Taste and See

Psalms   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:30:49
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Taste and See
Psalm 34 (ESV)
Central Idea: God will fully satisfy those who trust him to satisfy the longings of their hearts.
Psalm 34 is a psalm of joy. It is about the joy of experiencing the goodness of God.
Psalm 34:5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. “
David begins by inviting us to proclaim the goodness of the Lord with him.
He invites us to exalt God’s name together.
Even more, than that, David is inviting us to experience what he himself has experienced—namely, the goodness of God.
This invitation can be summarized in the most familiar verse of Psalm 34.
Verse 8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!”
This is an invitation to see what David has seen for himself.
It is an invitation to experience the goodness of God. David pleads with us to accept this invitation because he knows that those who trust God to satisfy the longing of their hearts will be fully satisfied with God. [1]
Historical Background
1 Samuel 21 records one of the most interesting moments in David’s life.
While Saul was still king,
David was rising in prominence. When David was seen, people would chant,
“Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands” (1 Sam 18:7).
As a result, Saul became jealous and angry, consumed with trying to kill David.
As David was running for his life, he fled to Gath. This was an interesting place for David to hide because it was the hometown of Goliath, whom he had killed a few years prior.
Everyone in Gath knew who David was.
David was recognized, and the news got to the king that he was there.
David, while trying to save his life, ran into a town filled with people who wanted to end his life. He was trapped, but he had an idea.
He decided to act like he had lost his mind. He let his saliva run down his beard and scratched at a doorpost.
When the king saw him, he said,
“Look! You can see the man is crazy!” And David left Gath unharmed.
From that situation, David wrote Psalm 34.
David was overwhelmed by the goodness of God in sparing his life.
Call to Worship – An Invitation
Psalm 34:1–3 (ESV)
1 I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. 3
Psalm 34:3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
Why say “at all times”?
Because there are times when praising the Lord might seem unusual, or at least unexpected — times when we assume praise might cease.
When would that be? Hard times. Afflictions.
Imagine a day when Christians are being increasingly marginalized. They are not yet being physically persecuted, but everywhere they turn, they are being insulted. They are maligned. They are regularly slandered. And the vitriol seems to be growing. Among the influential, Christianity is not trending; if anything, Christianity is being increasingly blamed for various problems perceived in society.
It’s not only a fitting description of our times, but also almost two millennia ago, the apostle Peter wrote to Christians in similar circumstances. They were not physically persecuted yet, but they faced the world’s growing disapproval: insults, slander, and cold shoulders. And where did Peter turn when he set his mind to put pen to paper and write them a letter? He turned to Psalm 34.
“When things are bad, taste and see that he is good.”
This is not only a call for God’s people to celebrate with David his deliverance from affliction but also, as we do so, to prepare ourselves for our own afflictions, whether already present or coming.
Why didn’t David just keep this to himself?
Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
Why would it matter if we joined him? Because joy is not complete until it is shared.
To use the restaurant analogy, if you are eating an incredible meal, you will want to tell your husband or your friend—whoever is at the table—how good it is. You might say, “Give me your fork, you have to try this!” Why is that?
Because you enjoy the experience more when you share it with others. This is why we enjoy watching sports with other people. After a great play, you can turn to your friend and say, “Did you see that?”
Our delight in God and our joy in what he has done grows when we share it with others.
If you have experienced God’s power and grace in your life, you want to tell others about it to enjoy it more yourself.
This is why it is so important to come to church.
We could watch church on the Internet, of course, just like we could watch a football game on TV.
But something different happens when we get together live and in person. As we sing and talk and pray together, we are telling each other what God has done, and our joy in God grows. You need the church to complete your joy in Christ!
When we magnify God together, we are not making him greater, but we are setting his greatness before our eyes and praising him for it.
This means that worship is the most sane and rational thing we can do.
We see reality, we see the greatness of God, and we align our hearts with the truth.
This is at the heart of what makes us Christians.
