Every Psalm was written in a particular circumstance. Sometimes they are written during a particular circumstance, sometimes after the circumstance is over. There is something about a change in circumstances or a period of extended reflection that makes the heart poetic. Sometimes, however, we are surprised to read psalms the context of which is not consistent with the circumstances in which it was written. Consider Psalm 34 as a case in point.
As David rose to kingship of Israel, he was chased by the reigning king Saul who hoped to take his life. On one such occasion David fled to Achish the king of the Philistines. But, when he gets there, one of the servants of Achish relates to the king how David is revered in song for his military exploits (1 Sam.21:10). Apparently it’s one thing to have a political refugee seek help from a foreign government. It’s something else to have a trained military assassin residing in the palace. Fearing for his life, David pretends to be insane. He spends his day scratching the doors of the gate and drooling onto his beard (v.13). Apparently, Achish the king already had enough insanity among his own people (v.15), so he banishes David.
David then goes from Gath to the cave of Addulam. Once there, he is met by a group of misfits who gather to him and anticipate he will be their ruler 1 Sam.22:2. During this time, a time of fear, uncertainty, and then the arrival of every miscreant Israel had to offer, David writes the words of Psalm 34. Remember – sometimes the content of a psalm doesn’t match with the context in which it was written…Listen to the words of Psalm 34:1-8 with the circumstances of David in mind.
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
This psalm oozes praise and worship. David’s circumstances have not affected his ability to sing God’s praises. Too bad they so often do with us. David says something in these verses that has captured my attention and which I think connects us directly to the Lord’s Table. In v.8 David calls for the reader to taste and see.
Taste is a wonderful sense isn’t it. Think about good food. I don’t mean the kind that comes mass produced out of a box, laden with salt and every kind of edible chemical compound known to man. I’m not talking about food with the first ingredient as Sodium Glutamate or food that has ten different ingredients none of which have less than fifteen letters. I’m talking about good food. Real food. Food that you perhaps grew yourself. Think about those foods. Taste is a blessing from a good God. After all, food is simply fuel. You need food to fuel the processes of your body. So, it is possible that God could have simply made people without the sense of taste, and make one kind of food, something that looked like oatmeal, which was tasteless and then ask us to live on that. But God doesn’t do that. He fills the earth with an abundance of plants and animals and tells us that they are for us to enjoy (1 Tim.6:17; 4:4). Notice – enjoy. Not just to fuel our bodies but to enjoy. The sense of taste is a gift from a good God.
Now David wants you to taste God. Don’t rush this experience. Don’t think about the next activity, the next worry, the next crisis. Relax. Sit, take a deep breath. You have time. Now, taste. Allow the flavours of God’s goodness to fill your soul. Let the rich textures of his grace, the sweetness of his mercy the bitterness of his wrath sit on the soul’s taste buds so that you experience all the fullness of who God is.
This bread is a way for you to do that. As you put it in your mouth, allow to sit on your tongue before you chew it. While it sits there and the unusual flavour of a cracker baked with no yeast fills your mouth, think about this – what was it like to be beaten? What was it like to be whipped? What would it be like to have your body torn? The juice is no less potent, no less tasteful. As you drink the juice, don’t gulp it down. Let the liquid fill your mouth. Swish it around. What was did it taste like to have your mouth fill with blood as you were struck on the face? What was it like to have the sweat of exertion run down your forehead and into your open mouth. What was it like to have vinegar placed in your mouth – sour, pungent, acrid taste as you hung on the cross. Don’t rush this. Moments with the Master are meant to be savoured. Even the difficult ones.
As the taste of the bread and the juice lingers, remember that you are told here to taste and see. You are to see. Sight too is a wonderful gift. God has filled the earth with light, with contrasts, with darks and whites, with shades of color that defy description. Drink in the sight. Look at what God has made. He could have made everything grey. He could have filled the sky with dullness, and coloured everything in monochrome. But he didn’t. Sometimes God does things for glory and for beauty (Ex.28:2, 40). See the colours of his world and rejoice in what he has done. God has created in Technicolor.
But now look at what is in your hand. A small piece of cracker, a small cup of juice. These things which you can see burn visually into your mind the realities of the cross. a broken body. Look at the broken cracker, When we see its jagged edges our minds are taken to the bruising he received (Isa.53:3). We cannot look at the broken cracker, see its condition and not be drawn into this contemplation – Jesus did this. It was real, visual. If seeing is believing, then see and believe. Jesus, the divine son of God in human flesh really did die. He really did suffer. See it and believe it.
Look at the cup. The deep rich purples of grape juice and the scarlet tinge remind us of blood. Shed blood, spilled blood. Blood that drained from his body through the lashings he received. Blood that poured from his side (John 19:34). Look at it! – It is designed to connect you in a sensory way to what happened to Jesus. Blood spilled out and life left him.
But in all your looking, remember the point. You taste and you see the goodness of God. The gospel says that we look on Christ’s suffering and we see God’s goodness. We look on him whom we have pierced. And we know this was for us. This is how we see the goodness of God in the darkness of the cross. This was not a waste. This was not a death died in vain. For in his death he brings many sons to glory (Heb.2:10). Jesus death – taste it and see it – it was for you. To redeem you. God’s wrath over your sin poured out on a substitute. A perfect lamb – the lamb of God who takes away sin. Do you taste God’s goodness yet? Do you see God’s goodness yet? You were lost, condemned, full of sin. You hated God and you proved your hatred by doing things contrary to his law (Col.1:21). Do not think of your own goodness – do not protest your own innocence. You were guilty by nature and by choice; you offended the God of the universe; you rebelled against him and the cross, the broken body of Jesus and the shed blood of Jesus demonstrate the consequence of your sin. Now, taste and see God’s goodness. The goodness of God is best displayed at the cross. So taste, my friend, and see my friend. When you taste and see the goodness of God, you will not be disappointed.