The chant of the suicide bomber, now infamous in the West, “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” (God is great! God is great!), can ring with jarring cognitive dissonance in the minds of Christians. For we know that truly, God is great. But the great God does good in all that He does. He cannot be other than good, and His goodness has been demonstrated to us, not by the self-immolation of His followers in an effort to destroy those who disagree but by the self-sacrifice of His Son to save those who hate Him and rebel against His rule.
Seven times in the opening chapter of Genesis, God’s creative work is said to be good. And in 1:31, it is “very good.” God’s works reflect God’s character. Because He is good, His work is good. This connection is reflected in Exodus 33:19 when the Lord tells Moses that He will “make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” The proclamation of the divine name explains the experience of the goodness of God passing before Moses’ eyes. God is good in Himself, and the gracious and sovereign covenant love of the great I Am demonstrates and expounds that goodness.
When Jesus was asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He replied in part, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:17–18). Jesus wasn’t denying that He was good. But, if He can rightly be called good (and He can), then He was implying that He was more than a mere man. In Jesus, the good God has come to us. That is why in John 10:11 He tells us: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In the Old Testament, the Lord, the I Am, is the Shepherd of His people (Pss. 23:1; 28:9; 80:1; Isa. 40:11; Ezek. 34:15; 23). That Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd was an unambiguous claim to deity. Indeed, John links the Good Shepherd discourse with Jesus’ further claim that “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). At this, His Jewish hearers prepared to stone Him because He made Himself God (v. 33). In Jesus we see the good God come to do us good.
If Moses saw the goodness of God, but not God’s face, “for man shall not see me and live” (Ex. 33:20), we see so much more as we look at Jesus Christ. In the face of the One who lays down His life for His sheep, we see the goodness of God most fully revealed (2 Cor. 4:6). In Christ crucified and risen, the good God does eternal good to all who trust in Him. Having become the beneficiaries of God’s goodness in Jesus, we are transformed into that same pattern. We are being made good and are called to do good: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10); “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Heb. 13:16). The good God is glorified when, because of His goodness to us in Christ, we do good to others in His name.