The world actively resists God and hates his authority. The world may accept many deities, but it fights the God of the Bible. It does not like or love the God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ. It cannot bless him or magnify him. But God’s people see him, love him, and rejoice in his greatness and glory.[2]
David’s Testimony
This boasting is not empty words. David backs up his boasting in the Lord with his own personal testimony.
Psalm 34:4–7 I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
When David says, “I sought the Lord” (v. 4), he does not mean that God was lost or hiding from him. The Hebrew word “sought” in this verse is never used when we don’t know where something is.2
Rather, seeking the Lord here means to ask of God or inquire of him.
· David is looking for direction from God. And God answered; he rescued David from his fears.
· David’s experience was not unique and only for him.
God answers and protects everyone who loves him. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” (v. 7). He watches over and protects his people.
God surrounds his people and saves them from every danger.
This was David’s experience as a prisoner in Goliath’s hometown. It is your experience, too, if you love God and fear him.
What fears are you carrying?
Not many of us are afraid for our lives like David was.
But you may be afraid for your job.
Afraid of declining health
You may be afraid for your children.
You may be afraid for your marriage.
You may be afraid of being alone
You may be afraid for your retirement. Cast all your cares on the Lord, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
If you carry around the weight of your fears, it will take a toll on you and affect you physically. You can see worry written in the lines on someone’s face. This is why verse 5 is so precious. In many of the ancient versions, verse 5 is a command, not a statement: “Look to the Lord and shine, don’t let your face be ashamed!”
If you turn to God and look to him for help, the peace and joy he gives will be written on your face.
David Invites us to Taste and See
After the invitation and testimony,
David continues his persuasion by urging us—pushing us!—to experience God for ourselves.
Psalm 34:8–10 (ESV)
8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 9 Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! 10 The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
“When things are bad, taste and see that he is good.”
David is not asking us to affirm a point of doctrine. Instead, he tells us to “taste and see” (v. 8).
What is the difference?
I could tell you that honey is sweet. I could describe the molecular structure of honey and how it interacts with your taste buds. I could show videos of chefs using honey to sweeten their food. I could show you a little boy’s face light up when his mom puts honey on his toast.
After I have done all that, you might believe that honey is sweet, but would you know that honey is sweet?
The only way you are going to know that honey is sweet is actually to taste it for yourself.
Anything else is secondhand.
When faced with fears turn to God for refuge.
It’s one thing to trust God with our mind, but its another thing to trust him with our life.
They do not know for themselves what David knows, that
God cares for his people and delivers them from every trouble and fear.They will always be splashing in the shallows when they could dive in the oceans of God’s goodness.
David wants us to act on what we know of God’s goodness when we are in trouble. Only then will we taste for ourselves how good he really is.
The Bible repeatedly promises that God will protect and provide for those who fear him.
As Christians, we will not lack anything we need. God may not give us everything we want, but he will provide everything we need.
One day he will give us the best thing of all—he will bring us home to Heaven and give us himself, face-to-face, and he will wipe every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:1–4).
On that day we will taste once again and see that the Lord is good in a way we never imagined.[3]
Learn from Me
After inviting us to praise God with him, David asks us to learn from him. The second main invitation of Psalm 34 comes in verse 11.
Psalm 34:11–14 (ESV)
11 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
David speaks to us like a father speaking to his children or a teacher to his students.
If you had a hard relationship with your father growing up,
let David adopt you with these words and invite you into his family.
The Fear of the Lord
What does it mean to fear God? Think of a good father and the way his child fears him.
Spurgeon puts it this way:
Pay to him humble childlike reverence, walk in his laws, have respect to his will, tremble to offend him, hasten to serve him.
Fear not the wrath of men, neither be tempted to sin because of their threats; fear God and fear nothing else.4
· The great secret is that if you fear God, you will fear nothing else. And if you do not fear God, you will fear everything else.
· It’s no use saying that we fear God if we do not do what he says. Our life shows our heart. The fear of the Lord means doing what is right. David balances three negatives with three positives. Negatively the fear of the Lord means keeping our tongue from all forms of evil speech and lies.
