Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
– Psalm 34:8
We prayed through Psalm 34 at a recent prayer meeting. Since then I have wanted to spend some time meditating on verse 8, and have decided to do it publically here. I am making these observations solely from the English text, though if there were time, even more nuance could be found in the Hebrew. I’m sure I would be encouraged by your observations as well.
- The introductory word “Oh” clearly denotes emotion and longing. David yearns for me to experience and enjoy what he has experienced and enjoyed. He is bursting with a passion and desire to bring others into his deep personal experience of God’s goodness.
- David clearly mixes his metaphors. He exhorts me both to “taste” and “see.” David was a gifted poet, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he were aware that he mixed the metaphors. But there is a richness to the mixture. Both are sensory words — taste and sight. They are verbs of intimate personal experience. And in the context, the seeing comes from the tasting. David wants me to experience God’s goodness (taste) and to thereby realize God’s goodness (see). If I “taste” a strawberry and “see” that it is sweet, or “taste” fine chocolate and “see” that it is rich, I am having an experience that leads to a realization that over time becomes a conviction. If you ask me if a strawberry is sweet, I will tell you, “Of course.” If you ask me if I am sure, I will say “Absolutely.” Why? Because I have tasted strawberries many times, and every time they were sweet.
- The verbs “taste” and “see” are both exhortations. You could call them “commands,” but that would take away from the clear sense of eager invitation. We tend to overuse the “command” label when looking at imperative verbs in Scripture. Many so-called “commands” are certainly mandatory (i.e., God would be displeased if we neglected them), but often the requirement is not the emphasis. Here, the sense is an eager invitation and an earnest exhortation. David is not a drill sergeant barking out commands to experience the riches of God’s goodness. He is a young poet who has been rescued from the clutches of a foreign king and cannot restrain the flow of jubilant praise coming from his heart. He wants everyone to experience the goodness of God as he has, so he enthusiastically urges me to “taste” and “see.”
- The exhortations to “taste” and “see” do not call me merely to a mental recognition of a truth or a quick acknowledgement of a theological reality or even an accurate entry in my doctrinal statement. To “taste” is to intentionally put something in my mouth so that my tongue and my tastebuds can explode with excitement at its desirable sweetness and complimentary texture. To “see” is to observe and to contemplate and to process and to interpret and to draw a conclusion. Both are verbs of personal, intimate, sensory experience.
- The substance David wants me to taste and the object that he wants me to see is the goodness of the LORD (“that the LORD is good”). And it is not just His goodness, but the personally experienced, irreversibly established fact that He is good. Of course, God is always good. But what David longs for is that I share in his experience of God’s goodness. David does not just want God to be good. God is good, and David longs for me to ”taste” His goodness and to “see” His goodness.
- “The LORD” is Yahweh. This is the unique, covenantal name of God as He revealed Himself to Israel and bound Himself to her for her everlasting good. This is appropriate here, because it is Yahweh who has rescued David from Abimelech (see the Psalm title), just as He promised to be the protector of the Israelite godly.
- What characteristic of the LORD does David want me to “taste” and “see”? The beautiful reality of His goodness. Not in the abstract, but in concrete reality. Not in a picture or video or dramatic re-telling, but in personal experience. The verb “is” makes “good” a predicate adjective referring back to “the LORD.” So ”the LORD” has an intimate connection with “good” here. He can be defined and explained by the description “good.” God is a benefactor. He has my best interests in mind. He is for me, not against me. He is not only sovereign, with the power to do whatever He desires; He is also infinitely good, with the perfect goodness to always use that power in generous, helpful, supportive ways for me, because of Christ. He is virtuous, honorable, and noble, at all times and in all ways.
- Meditating on the word “good” in relation to God is an endless exploration of a borderless land, a swim in a bottomless ocean. This week I hope to walk around each day simply repeating to myself, “God is good,” and turning that statement over and over in my mind.
- The second half of the verse describes what David means when he says, “taste and see that the LORD is good.” He means that I should “take refuge in Him.” I will taste the sweetness of God’s goodness and see the riches of His goodness when I fully depend on Him for my protection and provision.
- In the immediate context, David puts some contours on God’s goodness. “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” So God is “good” because God is a “refuge.” His goodness is clearly demonstrated in His active protection of those who run under the shadow of His wings. Earlier in the poem David has described himself as a poor man crying out to God (v. 6), and he has experienced the warmth and safety of God’s shelter.
- David happily declares a blessing on “the man who takes refuge in [the LORD].” David knows that this man will be blessed because David himself has taken refuge in the LORD and has tasted and seen that the LORD is good. David has experienced God as his refuge, so he naturally and eagerly exhorts others to find refuge in God, and he explains the blessing they will experience as they personally discover God’s goodness.
- To “take refuge” is to seek shelter, to run for protection, to wholeheartedly entrust my well-being to the power, control, and virtue of another. It is an act of utter self-abandonment and complete dependence upon another. It also implies external pressures and threats that have overwhelmed me so that my own ability to protect myself and provide for myself has been exhausted. I’m at the end of my rope, and I know it. I have no more resources, no more strategies, no more reinforcements. I must flee, abandon my own efforts, and “take refuge.”
- To “take refuge” is an emotional act. Along with “taste” and “see,” it is a verb brimming with feeling. But “tasting” and “seeing” are positive experiences, while the initial steps of “taking refuge” are harrowing. If I am forced to “take refuge,” I am not making the calculating evaluation of the fortress inspector who declares that the building is satisfactory. I am not a soldier making a peace-time observation that if the enemy gains an advantage, the fortress will be a good place to find protection. No, I am personally driven back, beaten down, vulnerable, and exposed, and if I want to survive, I must “take refuge” someplace safe.
- The prepositional phrase “in him” denotes the location where I “take refuge.” But it is not a physical location. There is no widely-dug moat, no steel-reinforced walls, no observation towers. This “refuge” is a person – it is “the LORD” from the first half of the verse. He is invincible, impenetrable, and unable to be bribed or coerced. He does not grow weary or impatient with my need for protection. His protection is relentless, His provision is abundant, His shelter is warm, and His loyalty is promised.
This verse is a wooing verse. It calls me from my beneficial exegetical observation and my healthy scriptural meditation to something even deeper — to seek God as my refuge in time of need so that I can experience His goodness with all the delightful sweetness of taste and all the brilliant color of sight. It makes me long to know God intimately and to run to Him quickly and to trust Him without reservation. I want to taste and see His goodness, and to be the man who is blessed because God is my shelter.