Summary: God's goodness is to huge, like a giant pumpkin. That goodness empowers us to be good to one another.
Do you know what the largest fruit is? I’ll give you a hint. It’s orange and often ends up in pies. That’s right. Pumpkin can grow to be the largest fruit. According to my research, the world’s largest pumpkin was grown in 2014 and weighed more than a ton. That’s heavier than two, medium-size pickup trucks! I have to admit though that I don’t usually think of pumpkin as a fruit. So let’s talk about the biggest fruit that grows on trees. That’s jackfruit. Jackfruit grows in places like India and can be as long as four feet and weigh as much as 100 pounds. Just imagine one of our grade 5 or 6’rs hanging from a tree, and you’ll have an idea of how big jackfruit can get.
Why am I talking about large fruit? Because the fruit of the Spirit that we want to focus our attention on today is goodness. Of all the Spirit-fruit characteristics that we’re considering in this sermon series, I’d say that goodness covers the most ground, like a giant pumpkin. If you’re good, then you’re loving, you’re patient, you’re peaceful, etc. So we can just skip over this fruit right because we’ve already talked about being loving, patient, kind, etc.? We could skip goodness, but I want to take some time to consider God’s goodness because this will empower us to keep producing goodness in our lives. Listen to our text from Exodus 18.
Our text places us towards the beginning of the Exodus. The Israelites have already witnessed the Ten Plagues, and escaped Egypt by crossing the Red Sea and watching the world’s superpower of the day lose its entire army in the resurging waters. They’ve seen water miraculously pour out of a rock after Moses struck it with his staff. They’ve been eating manna, the bread from heaven, and they won their first battle when they fought the Amalekites. This all happened in the first three months upon leaving Egypt.
Moses had a lot to report to his father-in-law when Jethro made a visit. Jethro was not an Israelite. He was a Midianite. These people were descended from Abraham’s second wife Keturah. Jethro was a believer in the one true God and so he delighted to hear all the “good things” that the Lord had done for the Israelites. Jethro exclaimed: “Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh... 11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods…” (Exodus 18:10, 11).
Have your last three months been as eventful as the three-month period Moses told Jethro about? You may not have seen food drift down from heaven to fill your fridge, or witnessed water suddenly appear in your empty water bottle when you were thirsty. Nor have you fought in any battles, or run from a pursuing enemy. Nevertheless it is the Lord God Almighty who has been providing you with food. It is he who has kept harm from you whether you saw his hand at work or not.
But he hasn’t kept all harm from us. A couple of our members, for example, have undergone major surgeries and are still recovering. But the Israelites weren’t without challenges either. Our text says that Moses told Jethro about “all the hardships they had met along the way” (Exodus 18:8). But Moses was also happy to report that the Lord had seen them through those hardships. The Lord had been good to his people. Moses’ upbeat report reminds me of the psalm that says, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion” (Psalm 84:5-7).
The Valley of Baka doesn’t seem to be a place as much as a state of mind. Baka means balsam wood, but it also sounds like the word for weeping. The psalmist is saying that even though we travel through a valley of tears and may go from one crisis to the next, these hardships don’t need to wear us down. For those who trust is in the Lord will “go from strength to strength” (Exodus 18:7). Isn’t that a beautiful thought? Just as God was with the Israelites throughout the Exodus and sustained them through their hardships, he’s doing the same for you. You’re only getting stronger through the hardships that you face, not weaker. That’s because God’s goodness to you will never fail.
God lets us go through these hardships so that we can taste well his goodness. Just think of how you feel after a week of tent camping. When you come home, you appreciate anew all the amenities you enjoy there. There’s no need to spend 15 minutes gathering wood to build a fire so you can boil water. Just hit a button and your electric kettle will deliver hot water in 60 seconds! Nor is there any dread of rain. If you’re inside your snug house, it can storm for all you care. Even sitting down at a table with chairs is a luxury you appreciate after balancing your plastic plate on your knees while you sat on a log around the campfire. Likewise God lets us suffer hardship that we may appreciate anew his goodness to us when he gets us through the troubles.