We will be tempted to lie and trust in falsehood to save us. We will be tempted to do wrong in any number of ways. The fear of the Lord teaches us to turn from evil in all its forms.
· Positively, the fear of the Lord means doing good in all its forms too. Whatever good things are before us, we should do them.
David emphasizes that fearing the Lord means being a peacemaker—not only looking for peace but chasing after it to run it down.
This is worth noticing because many Christians do not value peacemaking the way God does.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). This is one of the many points of contact between Psalm 34 and the Sermon on the Mount.5
In other words, the pains of affliction are no excuse for evil.
The affliction of unjust treatment at work, or childhood trauma, or being insulted because of your faith is no reason for God’s people to act like the devil.
Affliction is no excuse for gossip, sinful anxiety, sinful anger, or spiritual apathy.
In fact, affliction is a call, to God’s people, for precisely the opposite.
· Affliction is no sign from God that we’re on a break and you have an excuse to be spiritually slack.
Rather, affliction rings in the ears of the righteous as a call to “do good” all the more.
to keep our tongues from evil, and our hearts from unbelief. Affliction is game time: Will our lights really shine and give glory to our Father in heaven, or not?
Not only do the righteous face many afflictions, and wait in those afflictions, but they do good while they wait. The righteous are righteous in affliction.
· The righteous are righteous when threatened.
And this emphasis in Psalm 34 on doing good while we wait is what prompts Peter to reach for this psalm to encourage his readers. He says to insulted, ill-treated Christians, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (2:12). And then, he quotes verses 12–16 as support for saying, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless [do good], for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
So, David says to his people, and Peter to his, and now this psalm and 1 Peter say to us, affliction is no excuse for sin. In fact, affliction is a fresh call to do good.
God Sees and Hears
Being a peacemaker is hard, especially when someone mistreats us. But if we fear God, we know that God sees and judges the way we act. He rewards us when we do good.
Psalm 34:15 (ESV)
15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. 16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. 17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
God promises to bless us if we do good, even when we have been treated poorly.
The only way we will be able to live a godly life in a sinful world is if we fear this God who sees and rewards. God knows the righteous—his eyes see us, his ears hear us, he himself is near us, and he rescues us.
But the opposite is also true, and this judgment is terrible. God hates sin. He sets his face against wickedness in every form. And he will cut off even the memory of those who do evil.
When the combines harvest the wheat fields in western Oklahoma, the bits of husks and stalks are blown like dust in the wind across the open prairie. You could not gather the chaff back together again even if you wanted to. So it will be with those who go on sinning—the very memory of them will be swept away (cf. Psalm 1:4).
God’s people will suffer.
· God does not exempt those who fear him from trouble. Anyone who follows God should count the cost.
Psalm 34:19–20 (ESV)
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. 20 He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
Let that statement have its effect. Don’t move on too quickly.
Jesus said to his followers in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation.”
And the apostle Paul went around to his church plants, as he gave them the basics of the Christian life, and taught them “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). And to the Thessalonians, Paul writes about their afflictions, “You yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction” (1 Thessalonians 3:3–4).
Being God’s people, “the righteous,” is no promise of earthly ease. In fact, with it comes promises of affliction. And not just “some” but “many.”
· God’s people do not have a few troubles. Instead, David tells us that the righteous have “many … afflictions” (v. 19). This was seen most clearly in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ—he is the ultimate righteous man. He was known as a man of sorrows, and sinful men afflicted him. But God saved him by allowing him to die and then raising him from the dead.
In fact, the Apostle John says that verse 20 was fulfilled at Jesus’ crucifixion. “[T]hese things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken’ ” (John 19:36). As David reflected on God’s deliverance from his enemy, the king of Gath, he prophesied and spoke of Christ, the Righteous One, who was rescued from the hands of his enemies through the cross and resurrection.
