King David, the man of God’s heart, calls out the believers to taste and see that the LORD is good. In the Scriptures we find details of innumerable works of blessings that the LORD has performed for His people, from parting of the Red Sea to rising of dead back to life. We learn about the commands of God that lead us to righteous living and to help others learn about the goodness and love of God. But how can anyone taste the LORD?
Relationship between tasting and knowing the LORD – The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and ‘man became a living being’ (Genesis 2:7). There were two components in creation of mankind, one earthly, dust of the ground, and the other spiritual and heavenly, breath of life from God. Man was thus created to operate in both realms but to be under the control of the spiritual and not the earthly. The five senses given to man are for his life on earth but all his wisdom was to come from God through daily meetings in the Garden of Eden. After the first step of forming man, God created him in His ‘image and likeness’ by adding a part of Himself, the ‘neshama’ that is breath, soul, spirit that would provide him his identity and connection with God.
The only prohibition for man from God was not to eat ‘of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (Genesis 2:17). Eve’s answer to the serpent about not eating from ‘every tree of the garden’ included an additional part to God’s command to not even touch the tree (Genesis 3:3 & 6). Of the five senses the sense of taste is the most predominant one and it leaves a permanent imprint on the mind of the individual. What they had heard from God in the spiritual realm was forgotten but the five senses prevailed and Eve ‘saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes’. This provided her with the perception that it was ‘a tree desirable to make one wise’ and she ate and also gave it to her husband. Since the taste of evil had come into their system, it stayed and got passed on to future generations.
Moses first told the Israelites about the ‘Shema Prayer’ and God being one and then commanded them to keep His words in their hearts (Deuteronomy 6:4-8). Then he told them about their responsibility towards their future generations, ‘You shall teach them (Moses’ words) diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up’. A child develops a taste for what is fed to him from his early years and invariably everyone remembers the specific taste of the food his mother prepared. That becomes the benchmark and comparisons are then made throughout one’s life. Moses commanded the people to make the Word of God so much part of their lives that one would be always thinking about that only, even while doing other chores. The Shema prayer of loving God with the mind is about what dominates our thoughts; our hearts is about our desires and our strength is about our material, social, financial and spiritual capabilities, all combined. This is about cultivating a close relationship with God and His Word like taste for your favorite food, for even when one has had his fill, the urge to eat the food of choice remains fully active.
After Joseph’s death there arose a ‘new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph’ and because of the great number of the Israelites the Egyptians ill treated them and ‘made their lives bitter with bondage’ (Exodus 1:6, 13-14, 16 & 28). The king of Egypt even told the Hebrew midwives to kill their male children at birth to control their population. Finally the Pharaoh commanded his people to cast every male born to the Israelites into the river while letting the girls live. The direct route from Egypt to the Promised Land was only about eleven days’ travel but God led them through a longer route to make them forget their painful life of slavery in Egypt and equip and train them to be a close knit family/ chosen people of God.
After coming out of Egypt the Israelites were provided by God, Manna from heaven everyday and its taste changed as per the perception of the one eating. After a few days only, the Israelites complained for meat to eat while remembering the food of Egypt, ‘We remember the fish we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic’. They forgot the physical and mental torture but not the taste of the food. The memory of taste lingers in the mind for a long time and generally is never lost while other things of life are forgotten with passage of time. In like manner when children are taught to develop a close bond with the Word of God, it is like relishing the taste of a delicacy, which taste then lingers in memory for all time. Whenever in later years they would hear the Word of God being preached, their hearts would yearn to know more. When one enjoys such taste, there develops an urge to have more and that too frequently.
King David tells of his own experience of faith about the LORD being good and that one can only learn by a personal encounter (Psalm 34:8). To taste and see is to give serious and thorough consideration and then form an opinion. King Saul had forbidden any man to eat till the Philistines were defeated, but Jonathan, his son, had not heard of this and put the rod that was in his hand and into the honeycomb and ate some of that (1 Samuel 14:29). He then told others, ‘Look now, how my countenance has brightened because I tasted a little of this honey’. As he that has tasted that the LORD is good, his countenance brightens every time he delves into the Word of God. We are told that once we have tasted the heavenly gift of the ‘Word of God and the powers of the age to come’, it is impossible for such to fall away but also impossible to return if they do (Hebrews 6:4-5). For a young believer, Apostle Peter’s advice to grow in faith is to ‘desire the pure milk of the Word’ and experience the taste of the goodness of God (1 Peter 2:2-3). Faith developed through experience is a long time work and not casual sampling. It is then that the enjoyment of the experience becomes enlightening or rather it is the enlightenment. Even a lost sheep would then be brought back into the fold easily.
Why could the disciples not develop this taste of the Lord? Taste for anything is developed when we start relishing and enjoying that rather than focusing on other things. The Jewish people’s expectation of the Messiah was of a ruler with great power to defeat the Roman Empire or the opposing forces and establish His kingdom on earth. The prophecy about Him crushing the head of the devil (the serpent) was very clear to them about His might but not about His suffering (Isaiah 53:7) and being oppressed and afflicted, ‘being led as a lamb to the slaughter’. Even today the Jews do not connect the sufferings of Immanuel, as told by Prophet Isaiah more than 700 years before His coming, to the sufferings of Lord Jesus.
