TETH: “Good” Revisited

What does it mean to “do good”?

            You [God] are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. (Ps 119:68 NIV)

            In Teth, I asked “What is ‘Good’?” (May 20, 2022). I looked at Greek philosopher Aristotle’s word eudaimon.  What I failed to do in that blog post, and what I will do here, is to look at the Old Testament (Hebrew) usage of that word in Psalm 119:68.  In our next post, I will then tie this study to Apostle Paul’s instruction to us in Galatians 6:10 (New Testament Greek) to “do good”.

            It matters what we think of “good”.  Where do we get our ideas of what is right and wrong, but from this word?  From what is “good”, we then understand its antithesis, “bad”.  Further, we begin to understand more about what is “right” and “wrong”. These words signal a standard for morals, ethics, direction in life, the quality of our relationships, our health, or wealth, our emotions, our desires and their fulfillment.  For example, what makes a “good” piece of art?  Is it only “in the eye of the (individual) beholder”, or is there some universal quality that sets one work above the rest?  What about music?  What about the decisions I make in a day as to how I use my time, energies and wealth?  What is a “good” relationship, and when do I know that a “good” one has turned to “bad”?  What about altruistic and philanthropic goals? 

            What about issues of “justice” or “injustice?”  I changed terms, there, didn’t I?  Well, what is justice but that which is good?—and injustice as that which is bad?  See what I mean?  Is there really an arbitrary ground for “all religions” or are some beliefs “good” and others “bad” (or not quite “good” enough, comparatively)? Well, since this is a blog about God’s word in the Holy Bible (“Holy Book”), it would be better to consult with it than with Aristotle alone, at least to understand what the Christian Bible really does say.  Informed is forearmed. 

OLD TESTAMENT HEBREW: Psalm 119:68 – towb (pronounced “tōbe”).

            The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon[1] (BibleHub.com) gives us descriptions of what is meant by this term. The term is, after all, an adjective or describing word.  It is defined by its characteristics.  Here are some of the synonyms used in the definition:

            Whatever is . . .

            * pleasing, kind (of people or God), benign,

            *  right (ethics),

            * glad, happy, prosperous, agreeable (to man’s senses), advantageous,

            * what is pleasing in the eyes of God,

            * excellence, better than, best,

            * fruitful, beneficial, bounty or plenty, increase (of wealth, health, etc.), 

            * concerning the “fat” (of animals, implying the part of the sacrifice that belongs to God),

            * fine or pure (of minerals), valuable,

            * appropriate,

            * attractive or becoming,

            * blessing.

             Context determines the exact definition and usage of a term with more than one meaning, but we can see at a glance that these descriptions “agree” with each other in essence. This helps us understand the passage in a more specific way.  Think of each of these synonyms as you read “good” in the passage from TETH below:  

            You [God] are good, and what you do is good; [therefore,] teach me your decrees. (Ps 119:68 NIV)

            Note the implied “therefore” that I inserted for clarity this time.  God does good, because He IS good.  That is why I need to learn what God has to say.  It must be good (beneficial) for me! 

            You may have heard the Christian saying, “God is good….all the time!” This is scripturally true.  It is what the Bible says about God. There will always be a “therefore” when we learn something of God’s character and acts toward us.  If God is good, and if God does good, then God must be good toward and for me—therefore, I am challenged to respond to His goodness.


            These synonyms are positive, agreeable. I want these things in my life as I go about each day. You do, too, I suspect.

            I am drawn toward the good, even if and when I am, myself, not good.  I want to be good, even if I struggle and fail. I may be angry or covetous and I may want what is not good, but I know in my secret understanding that I am rejecting what is good, what is beneficial in the long run.  But I am drawn to self-satisfaction like a moth to the flame.  In my knowing determination to get what I want now rather than later, I begin to hide or get defensive or withdraw from God and man (e.g., Adam’s hiding in Genesis 3).  

