God is Great, God is Good

Reading Time: 3 mins

God’s goodness spoke a promise of peace and mercy to the bewildered, a promise that rings out to this day.

Scattered brown bags and make-shift Ziplock plates litter the table, the smell of peanut butter, jelly, and Cheetos waft through the air, and juice boxes with twisted straws drip red syrup on the table: this is a feast fit spread before tiny bodies. Hands pressed together, eyes closed tightly, and brows furrowed like a monk at Matins, a prayer begins. “God is great,” melodic little voices bleat. “God is good,” they continue.

Those two phrases capture the soaring heights and deepest depths of all theology. We shouldn’t be surprised that our Lord humbles the wise and learned in such a way. After all, he did say that the kingdom belongs to little ones such as these. And what wisdom and truth they speak over that sticky mess! God is great, indeed. He speaks, and there is something instead of nothing. He speaks, and galaxies spin, all in assigned orbit. He speaks, and hundreds of millions of creatures catch their breath. He speaks, and featherless, one-headed bipeds made of clay live and move and enjoy daily bread from the hand of their creator.

God is great when he doesn’t speak too, albeit differently. His silence is terrifying when monstrous rain clouds gather, and a seemingly endless deluge swallows homes and towns. His silence when clouds disappear over parched crops in dusty fields is devastating. His silence is deafening when madmen kill and tyrants rage. His silence after the clanging sound of thirty pieces of silver falling on the temple floor in Jerusalem was unbearable for the man cursed to fulfill Psalm 41. Who can fathom such a great God? Who can endure a greatness like his? Nobody, nobody can. Still, “God is good,” little voices proclaim, speaking hope amid this confusion and despair.

God is good, indeed. A featherless, one-headed bipedal named Jesus, God almighty no less, the second person of the Trinity, hailing from the hick town of Nazareth, traversed a birth canal on his way to a hill called Golgotha. Crucified among thieves, there he hung as the biggest thief the world has ever produced, having stolen sin, past, present, and future, from its rightful owners—his betrayers. So there on the garbage heap, he died, the just one for the unjust ones. From the womb to the tomb, he trekked, removing all doubt there is no place he would not go to grab his beloved, no matter the sticky mess in which they find themselves.

A giant stone flanked by bored soldiers only momentarily concealed the great God’s ability to rescue his chosen. There in the morning cool, light gathering in the eastern sky, stone moved and grave clothes folded, God’s goodness spoke a promise of peace and mercy to the bewildered, a promise that rings out to this day. The great and good God grabs his chosen ones historically, tangibly, using the mouth of a sinner to preach Christ’s words of mercy and peace into bread and wine and water and ears.

And with that, called by name at the font, gnawing at their salvation around an altar – terrified, devastated, and unsure about it all still – beloved betrayers are undeniably grasped by the one who in his greatness is able to hold them eternally, and, because of his goodness, willing. Truly God is great, and he is good, and it is fittingly so. How else can proud parents trust the promise of liberation from sin and death preached into the water now washing their precious child unless the promise maker is able in his greatness to keep his word because of his goodness? How else can Christ’s betrayers, their conscience seared yet again by failure, guilt, and fear, taste and see that the Lord is good unless the great God is able and willing to forgive? How else will the gloriously good promise of forgiveness, shouted from the mouth of God’s messengers, for Christ’s sake, given without cost or condition, finally lodge in the ear and take root in the heart of a rebel unless the great God makes it happen?

Along with the tiniest of theologians praying over lunch, with Mary Magdalene and Peter and all the witnesses of the resurrection, with earth and sea and all their creatures, with cherubim and seraphim – we pray and we sing. Indeed we cry out, God is great and against life, death, angels, principalities, things present, things to come, powers, heights, depths, and all other things – he is able to keep his promise. And this he does, for you, because God is good.