Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How Can You "Taste" God's Goodness?

There can be no question that the Bible says some unusual things. Quite frequently, they can be difficult to understand and explain. To my mind, however, that is a reason to love it. The challenge stretches and strengthens the mind, and once you have gone through the hard work of understanding, it deepens the faith. Reading the Bible, especially the confusing parts, is the path to growth.

For someone coming into the Bible with no church background, I guess almost all of it would sound strange. But I obviously can’t cover the whole thing in a single article, so we are going to focus on one passage that stands out. Take a look at Psalm 34:8. The psalmist, David, tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” How exactly does one “taste” the goodness of God?

Slaying Dragons

Well in the first place, it’s a matter of context. I could think you were crazy if I happened to walk around a corner and overheard you say, “I killed three dragons this morning.” But if I stuck around long enough to find out you had been playing Skyrim, it wouldn’t seem so nutty anymore (at least not to someone like me who plays video games, too).

The Bible is much the same. Some statements in it only sound strange when taken out of context. The best way to understand Psalm 34:8 is to read the rest of Psalm 34. The entire psalm is wonderful to read, and as you can expect, I would recommend you take the time. But when it comes to verse 8, the most important piece of context is verses 9, 10. They read,

Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.

Again, if you are not familiar with church-y language, then this concept of “fearing” God might sound odd. But let me come back to that. For now, focus on the concepts of want, lack, and hunger. Adding these verses to verse 8, you can see that you do not need a background in ancient Israelite culture to get the point (though it is a nice thing to have). David is saying that a relationship with God leads to satisfaction. When you experience His blessings, you feel filled.

Spiritual realities cannot be perfectly expressed in physical terms, but it is possible to get the point across. That is the purpose of these verses. The language of taste and lacking nothing is a way of telling people that if they try God out, they will not be disappointed.

Fearing God

That might not seem to lead us back to the idea of fearing God, but it actually does. Often in life, we face difficult times. Psalm 34:19 says so flat out, so it is not as if David is trying to deny that point. He knows it perfectly well. In fact, this psalm was inspired by an episode in which David had to feign madness to avoid being murdered by his enemies (1 Samuel 21:10–22:1). Life is not sunshine and lollipops for believers all the time.

Which is where fear comes in. If we decide to fear the circumstances of this life to the extent that we do not trust God to save us, then we will distance ourselves from Him. That distance is a problem. By trusting ourselves instead of God, we are saying we are better than He is and that we want nothing to do with Him. But since He actually provides life, everything in it, and everything beyond it, wanting nothing to do with Him is wanting nothing to do with life.

Jesus makes this point in Matthew 10:28, saying, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” What makes more sense to fear? The struggles of this life? Or a lost eternity?

So from that perspective, fearing God makes sense. But it isn’t the point to focus on. His goodness is still what David, and what the Bible, means to prove. God created us for relationship with Him. If being separated from Him is the ultimate curse, then being united with Him is the ultimate blessing. And He offers it to us. We can know Him, draw close to Him, and find joy that exceeds everything else in life.

I can say that, and I can say I have experienced it. But I do not think it is actually possible to explain it. That feeling goes beyond words, which is why David makes it an invitation. The only way you can know God’s goodness is to test it out. He wants you to try Him. He is big enough to handle any of your doubts and struggles. You just have to be humble enough to understand that you need Him.


This leads to one last thing about tasting. Psalm 34 uses a lot of sensory language. References to sight are made four times, while hearing is mentioned five times. The senses are about knowledge, and that is how the David presents them. God knows our need, and the saints can know of God’s care. But taste, which is only mentioned once, goes deeper.

Unlike the rest of the senses, taste is not just a matter of observing what is outside of us. It is a process of taking what is outside and making it a part of us. To taste something is to incorporate it into your own life, far more than seeing, hearing, smelling, or feeling do.

So when David says to taste God’s goodness, he is saying more than to be satisfied by it. He is also telling us we can take it for our own. We can grab hold of it so firmly that it becomes part of us, and lifts us above every fear and worry. The Father wants us to experience His love as a piece of our own souls. Coming to Him takes nothing from us. It actually adds.

Maybe it still doesn’t make much sense, but I hope you can at least see now that there is a reason behind this way of thinking. It is not crazy, so much as it is remote. But it is also accessible. However far you feel from God, you can experience Him. Be open to it. Listen to David’s invitation, and mine. God is good. I can tell you that until I am blue in the face and it won’t mean much. But just try it, honestly try it, and you will taste it for yourself.

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