            I find that I am not good. I want to be good and to have good done toward me, but I fail.  Therefore, I am in a quandry. I can either remain on the wrong path and be discontent and disgruntled, bitter and resentful, grasping and protecting, or I can look to see how to get off that non-beneficial path and on to a better one. The right one.  Now, what would that be? 


Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.  (Isaiah 59:1-2 ESV)

            Repentance. Teth reminds us that if we want what is “good” rather than “bad”, we must turn to the one who IS “good” for counsel.  What I need is God’s mercy, forgiveness, and warm welcome.[2]  The passage in Isaiah tells us the “bad” news about the effects of sin (disobedience to God).  It separates us from Him, so that he does not hear us while our hearts are unrepentant.  But what if we do desire to make things right again?  What if we don’t want to sin anymore?  Will God still hear me?  Will He forgive? 

            Even in the Old Testament, God made it welcoming to repent, did you know that?  He desires that we turn from our rebellion (i.e., repent) and return to Him!  And he welcomes us ahead of time: 

            “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (Psalm 51:17 NLT )

            “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3 NIV)

            “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”  (Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV)

            Look back at those verses and read them carefully.  Did you know that Psalm 51:17 is a psalm of repentance penned by King David after a grievous, capitol-offense sin?  David relied on the God’s character of love to receive the mercy he craved, and received (read the rest of Psalm 51). 

            Oh, friend, don’t you want what is pictured here?  To be called “an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord” is directly opposed to the way I often see myself, cognizant of my failures!  But how God sees me and how I see me right now are opposed to each other.  God is compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 86:15). [3]  It sounds very much like God loves you and I. 

            I AM

                        the broken-hearted in spirit,

                        the mistreated captive,

                        the bound and enslaved prisoner,

                        the grief-stricken mourner,

                        the one suffering in despair. 

            HE IS

                        the Anointed One,

                        the Spirit of God,

                        the Good News,

                        the Healer,

                        the Deliverer of the bound,

                        the Justice of the oppressed and imprisoned,

                        the Vengeance against evil,

                        the Comforter,

                        the Joy-Giver,

                        the Lifter of our Heads. 

            He is the Gardener arrayed in all splendor.  This is no myth.  This is direct and very serious prophecy.  It is, by all translator consensus, meant to be taken in all its rich metaphor as real and quite literal. 

            Isaiah spoke to the Jewish people and, through Israel, to “all the nations” up to this present age.  That is the rest of us! There are no distinctions of gender, geography, race, caste or clique, age or stage of life, or wealth mentioned to differentiate the recipients of His grace.  This restoration of “good” is for the entire world.  Throughout Israel’s history, they (and their God) were seen as a scourge and a danger to the equilibrium of the world.  But we see here a different picture promised to them (and to us with them):  one of restoration, raising up the poor in spirit, freedom from bondage, and liberty for the oppressed (there’s that word “justice” again)!  Though Israel repeatedly sinned against God through disobedience to His revealed laws, God made repentance and restoration possible.  He still does, and we will see this in our next post.

            At the very least, we can give thanks.  God’s welcome makes it easier to repent than we first think, but many reading this right now are not ready.  To turn from addictive sin is hard and we may be scared of what it will entail.  We want good to happen, but we don’t know about what it will look like to be good (i.e., reconciled to God who is all good). 

            Consider, at the very least, however, that God’s “common” goodness to all mankind (repenting or not) has made me responsible to at least give thanks.

            When we looked at the “good” things, we have quite a list of wonderful common graces.  The fact that you live and enjoy the food you eat, or your friends or family, or the vehicle you use to get to work, or even the flowers that bloom untended by human hands, or the animals that delight us, or the trees that give us oxygen, give us pause to thank God. 

