Psalm 34

Taste And See The Goodness Of The Lord

When have you experienced the "good of the Lord?" Describe your experience.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. God's goodness comes in many different ways, from blessing to moments of transcendence to encounters of human intimacy. Whether we are aware of God's immediate presence or we recognize his goodness in hindsight, we can always "taste and see" his goodness.

This well known phrase comes from Psalm 34:8a. This psalm combined praise and wisdom literature in an acrostic format (the first letter of each line began with a sequential letter of the Hebrew alphabet; however, one letter in the sequence is missing and two letters are reversed). The psalm began with a note concerning David's feigning madness before the king of Gath (see 1 Samuel 21:11-16) as a way to defend himself; the psalmist (or scribe) must have thought such antics showed wisdom in the face of danger.

By David; when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.

1 I will bless YHWH at all times.
His praise will always be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall boast in YHWH.
The humble shall hear of it, and be glad.
3 Oh magnify YHWH with me.
Let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought YHWH and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to him, and were radiant.
Their faces shall never be covered with shame.
6 This poor man cried, and YHWH heard him,
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of YHWH encamps around those who fear him,
and delivers them.
8 Oh taste and see that YHWH is good.
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
9 Oh fear YHWH, you his saints,
for there is no lack with those who fear him.
10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger,
but those who seek YHWH shall not lack any good thing.

World English Bible

34:1-3 was an invitation to communal praise; the leader extolled the glory of the Lord as a witness to the community, then invited the assembly to join him. 34:4-10 continued this call, but took a turn toward wisdom literature; the call was not to praise but to dependance on God. 34:4, 6-7 provided the personal witness to dependence; 34:5, 8-9 were the imperatives to follow suit. Notice the imperatives contained reasons for dependence. "Look to the Lord" and you will have joy, not shame (34:5). "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord" and receive happiness (34:8). "Fear the Lord" (i.e., be in awe of God) and you will not suffer any lack.

11 Come, you children, listen to me.
I will teach you the fear of YHWH.
12 Who is someone who desires life,
and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking lies.
14 Depart from evil, and do good.
seek peace, and pursue it.
15 YHWH's eyes are toward the righteous.
His ears listen to their cry.
16 YHWH's face is against those who do evil,
to cut off their memory from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and YHWH hears,
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 YHWH is near to those who have a broken heart,
and saves those who have a crushed spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but YHWH delivers him out of them all.
20 He protects all of his bones.
Not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall kill the wicked.
Those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.
22 YHWH redeems the soul of his servants.
None of those who take refuge in him shall be condemned.

34:11-22 continued the wisdom theme, but this time, in proverbs. Like the imperatives of 34:5, 8-9, 34:11 was a call, but this time to learn wisdom about the fear of the Lord. 34:12 asked a rhetorical question about love of happiness, only to be followed by two proverbs (34:13-14), one to refrain from speaking evil, the other to repent and seek peace. 34:15-22 described the outcome of the proverbs. He would look over the good, but destroy the evil. Such protection did not mean freedom from misery (34:18-20), but did guarantee a safe arrival to the presence of God. (34:20b was quoted in John 19:36 as fulfilled prophecy in his Passion narrative.)

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. The imperative of 34:9a is valid in good times and tough going. Despite the ups and downs of life, God will be there if we are open to his presence. He is there, wait for our company.

34:5, 8-9 described three spiritual attitudes: seek God's presence, partake in his presence, be in awe of his presence. How have you "looked to the Lord?" How have you "tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord?" How have you "feared the Lord?" What blessings have you received for your efforts?