God is good, and He bestows His goodness on a specified group of people. Who are these blessed recipients of the goodness of God?
Asaph, the psalm writer reveals the identity of the group. It is Israel, “Surely God is good to Israel. To those who are pure in heart (Ps 73:1).”
First, the psalmist is expressing something that should never be questioned, although it is a temptation to doubt the goodness of God, as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. There, the devil questioned whether God was holding something back from our first parents. They entertained the doubt, and then, they acted on it, exercising their free will and then losing it.
Second, Asaph embraces the concept of God without hesitation. The error many adhere to is the very existence of God (Ps 14:1; 53:1). If one does not have faith in God’s existence, then there is no hope explicating the attributes of God. We have no doubts, however, because the heavens declare His glory (Ps 97:6). Simply put, He has made His existence known by what He has made (Rom 1:20).
Third, the psalmist writes of the attribute of God’s goodness. There is no one else who is good, nor is there anyone who does good (Rom 3:12). For anyone to have exposure to goodness, they must have exposure to God, for He alone is good (Lk 18:19).
Fourth, God is good to Israel. Israel is the name God gave to Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the believer. The offspring of Jacob was a motley crew, but in them was the promised seed of the woman (Gen 3:15), the promised seed of Abraham (Gen 17:7; Gal 3:16), who is Christ the Lord, the seed of Judah and of David, the King (2 Sam 7).
The Messianic King was promised in the Old Testament, and His works were revealed in various prophecies, including, “And He said to Me, ‘You are My Servant, Israel, in whom I will show My glory (Is 49:3)…To bring Jacob back to Him, in order that Israel might be gathered to Him (Is 49:5b).’” Thus, Israel is the Savior of Israel. Christ is the Savior and the Head of His body (Eph 1:22), the church, the Israel of God (Gal 6:16).
Israel is God’s elect people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9). God is not just the God of the Jews only, is He? No, He is the God of the Gentiles, also (Rom 3:29). He is good to Israel, but not all of ethnic Israel is the Israel of God (Rom 9:6). There is a remnant according to election (Rom 11:5). This means that Israel is comprised of both Jews and Gentiles, together being a remnant of the mass of humanity.
God is good to this Israel that the psalmist further identifies as “those who are pure in heart (Ps 73:1b),” How does one become pure in heart? Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from sin (Prv 20:9)?” Whoever they are, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt 5:8).”
Scripture reveals that man has a wicked and deceitful heart (Jer 17:9). A heart that is hard as stone, and only God can give a heart of flesh as its replacement (Ezek 36:26). David prayed to the God of heart transplants, “Create in me a clean heart… (Ps 51:10).” God gives His chosen people a new heart for Him. He does this by giving them His Spirit, who takes up residence in their hearts (Jas 4:5). The Holy Spirit is making the Israel of God, the church of Jesus Christ, pure by the power of His pure presence. He washes His people with the water of His Word (Eph 5:26).
Arguing from exclusive to universal, if God’s goodness is to Israel, then it must stop there. If God is good to give His people a pure heart, then there are those people who have not received such a heart, nor the goodness of God. He gives that exclusively to Israel. God gives good gifts to men, meaning the Holy Spirit and His gifts, to many, but not all men (Eph 4:8).
While the wicked prosper in this world (Ps 73:3), God is good to Israel to give us His Son and His Spirit, so that we join with the psalmist in saying, “And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth (Ps 73:25b).” Therefore, with food and clothing let us be content, and with God’s goodness, O Israel, let us rejoice!
Spokane Valley, Washington
September 19, 2021