            The very nature of thanks implies a recipient.  It is not enough to “feel good” about those things, as is suggested by many non-biblical religious teachings.  We must acknowledge the Giver of those things with our gratitude and honor.  That is what it means to glorify God.  Every good thing can be polluted and defiled, because we live in a fallen world where sin and its effects abide.  Yes.  But somewhere in your life there are things that could have been defiled but weren’t. The problem is that we look longer at the “bad” in life than we acknowledge the “good”; and we falsely accuse who we believe to be the Thief of “good” far more often than we acknowledge the Giver of the good that was taken.[4]

            God says something about our stubborn, rebellious nature in not acknowledging the good that God is and has done (and is still doing): 

            18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21 NIV)

            Even in desperate personal times, God is good and He is doing good if we know where to look for it.  Can you imagine a world without ANY good?  Try it for a moment, maybe a few moments! 

            The first step to experiencing God, and anyone can do this, is to stop resisting Him, and begin to thank Him for the common good that He has given to you.  To do this, we will have to acknowledge him as Creator (see again Romans 1) of those things, the Divine Origin of all things.  We’re not discussing how God created, nor how long it took, but that God created all things and that includes you.  God said His creation “is good” and He blessed it (Gen. 1-2), and He invites you to enter again into that blessing.  We can begin the first step by acknowledging Him as good.    

From Aristotle to Old Testament Israel to New Testament Christianity

            In the earlier article mentioned above, I talked about Aristotle’s concept of “good” – the Greek eudaimon (eu “well” + daimon “divinity” or “spirit”).  We saw that Aristotle understood this concept to have non-worldly origins, and that the term meant far more than a mere feeling of happiness or pleasure, but it meant “living the fulfilled life” or “living well and doing well” according to an objective (non-worldly, or other-worldly) standard.  We have to appeal to something outside of ourselves to make valuations; otherwise, we would be merely stating our own fluctuating and individually-limited opinions.  This requires, as Aristotle hypothesized, an outside source.   

            Tawb is the Hebrew word used to tell us in Psalm 119:68 (Teth) that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob IS this good.  He is the “best” good, the original good.  All good began in Him and flows from Him.  He not only is good, He does good. He created us good, but sin has marred that good for a time

            Here is where we venture into the New Testament from Teth.  Somewhere between the Old Testament Hebrew psalmist and the New Testament Apostles something happened to confirm God’s goodness in the midst of a very dark world.  His goodness reaches out to you and makes a bridge across the chasm that separates you from Him.  Oh, it is good news indeed!  Check back with me as we look together at the New Testament connection with Teth‘s message.    


[1] Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Unabridged, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission. BibleSoft.com

[2] God has, indeed, mercifully offered help in the person of His own Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17).  If you would like to know more about how to have peace with God and receive His blessing of salvation from sin, see PeacewithGod.net and a live person will meet with you to listen to your questions, show you the way to this great salvation, and pray with you to receive Christ in your life via phone, chat or email.  From there, you can also take an online study course, such as ChristianityExplored, to learn more.

[3] When the translation uses the word “vengeance” it is not the hateful term against mankind that is superficially translated, but “zealousness” or “righteous vengeance against all wrong”.  God is not saying he is against man, but against the very evil we charge him of being so passive against!  But God is not passive.  Isaiah tells us that there is indeed a day coming where the Lord’s vengeance against all unrighteousness will come to ripeness and will be executed.  But look at the attitude in the rest of this verse toward His people who suffer!  The vengeance is against all those oppressors who make others suffer, and God is speaking primarily (though not exclusively) against the spiritual power rather than earthly power.  God will vanquish evil.  But I get ahead of next week’s post! 

[4] In Genesis 1, we see that all things were made “good”; yet there was a Thief, a tempter of man who drew man to disobey (Gen 3).  The Bible calls him a dragon, or serpent, who “leads the world astray” (Rev. 12:9).  He is the one who comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10-29).  In this last referenced passage, John contrasts the true Thief with the Good Shepherd, who is Jesus Christ, the Giver of all Life ( “For you [God] are the fountain of life; the light by which we see.” Psalm 36:9 NLT).

PHOTO CREDIT: “Sebastian Inlet, FL” by ReadPsalm119.com.

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