What does it take to be God? The Greeks talked about gods who were supernaturally powerful. You have Zeus the sky god who ruled with his lighting bolt from on high. You have Aphrodite who had a supernatural level of love and sizzle. The Romans considered their emperor as a member of the divine class because the emperor had absolute authority. Those who follow the traditions of Hinduism talk about an endless myriad of gods who are transcendent–not bound by time and space like humans. When we talk about the God of the Bible we use many of the same categories. We talk about God possessing supernatural power, divine authority and spiritual transcendence. In addition, like other religions we talk about God’s omni qualities: omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience. Omni means “infinite or total.” God has infinite power. God is present everywhere simultaneously. God has infinite knowledge.
But all God’s supernatural powers alone do not cause me to believe in or follow him over any other god. There is one thing that sets the God of the Bible apart from the pantheon of counterfeit gods. Its that, yes, God is all-powerful, all-knowing, ever present, but also God is good. You see a being could possess all the divine attributes and still be a tyrant.
Do you remember the bully in elementary school? The kid who managed to grow faster than the rest of his or her class. When I was in third grade there was a kid who looked like he was a senior in high school. He was tall. I think he had a full beard as an eight year old. Everyday, he wore big steel-toe army boots that he used to kick people everyday. That year, I remember many days being chased all the way home by the bully in the army boots. I was a fast little kid, so he rarely caught me. (Probably, the big army boots worked in my favor here.) Compared to the rest of the third graders this kid had unlimited power, but everybody despised him because he was strong but he was not good.
Most of the ancient gods of the greek and roman world were incredibly immoral. They were bully gods. They wielded their power, position and wisdom to their own selfish end. In fact, in most cultures the gods have very dramatic story lines of lust, war and greed. They actually sound a lot like how sinful humanity would handle unlimited power. You have heard it said that absolute power, corrupts absolutely.
What makes the God of the Bible so unique is that God possesses the full nature of the divine and yet God is not corrupt. He couples unlimited divine power with the attribute of divine goodness.God is justice, mercy, truth, kindness and love. God is holy, righteous, and eternally faithful. What makes God worthy of being worshiped and obeyed is that his infinite power is always paired with moral goodness.
It makes perfect sense why the writers of the old testament over and over again talked about God’s goodness.
“How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of those who take refuge in you.” Psalm 31:19
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Psalm 84:11
“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8
Divine beneficence, the theological focus of this past Sunday’s message, is God’s willingness to leverage his power and divinity to the benefit of humanity. It is God’s active expression of supernatural goodness.