Theme: Taste and See That the Lord Is Good
This week’s lessons teach us of the need to praise and trust the Lord for his deliverance in the midst of difficult experiences.
Scripture: Psalm 34:1-22
When I was living in Switzerland in the mid-1960s, I had a friend whose very favorite verse in the Bible was verse 8, at least the first half: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” She liked the strong physical quality of it and most likely, because she was liturgically inclined, viewed its best fulfillment as being in the communion service.
I do not think this verse is about communion, though that is not an inappropriate application of the principle. But my friend was certainly right in this, that the verse encourages us to try God out, almost physically, just as we would some great treat or delicacy. Does that seem indelicate to say? To compare God to good food? Maybe. But we need to say that although God is more than this image suggests, he is certainly not less, and our problem is not that we think of him too literally but that we do not think of him literally enough. Moreover, as far as the communion service goes, the eating of the broken bread and the drinking of wine is to teach us that God becomes as literally a part of us by faith as food becomes a part of our body by the act of eating it.
This is what the third part of the first half of this psalm concerns (vv. 8-10). Have you tasted and seen that the Lord really is good? How does God become a part of you, a part of your thinking, of what you really are? It is by faith, and faith means believing God and acting upon that belief. In other words, it is exactly what David is speaking of in this stanza, though he uses different words. He wants us to act on what we know of God and his goodness, for only then will we actually experience for ourselves how good God truly is. “I found him to be good,” says David. “He delivered me from all my fears and enemies, and provided for me too. I want you to experience his provision as I have.”
With verse 11 we begin the second half of the psalm. This half has its greatest biblical parallels in the wisdom material that opens the book of Proverbs (chs. 1-9). In fact, its theme is the theme of Proverbs, namely, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:6). Earlier the psalmist said that “the angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him” (v. 7). Now he is going to teach us what that right fear is.
There are two parts to this last half of the psalm. Part one provides instruction (vv. 11-14). Part two is a summary of what has been said in the earlier verses (vv. 15-22).
What is “the fear of the LORD”? Most writers, when they write about the fear of the Lord, make a distinction between what we mean by fear and what we call “reverence.” This is correct, of course. It is even one of several dictionary meanings: “awe, profound reverence, especially for the Supreme being” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary). But this is not how David defines the fear of the Lord in this section. He defines it, not by an emotion or attitude but by action, using words later picked up by the Apostle Peter to describe the essentials of a moral life: “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the LORD is against those who do evil (vv. 12-16; cf. 1 Pet. 3:10-12).
What does it mean to taste and see that the Lord is good? How does that happen in the life of the Christian?
What is the biblical parallel for the second half of this psalm?
What does it mean to fear the Lord? How does David define it here?
Application: In what ways have you tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord? Pray for opportunities to share your own experience of this with others who may be discouraged and need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.