By Rev Fr Dr Anthony Mario Ozele
Psalm 34 is a song of thanksgiving in which David begins by praising God for His deliverance from fear and trouble (vs 4, 6). It was David’s hymn of praise after God had delivered him from the Philistines.
David spent many years while he was a young adult on the run from King Saul, who unjustly sought his life. On one occasion he thought that he would hide out in the land of the Philistines with King Achish of the royal house of Abimelech. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right? Not necessarily! In 1 Samuel 21:10-15 we read what happened. King Achish’s counselors warned him that David was the one that the Israelites wrote songs about, telling of all the Philistines he had killed, and that he couldn’t be trusted. David heard this and knew then that his life was in danger here. How could he escape without them coming after him? God planted a thought in his mind that he should pretend to be stark-raving crazy, and hopefully Achish wouldn’t kill him, but rather kick him out of the country. So David crawled around on hands and knees, drooling, and acting crazy, and as David had wished, he was safely let go. He was sure to give all praise and thanks to the Lord for this deliverance!
David could have boasted to himself and others that he was rather smart to come up with such an ingenious plan. Don’t we often do that? We like to pat ourselves on the back, boasting about how smart we are when we think up this or that. David knew that wasn’t right, and instead was going to boast in God (vs. 2). If we are going to boast in anything, the only thing fitting is to boast in what God has done for us. The prophet Jeremiah also echoes this in Jeremiah 9:23-24, “But rather, let those who boast, boast of this, that in their prudence they know me, know that I, the LORD, act with fidelity, justice, and integrity on earth. How I take delight in these—oracle of the LORD. See, days are coming—oracle of the LORD—when I will demand an account of all those circumcised in the foreskin.”
Because of King Saul’s erratic and frightening behavior, David had countless occasions when he was afraid, even for his life. Rather than getting overwhelmed he did the only sensible thing, and that was seek the Lord for help and deliverance (vs. 4). In times of trouble, no one is closer than Jesus. Every day, and at all times we need to praise the Lord that we are His people and He is our Deliverer (vs. 1). One thing that David mentions which he was thankful for was that the Lord sends His angels to surround and protect him when in danger, just like when he was in danger in the courts of King Achish (vs 7). When we are in danger, as well, the Lord and His angels surround and protect us. David then calls upon the people of Israel to remember that their God is both their Protector and Deliverer (vs 7).
The primary purpose of Psalm 34 is to teach moral lessons about God. Its theme highlights God’s constant care for His people. In verse 8, David, invites readers to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” What does it mean to taste and see that the Lord is good?
Has anyone ever invited you to take a bite of some delicious food? “Try it! You’ll like it!” That is what David is inviting us to do with the Lord in verse 8. He is telling those who do not know the Lord yet to come to Him. See what a good, kind, and loving God He is. He could have abandoned David to the Philistines when he made a blunder by going there to begin with, but He didn’t. The Lord was loving and gracious, and rescued him. The Lord is not stingy, but lavishly pours His love and grace upon us. Don’t partake of His Word with meager bites. He wants us to devour whole meals each day.
Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the stalwart one who takes refuge in him.” The words “Taste and see” are sensual and experiential. They are sensual in that they describe the actions of two of our God-given senses.
How do we “taste and see” that the Lord is good? Before tasting anything, we must eat something. Before eating something, we must “see” the food. From the beginning, God gave man food to see and to eat (taste).
Genesis 1:28-29, “God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth. God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food.”
Genesis 2:9, “Out of the ground the LORD God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food…”
Adam and Eve were created with a natural hunger for food, so God gave them the produce of the Garden to satisfy their hunger. God also created them with a spiritual hunger that only He could satisfy through an intimate relationship that included direct communication (God spoke directly to Adam). This relationship is at the center of the human heart and works.
As Christians, we also are united to God in a personal relationship and we hunger to know Him better and to love Him more. However, before Adam sinned, he “saw” God in a way that we do not. Adam had clear “sight,” but we only see “dimly” while we remain on this earth. St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13;12, “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” When our sight is clear, we will “taste” fully of the goodness of God and we will fully know Him.
To taste involves testing or sampling; to see involves understanding or perceiving. The phrase taste and see, then, means “try and experience.” David urges God’s people to discover the goodness of the Lord by personal trial and experience it for themselves. He doesn’t want readers to merely take his word for it that the Lord is good; he wants them actively to experience and know for themselves the fact that God is good.