God is great and God is good,
And we thank him for our food.
By his hand must all be fed.
Give us, Lord, our daily bread.
Our family sometimes prays these words before we eat. Except, this isn’t a prayer we speak—no, it’s a prayer we sing. To us, it’s a special prayer. It’s special because we sing it each summer up at Camp of the Woods—our favorite vacation each year.
That’s where we all learned it—right at the top of the hill in the camp dining hall. We all sit down to enjoy some hot food, but before we dig in, we pause. We pause to pray. We pause to remember and give thanks to the God who gives us everything we truly need.
But for as simple as this prayer may sound, behind the catchy tune and the clever rhymes, it is DEEPLY profound. It’s profound because it teaches us about two of God’s most important attributes: his goodness and his greatness.
You see, God must be both great AND good. Being only great or only good just isn’t enough. He has to be both! Otherwise, we’d have no hope. So, let’s talk about these two aspects of God’s character for just a moment.
God’s goodness is really a reflection of his deep and pure love. His goodness is why we can trust him. It’s why we can know without a doubt that he wants what’s best for us. His goodness moved him to speak this universe into being. His goodness motivated him to forgive his people over and over and over again. His goodness is why God keeps pouring into each of us as his children. It’s why he insists on completing the good work he began in us—even despite our sinful tendencies to try to stop him. And best of all: God’s goodness is seen most clearly in the person and work of Jesus Christ—the ultimate, sacrificial act of love towards a broken humanity and world.
But goodness alone won’t cut it. No, God must also be great. He must be the almighty, omnipotent, unstoppable God who always gets his way. God’s goodness means nothing can ever challenge his will. It means that—as the hymn reminds us—no power of hell and no scheme of man can ever pluck us from his hand!
Do you get it?
If God were only great—if he were only all powerful—then we couldn’t trust him. He’d just be a divine dictator. So, too, if God were only good, he’d be impotent. Maybe he’d have amazing and wonderful plans for us, but he wouldn’t have the strength to see those plans through. As one theologian said, “God’s greatness is the muscle behind his goodness.”
But because God is both great AND good, we can depend on him. We can depend on him to love us—to want what’s truly best for us. And we can depend on him to take care of us—to give us, each day, our daily bread.
So, friends, whatever is on your heart today, turn it over to God. And always remember that you are carried by the gentle hands of the One who loves you and the powerful hands of the One who protects you!