“Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men! You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.” (Psalm 31:19–20)
Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come (1 Timothy 4.8). God saved us for the life to come but also for life which now is. We often forget that. We forget especially when our sin drives us into the dirt.
Psalm 31 teaches us that we ought to plead for mercy when in trouble. We ought to tell the LORD when we are overwhelmed by grief …when our lives have seemed to succumb to it. But our strength fails due to our iniquity. Grief over sin takes a terrible toll. It’s good for us to remember that God’s strength never fails due to His compassion and mercy toward us (see 31.10).
There is no denying the fact that David’s struggles drove him to the LORD over and over again. He lived in the presence of God. David didn’t read his Bible in the morning to forget about God the rest of the day. He expressed himself plainly yet reverently to the LORD. He learned the hard way so that we might follow in his steps — avoiding his negative example and emulating his positive example.
Our text begins with a glorious pronouncement concerning David’s attitude toward God: How great is the goodness of the LORD to those who fear and believe! There are three aspects which define God’s goodness in our text:
Preserved in the sense that it is laid up for those who fear God. It is held in store when needed. Isaiah wrote, “Since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him” (Isa 64.4). Paul quotes this passage and adds, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Cor 2.10a).
The goodness of God has always been present for those who fear and believe. This goodness has been unveiled in the Person and work of Christ in a way that would have been difficult for OT believers to comprehend. But even we cannot comprehend the goodness of God laid up or preserved for us. We are staggered by it every day if we live close to Him. We take it for granted if we strike out on our own path. But His incomprehensible goodness is there. We dig and unearth the treasure of His goodness daily as we fear and trust.
These treasures are the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3.8). We pray that we may be able to comprehend together what is the width, length, depth, and height of these riches. We pray that we might know the love of Christ which surpasses mere knowledge …that we might be filled with all the fullness of God stored up for us in His goodness (Eph 3.18-19).
The goodness of God cannot be exhausted. The more we meditate on His goodness, the more content we are. We cannot but marvel and cry out with David: “Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear you …for those who trust in You!”
So, the first aspect of God’s goodness is that it is preserved for us.
The goodness of God is prepared for those who trust in the LORD. God has prepared His goodness for us in the presence of the sons of men – in the sight of all men. God’s desire is that all men see His goodness working in and through us as His children. This is replete throughout the Bible.
The Angel sent from God kept Israel in the way to bring them to the Promised Land God prepared (Ex 23.20). David prepared for the building of the Temple for God, but God prepared David to fight for the land and the holy city. He prepared Solomon to build the Temple (see 1 Kings; 2 Chronicles). God prepared a gallows for Haman even though Haman prepared it for Mordecai (Esther 7.9).
God has prepared His throne for judgment (Ps 9.7), but His goodness for those who trust in Him (31.19). Our God visits the earth and waters it. He greatly enriches it. This is prepared goodness from Him (Ps 65.8-9). He prepares the light and the sun for us (74.15). When God prepared the heavens, wisdom was there (Prov 8.27). But judgment is prepared for those who scoff at His Word (19.29). God prepared a great fish and a plant as unexpected ensigns of His goodness for Jonah (Jonah 2.17; 4.6). Jonah was not too grateful for the fish; although, he should have been. Jonah was very grateful for the plant until God prepared a worm to damage it and a vehement east wind to blow it away. This simply means God defines His goodness; we don’t. The goodness of the LORD may seem strange to us at times. But God always prepares what is good for us.
Future positions of honor on the right and left hands of the Lord Jesus Christ are prepared by the Father (Mt 20.23). The kingdom of God is prepared for us; it has been from the foundation of the world (Mt 25.34). But He has also prepared everlasting fire for the devil and his angels (Mt. 25.41). The salvation of God through His Messiah is prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel (Luke 2.30-32).
Indeed we cannot comprehend the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor 2.10). God has prepared us for immortality (2 Cor 5.5). We are the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God also prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph 2.10). As vessels of honor, we are sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work (1 Tim 2.21).
God prepared an ark of salvation for Noah (Heb 11.7) and a continuing city in a heavenly country for those of us who are strangers and pilgrims among the sons of men (Heb 11.16). Revelation tells the story of judgment prepared for the world which rejected God. But ends with New Jerusalem prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev 21.2).
God’s unfolds His goodness in the sight of the sons of men. Indeed, He is our rock of refuge and fortress of defense to save us (Ps 31.2) for His name’s sake. The character and work of God always prevails. God is always good. He demonstrates this by preparing us to be lights in a dark world, salt in a decaying society, and His own epistles of Christ, known and read by all men.
The goodness of God is both preserved and prepared for those who fear and trust.
The hymn writer penned these magnificent words:
O worship the King
All glorious above;
O gratefully sing
His power and his love:
Our Shield and Defender,
The Ancient of days,
Pavilioned in splendour,
And girded with praise.
God shall keep us secretly in a pavilion of splendor and free from the strife of tongues. The protective goodness of God is specific here. We are kept specifically from the strife of ungodly attacks through the tongue. Some of the most painful things we endure come from the lips of those who try to bury us with their words.
Human nature finds it highly gratifying to circulate gossip about others. It really is evidence of our sin-sickened souls. Proud words promoting strife or division lead to all kinds of pain. The tongue kindles a great sweeping fire. It is a world of iniquity that never seems to be extinguished. It sets on fire the course of nature (a difficult phrase that seems to mean human existence from beginning to end and in all circumstances) and finds the source for its flame in Hell.
The snares people lay for us are varied and God delivers us from them all. Sometimes it’s a well-honed comment from a fiery tongue to get people to think a certain way about you. Sometimes it is a purposeful plodding with the tongue to ruin your reputation – one deceptive comment at a time. The net encircles you and you didn’t even know it was being drawn. The LORD pulls us out; He is our strength (4). He protects and pavilions us.
The wounds caused by words are some of the most grievous things we experience from friend and foe alike. We also tend to dish it out as well. We need to be kept secretly in the pavilion of God’s presence – not only to protect us but to deter us from being instruments of destruction ourselves.
Fear God and trust Him. Fear His very near judgment. Rely upon His always present mercy. Experience how great His goodness truly is. Don’t turn to useless idols. Those who regard useless idols forsake their own allotment of mercy (Jonah 2.8). David hated those who did so. He trusted in the LORD (6). David did not forsake the LORD’s mercy but was glad and rejoiced in the mercy of the LORD (7). He did so because the LORD considered his trouble. It overwhelmed him and pointed out just how weak He was and just how wonderful God always is.