When God rescues us from trouble, he does not always airlift us out of danger. Since this psalm was fulfilled in Christ’s death and resurrection, we conclude that God will allow us to go through hard troubles and even die so that he can save us by raising us to resurrection life.
If you want to take refuge in him, you need the faith to believe that God gives life to the dead. If he promises to rescue you, he is able to keep his word and save you even after you die.
Psalm 34 does not say the righteous won’t die, that they won’t suffer in the flesh, and die in the flesh.
But it does promise that God will raise them. All their bones will be kept; which is figurative, not literal. Not one will be broken.
A righteous man may indeed break bones and even die with broken bones.
The point is God will keep his bones — God will raise him; God will put him back together and give him flesh again and breath again. And affliction, even if it kills him, will not defeat the righteous in the end.
Does God always deliver the righteous? And the answer is a resounding yes.
From all fears. From all troubles. From all afflictions. God will keep all his bones. Not even one will be broken. Which means there will be fears, troubles, afflictions, even death — and there will be a resurrection on the other side. And God will deliver his people not in their preferred timing, but his.
David Invites us to see Two Ways to Live.
In the end Psalm 34 is like Psalm 1 in that it leaves us with two ways to live.
Psalm 34:21–22 (ESV)
21 Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. 22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
· Affliction ruins the wicked. It’s the end of their story.
· But affliction makes the righteous and is not their end.
It reveals their true colors. It has a humbling effect, rather than a hardening effect.
“The wicked … hate the righteous” in general (v. 22). Most of all, they hate Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. God will find them guilty, and they will be “condemned” (v. 21).
But God himself “redeems” (v. 22) his people, and they will not be condemned. Why not? Because Jesus, the Righteous One, was condemned in our place.
Do you know this God? You need to “taste and see” (v. 8) him for yourself. [4]
God is Magnified in Our Gladness
There’s one last component here we can’t overlook. David is not just reporting the facts. Psalm 34 is not a detached, objective report. David is celebrating. He is boiling over. He has tasted God’s goodness in bad times. He is happy. He says in verse 2, “Let the humble hear and be glad.”
God is not so magnified in our words and lives when we report the truth, as he is when we rejoice in him.
When we are glad in him, he looks good. When we celebrate him and his goodness to us, and to all who look to him and fear him and seek him and take refuge in him, he is magnified — especially when we taste and see he is good in the midst of many afflictions.
“We need to magnify the truth and beauty and worth of God in Christ to each other.”
God is enormous beyond our capacity to comprehend. And glorious beyond our ability to fully appreciate. And powerful beyond our capacity to measure. But tragically, he often seems small to our frail and fallen human eyes. We do not see him as he is. We need help.
From David. From each other. And we gather weekly as a church for that kind of magnification: to remind each other what’s most real, what’s most precious, what’s glorious.
And in our lives, and through our words, we want to magnify the truth, beauty, and worth of God in Christ to each other and to a world that does not see reality as it should.
[1]Smith, J. J., & Akin, D. L. (2022). Exalting Jesus in Psalms 1–50 (D. Platt, D. L. Akin, & T. Merida, Eds.; p. 254). Holman Reference. [2]Johnston, J. A. (2015). Preaching the Word: The Psalms: Rejoice, the Lord Is King—Psalms 1 to 41 (R. K. Hughes, Ed.; Vol. 1, pp. 349–350). Crossway. 2 Gerald Wilson, Psalms, The NIV Application Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 1:568. [3]Johnston, J. A. (2015). Preaching the Word: The Psalms: Rejoice, the Lord Is King—Psalms 1 to 41 (R. K. Hughes, Ed.; Vol. 1, pp. 351–352). Crossway. 4 Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.), 1:124. 5 See Wilson, Psalms, 573. [4]Johnston, J. A. (2015). Preaching the Word: The Psalms: Rejoice, the Lord Is King—Psalms 1 to 41 (R. K. Hughes, Ed.; Vol. 1, pp. 352–355). Crossway.
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