Most of the Old Testament verses that I have found for this series use the English word “good” for the Hebrew word “tôwb.” When I researched this Hebrew word online, the word “beautiful” is featured as its primary definition (also pleasant/agreeable to the senses, good and best). In my own hardback book, my Strong’s Concordance, the primary word translation for “tôwb” is “good.”
The Hebrew has a limited number of words as compared to English. In English we can say “good” in many, many ways. In English we have synonyms—many words one meaning. In Hebrew, often there is one word with many similar meanings. In Hebrew, each word does a lot of work.
I love knowing that God’s goodness is also God’s beauty. And if we think about the English word beauty, we understand that it can mean good, pleasing, meaningful, and more.
Psalm 86:5 explains the beautiful Truth that God longs to forgive and that He is bound by His nature to forgive completely. His beauty and goodness are hallmarks of His character. These attributes are proven by His continued faithfulness, by His steadfast and unchanging love. Our God is a promise keeper who delights in showing mercy. No wonder David felt compelled to praise Him.
For You, O Lord, are good,
and ready to forgive
[our sins, sending them away, completely letting them go forever and ever];
And abundant in lovingkindness and overflowing in mercy to all those who call upon You.
Psalm 86:5, AMP
Matthew Henry’s commentary explains that we should feel encouraged when we pray as David prays in these verses, because of the goodness of God’s nature. According to Psalm 86, God’s goodness is shown in two ways — in His forgiving and His giving. God’s forgiveness invites us into deep relationship with Him and allows us to receive His other gifts: (1) on-going, growing holiness, (2) confidence in God and His love and plan for us, (3) a desire to know Him more deeply.
I love that David is talking about seeking and enjoying God’s forgiveness. We, Christians, often sound like we are the only ones who know grace, but grace is a distinctive feature of our God, not of us. We are not the only recipients of God’s grace, though of course the grace of Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of God’s love.
David knew and experienced grace. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Daniel, Josiah, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Esther…these are just a few who were shown steadfast love and unmerited favor. God asked His people to show mercy to the weak — the sojourner, the widow, and the orphan. He taught the Israelite men to treat their wives, children, and even their slaves, with kindness.
God’s goodness is beautiful, beautiful good. It is unmatched. Sometimes it’s hard, if not impossible, for us to comprehend. Some of us struggle to understand the unconditional love and the complete forgiveness because that’s something we’ve never seen or felt. It’s easy to forget that He’s unique. We might see Him as similar to others we have known, or to ourselves. People hold grudges, so deep down we wonder if He does. People are impatient, so we are certain that He must be frustrated with us. People are unfaithful, so we wouldn’t be surprised if He abandoned the mess that we are.
When I try to judge God by my standards, I am disappointed in Him. When I remember He is not like me, I am relieved! Thank goodness His Word is there to keep me straight. It reminds us that He is altogether better than we can imagine:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
What’s your opinion of God? Do you expect Him to act like a person? To disappoint you? To abandon you? To forget you? Today remember that He is beautiful good —He’s better than you can see or imagine!