Theme: God’s Goodness and Love
In this week’s lessons, we see why the Lord is to be praised continually.
Scripture: Psalm 135:1-21
The heart of Psalm 135 is the four stanzas covering verses 3-14, for it is in these verses that God is actually praised. He is praised because he alone is praiseworthy. The verses give reasons why, introducing several of them (though not all) by the word “for”: “Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good” (v. 3); “For the LORD has chosen Jacob to be his own” (v. 4); and “For the LORD will vindicate his people” (v. 14). The King James Version also used the word to introduce verse 5. The psalm gives us at least five reasons why God is praiseworthy.
1. God’s inherent goodness (v. 3). The first of these reasons is the goodness of God, mentioned in verse 3: “Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good.” Derek Kidner writes of this statement, “This is one of three related verses in the Psalter in which we are reminded that the Lord’s name (the reputation he deserves) is good (52:9), that he himself is good (135:3) and that praising him is good (147:1); further, that both his name (here) and the act of worship (147:1) are delightful.”1
What could be more basic than this, that God is good? Nothing at all, of course, since this is God’s essential nature. Even the word “God” is a shortened form of “the Good.” God is good in all things and in all ways. He is good in himself; indeed, he is goodness itself. His wisdom is good. His knowledge is good. His judgments are good. His power is good. His works are all good. When God was creating the universe, God said after each step of his creation, “It is good” (Gen. 1:3, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). And so it was! Nothing God did could have been done better.
It is the same in matters of salvation. God’s thoughts toward us are good. It was good that he loved us and chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. The way he chose to save us was good. It was good that he sent Jesus at the appointed time to be our Savior. It was good that he called us to faith in Jesus by the power of his Holy Spirit. It is good that he has called us to fellowship with him and with one another in the church. God’s ways with us are good. And at the end of all things, at the time of the final judgment and beyond, the glorified saints will confess that he who began a good work in them has indeed carried it forward to a perfect completion (Phil. 1:6). The writer of Psalm 119 said of God, “You are good, and what you do is good” (v. 68). David cried, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Ps. 34:8).
2. God’s electing love (v. 4). The second reason Psalm 135 gives for praising God is the fact of his electing love. It acknowledges this in the case of Israel, saying, “For the LORD has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession” (v. 4).
The allusion to Israel as Jacob is important, because Jacob is the best Old Testament example of how God elects people without any reference to the good he is supposed to see in those who are elected, as Paul shows in his definitive treatment of election in Romans 9. In that chapter, Paul goes back to the very start of Israel’s history and traces God’s election through the first three generations of the nation: his choice of Abraham, his choice of Isaac, and his choice of Jacob. Abraham was called out of pagan Ur when he didn’t even know the true God. Isaac was chosen rather than his half-brother Ishmael. The chief example is Jacob. Paul writes, “Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger’” (vv. 10-12). This is a remarkably effective example, since it proves everything that Paul needed to make this point.
First, Jacob and Esau were born of the same Jewish parents. That is, each was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews,” the phrase Paul used to describe his own Jewish ancestry in Philippians 3:5. Each was a pure-blooded Jew. So there is no case of one having been chosen on the basis of a better ancestry and the other having been rejected on the basis of a lesser one. The supposed reason for the choice of Isaac over Ishmael is eliminated in this case.
Second, the choice of Jacob rather than Esau went against the normal standards of primogeniture, according to which the elder should have received the greater blessing. The boys were twins. But Esau actually emerged from Rebekah’s womb first, though Jacob was chosen. There is nothing to explain this except God’s sovereign right to dispose of the destinies of human beings as he pleases.
Third—and this is the most important point of all—the choice of Jacob instead of Esau was made before either child had an opportunity to do either good or evil. It was made while the children were still in the womb. This means we cannot miss it—that election is not on the basis of anything done by the individual chosen. It is no wonder then that Psalm 135 looks back to this choice and sees in it nothing but the sovereign grace of God for which those who have been saved should and must praise him.
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), p. 145.
Why is God praised?
Explain what is meant by electing love.
What does the example of Jacob and Esau teach about God’s electing love?
Read Romans 9. How does this help your understanding of election?
Application: List the ways mentioned in today’s study that God is good. Praise him for this.
Key Point: God is good in all things and in all ways. He is good in himself; indeed, he is goodness itself.