approach we see taken by the world. Because the unregenerate world does not acknowledge God as the creator of the universe, it does one of two bad things. Either it bows down to creation itself and worships it, making mere things into god or gods (idols), perhaps worshiping some impersonal “force” in nature, or it treats creation as something to be exploited, “ripping it off,” as it were, for our benefit.
In sharp contrast to these errors, the psalm takes us back to the first chapter of Genesis—verses 4-9 echo language from three of the six creation days—and invites us to look at the world as God looks at it and respond accordingly. What we find in Genesis is God’s declaration that everything he made is “good” (vv. 3, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). So not only is God good (Ps. 136:1), everything he makes is good also.
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 3b, Psalms 120-150 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1968), p. 204.
Where is the first place in the text in which you see God’s goodness?
What results when you don’t see God as creator?
List various names for God in Psalm 136. Where do the names come from?
Make a list of what comes to mind when you reflect on God’s goodness. Give him thanks for each one. Periodically take out your list, add to it, and thank him anew.
Key Point: If you want to know what real goodness is and enjoy it, the place to find goodness is in God.