Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)
When in life have you had the best tastes and glimpses that God is good?
Has it been “the good times,” when all was well, when all seemed right with the world? When life seemed easy, unthreatening, predictable, and good? We can taste God’s goodness in the best of times. At least God means for us to — like Paul, who learned the secret of enjoying Christ even in abundance, when “facing plenty” (Philippians 4:11-13).
Yet, over and over again, in our own day, and throughout the centuries, Christians have testified to best tasting and most seeing God’s goodness in the worst of circumstances. In the toughest, most painful, most threatening, most fearful times. When “brought low,” as Paul says. When “facing hunger.” When in great need. So was the experience of David in Psalm 34.
Verse 8 is a glorious testimony and invitation: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” Yes, he is good, and in Christ, we join David to proclaim it, inviting others to experience the goodness of God for themselves. Verse 8 can be quoted (and enjoyed) without reference to its context. But when we give attention to the whole of Psalm 34, and its hardest of times, we see that verse 8 doesn’t lose its appeal. It becomes all the more precious.
At All Times
David begins the psalm with the declaration that he will “bless the Lord at all times.” Why “all times”? Because there are times and seasons in life when praising the Lord might seem unusual, or at least unexpected, moments when we assume praise might cease. When would that be? Hard times. In affliction. And yet David, having come through such an affliction, says, “I will bless the Lord at all times.”
Not just in the good times, he declares, when praise is easy. Not just when all seems right with the world. Not just those times, but at all times. When under threat, when it’s tough, when it’s uncertain. When it’s painful. When we’re growing impatient and just want our affliction to be done so we can get back to normal life — and yet it drags on and on. Then, at that moment, in the downs of life, in the trials, in the pains, in distress, we find the all times David is talking about.
Many Are Our Afflictions
In the climactic stanza and declaration of the psalm, David writes, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (verse 19). There is no pretense here that affliction is for the wicked, while the righteous earn an easy life. No, God’s people experience affliction. And not just some. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.”
When David calls God’s people to taste and see, with him, that the Lord is good, he is not naïve or sheltered from the pains and distresses of life in a fallen world. In fact, as the title of the psalm tells us, he himself has just been rescued from a life-threatening situation (1 Samuel 21:10-15). Fresh off of a predicament that very well could have spelled his end, David has newly experienced God’s goodness. And it came to him at precisely the time when things looked anything but good.
Take Refuge — and Taste
In the second part of verse 8, David says, “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” The one tasting and seeing is the one taking refuge in God. Refuge from what? From threat. From danger. The promise of God’s goodness is for good times too — and many of us have much growing to do on that score, to not forgot God when the going is good, but to learn the secret of contentment in Christ, not self, when we experience abundance and plenty.
The goodness of God, however, shines out all the clearer for our eyes, and tastes all the better on our tongues, when some great threat looms on the horizon (or immediately over our heads) and we desperately need rescue. We need refuge. We need cover. And we take refuge in God, and learn in that moment, not just in theory but in actuality, the goodness of our God.
Give Us Your Eyes and Heart
David himself had trouble. He feared, and God rescued him. He cried out, and God heard him and saved him out of all his distress. And so he invites us to join him.
In your affliction, in the bad times, in your hardest moments, taste and see that the Lord is good. Until we’ll really backed into a corner, we won’t really taste and see like verse 8 invites us. But when we trust him against all odds, when we lean on him and rest in him when there seems to be no way out, we truly taste and see how good he is.