Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They say “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
There may be no charge more consistently laid before the God behind the Bible than the conundrum of the destructive powers of evil and the assertion that the Scripture’s God is good. Given the present state of the world which God originally created, the enigma goes something like this:
Either God is good but He is not great.
Or God is great but He is not good.
The author of Psalm 73 (Asaph) struggled similarly. How could a good God allow brazenly wicked people to prosper in ease? If He’s good and great, why doesn’t God drop the hammer He is capable of dropping!? Perhaps He’s good but not great, and thus cannot mete out justice. Or perhaps He’s great but not good, and somehow approves of the wicked. Which is it?
A.W. Tozer (Knowledge of the Holy) on God’s goodness: The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly. By His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.
Tozer’s point—God’s goodness not the same thing as His holiness. God’s good is that He longs to extend grace, but this does not mean that He won’t in his own timing dispense justice. In his struggle, Asaph listened to God’s Spirit, discovering that God is slow to anger but, nevertheless, He will deal adequately with the wicked. “In the sanctuary of God, I discerned their end…You will make them fall to ruin. I was brutish and ignorant” (73:17-18,22). God’s timetable is not ours, but it is sure.