INTERSECT: Taste and See That the Lord Is Good, Part 2
As we learned in the previous issue, Psalm 34 is a beautifully written psalm of thanksgiving, a Hebrew poem and acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet. Verses 6 and 7 reminded us the Lord helps the humble. Just as He helped the hapless Hebrews through the Exodus, He helps us through His presence and salvation: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him.”
Taste and see (verses 8-9). With the truth of God’s presence in mind, verse 8 urges the reader to taste and see that the LORD is good. This is a matter of experience. Experience is not the only means of verifying the presence of God in our lives, but it is a valid test. The psalmist invokes food imagery here, comparing the delights of the LORD with tasty delicacies that enliven the taste buds.
Keep in mind, this statement does not deny the reality of lament, since the psalmist likely experienced the difficulty of waiting on the Lord in adversity. Indeed, he did experience adversity, because he cried out to the Lord. We must not separate the statement, “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” from the difficult circumstances from which these words were uttered. We often fail to understand the goodness of the Lord until we experience the distress of waiting on Him in trouble.
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Why would we need refuge if the follower of God experienced no trouble? Obviously, the godly suffer distress many times while seeking to live godly lives. The latter verses of this psalm remind us, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him from them all” (verse 20). We must define blessing in a biblical way, not a modern, materialistic, success-oriented way. Blessing comes from the LORD’s presence. This is why David could say when facing the valley of the shadow of death, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5). The table represents the paradox of eating a wonderful meal in the LORD’s presence while enemies press in on all sides. This is what God’s presence does in our lives.
Taste and see that the Lord is good! Even when life is bad.
Fear the Lord (verse 9). As Solomon clarified at the beginning of his proverbs, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). What should I do when distress comes against me? Fear the Lord. What does it mean to fear the LORD? The fear
of the LORD is the first step down the road of obedience to God’s commands. The psalmist anticipates the: “Who is the man who delights in life, who loves days to see good?” (verse 12). Here is what that person does:
Guards the tongue from evil
and falsehood (verse 13).
Turns from evil to do good
Pursues peace (verse 14b).
When distress comes against you, it is time to fear the Lord. It is time to guard your tongue from evil and falsehood. It is time to turn from evil and practice the good, noble, and excellent. It is time to avoid strife and pursue peace with your whole heart. This is how we should respond to trouble. And trouble will come.
Where are you today? Are you troubled and downcast? You are not alone. Keep waiting on the LORD. Cry out to Him, and He will hear you. There is an inexorable link between the fear of the LORD and the presence of the LORD in our lives. Often, we struggle with knowing the presence of the Lord because we do not faithfully practice the fear the Lord. The only way to experience the bountiful banquet in the presence of the Lord is by fearing the Lord. It is the beginning of all knowledge and understanding.
Some reading this article may need to recommit to a life of obedience in the presence of the Lord. Your obedience is not the means of God accepting you; it is your response to God accepting you in Christ. Others may be staring into the valley of the shadow of death. You are living in the fear of the Lord, yet troubles have surrounded you. Be encouraged. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them from them all. Hold on. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord, even in adversity. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him.
The world is in disarray: political unrest, pandemic, economic uncertainty, emotional distress, and anxiety. Recent days are unlike any others in most of our lifetimes. It often feels the bottom of everything is about to fall out. But we know from Scripture, that is not the way the Lord works. He is Lord of history. Even in the midst of distress and utter chaos, He is working, often quietly in the background. Note the comforting words of Psalm 93:1-2: “Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.”
God is never surprised by our circumstances. He is not caught off guard by our distress. Today is a time to draw near to our loving Lord in humility, to taste of His goodness, and to live lives of fear and devotion to Him. We must not place our confidence in the false narratives of the world or listen to the lies of a sinful heart in despair and discouragement. It is time for truth, anchoring our soul in His peace that alone can calm our troubled souls.
It is good to know that in times of difficulty and discouragement, we can rest assured one day we will look back on this moment and say with the psalmist:
This poor man cried out and
the LORD heard;
And from all his distresses
he rescued him.
Taste and see that the LORD
Blessed is the man who trusts
About the Columnist: Dr. Matthew McAffee is provost and professor of biblical studies at Welch College: firstname.lastname@example.org.