What is the purpose of your coming to the Lord decides the effect that interaction would have on your life. While warning the Israelites about the people who were living in the Promised Land about their being moved out by the LORD God, Moses cautioned that they ‘listened to soothsayers and diviners’ (Deuteronomy 18:14-15). He then told them about their spiritual Guide for the future, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear’. Lord Jesus was followed by a great multitude even when He went to the other side of the sea of Galilee (John 6:6-15). He had compassion on them and fed them by multiplying five loaves of barley bread and two small fish. When the people ‘were filled’, twelve baskets full of fragments of the food were collected to avoid any wastage. Then those people started saying, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world’. They saw the fulfillment of the prophecy by Moses in Lord Jesus and wanted to ‘come and take Him (Lord Jesus) by force to make Him king’. They perceived that the Lord would set them free from the Roman empire and meet all their material needs.
Even the twelve disciples’ understanding of the role of the Messiah was the same till His crucifiction and resurrection. Lord Jesus’ telling the disciples about Himself being ‘betrayed into the hands of men’, but they ‘did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him’ (Luke 9:44-46). But then ‘a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest’. Out of the twelve disciples, Peter, John and his brother James, were always taken by the Lord with Him for every special event. Though it is believed that they were the favorites of the Lord, it is also said that the Lord wanted to have them always with Him to keep an eye on them. The two brothers, James and John, sought a special favor from the Lord, ‘Grant us that we may sit one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory’ (Mark 10:35-37 & 41). Their idea about the role of the Son of God was the same as the others and they wanted to ensure places of honor for themselves in His kingdom. But when the other ten disciples ‘heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John’.
The Son of God clearly told the disciples about His persecution at least three times in very clear terms but they understood the same only after His resurrection. Judas Iscariot used to steal from the ministry purse that was entrusted to him by the Lord and when he realized that there will be no physical kingdom immediately, he went and met the Jewish leaders to betray the Lord. The disciples initially remained trapped in their own ideas of the Savior Lord, making little effort to ‘taste and see’ and develop a personal relationship with Him. Like them we also fail to grow strong in faith till we experience the work of the Word of God in our lives and are transformed by that. Faith is developed through a personal experience and unless I undergo that the chances of my falling away remain strong.
Should we negate the experience of others about the Lord? King David’s word about ‘taste and see’ is not about rejecting others’ experience but to make it your own so that when you also face a similar situation you can expect to see God’s hand working in your life. The expression, ‘O LORD God of our fathers, You are God in heaven’ is found repeatedly in the Old Testament and the names of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob replace the word ‘fathers’ often. These words express two types of believers, the first believe because they follow the path of their fathers and find it difficult to change for fear of relatives and others. The Jews follow this and many blindly follow certain traditions without being aware of their origin and purpose. They follow the path as a command without understanding or investigating their faith. The second category are those who know the Lord God through personal knowledge, experience and investigation. They adopt the traditions of their fathers also when it is in conformity with their faith. Many traditions are followed that were handed down by the ancestors despite these not being as per Scripture. Such ‘environmental Christians never fully understand and live their faith.
King David suggests to all to investigate the taste of the Lord ourselves and enjoy and live that. While trying to have a personal relationship with God, we must never forget that He still remains the God of our fathers and we cannot and must not reject their experiences and knowledge.- David says two things, ‘taste and see’ and both are individually done and while we play our own tune in worship, our song must merge with the worship of all of creation (Revelation 5:13). Without our very own experience of God and the continuous memory of the ‘taste’ of His goodness and love towards His children, we could even lose our faith by following heresy. Apostle Paul urged the congregation at Philippi to be obedient to God’s Word and ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to do in order to fulfill His good purpose’ (Philippians 2:12-13). He again told them ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice’ and this we do by being thankful in every situation (Philippians 4:4). We rejoice and go back to His Word every day, many times a day, only if we have developed a taste for that and then God enables and energizes us to willingly do His will for our lives.
The psalmist had experienced this taste personally and could then declare, ‘How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth’ (Psalm 119:103). Then the time spent in God’s Word is not tiring and dull but enjoyable bringing obedience to the soul. God places a great value on humanity or the whole of creation to sacrifice His Son to be our Redeemer. How much value we give to the Creator of the universe is evident from the close relationship that we develop towards Him to enjoy Him as revealed in and through His Word. Then what our fathers might have experienced to rejoice in Him, becomes our very own and our faith also is strengthened through our own tasting and seeing.
The one who once experiences the taste of the Word of God rejoices in repeatedly going back to have more and his whole life is then changed for the better. Those parents, who encourage their children from a very young age itself to study the Word of God, worship and pray, set them on the right track and a blessed life. Even if due to some circumstances, one does go astray, his return to a life of holiness is easy and possible. Are we willing and ready to bless our future generations in this manner?