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Psalm 34. Taste and See...

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How Are You Doing?Have you ever noticed how hard it is to answer that common question we get so often, “Hey, how are you doing?” It always feels like trying to fit a gallon of experience into a little sippy cup worth of time. How do I even put what I have experienced and how I feel about it into a few words?How much more is this true for David in this psalm?! We may pass David and politely ask, “How are you doing, David?” What he says will stop us in our tracks. The introduction tells us briefly about what he has been through and the rest of the psalm represents his response. This is only one of 14 psalms that have a historical setting identified within the life of David.
It comes from . Just when you think David’s situation can’t get any worse, it does. It seems to go perpetually from bad to worse. David was anointed as king in . In , he kills the Philistine giant, Goliath. In , Saul (whom God had rejected as king) tried to pin David to the wall with his spear. David is on the run and he came to the priest in chapter 21, and the priest gave him the only bread he had (the bread of the presence) and the only sword he had (the sword of Goliath, whom David had killed back in chapter 17). In the next verse (), he fled to Gath, which was a major city of the Philistines. To make matters worse, this was the hometown of Goliath, the giant David had killed earlier. David had publicly executed Goliath with his own sword (cut off his head). One commentator said rightly, it was ultimate humiliation for a warrior to be executed in public with his own weapon. They obviously recognized him right away and brought him to the king of the Philistines. Do you see the picture? David was on the run from Israel’s false king and ended up seeking refuge with an enemy king—the king of the Philistines. He’s between a rock and a hard place.
David pretended to be insane. He scratched the doorpost and let his saliva run down his beard. Abimelech (which means “my father is king”—probably a title for the king among the Philistines, like “Pharaoh” is for the Egyptians), named Aschich, fell for it. “Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence?” (). So instead of being killed, he was kicked out of the city.
If I had asked somebody how they were doing and then I heard that story, I would just sit there staring with my mouth hanging open—you know—like the cartoons where the character’s mouth drops to the floor. I am sure if I asked you how you are doing today, you may not have a story quite to that degree, but I am sure there are many here who can relate to certain aspects of it—betrayal, feeling vulnerable, feeling like everyone is against you, feeling like you have no where to turn. You may not be in physical danger from two sworn enemies and have to pretend that you are crazy just to stay alive so that you can hide in the wilderness, but you feel overwhelmed and unsupported all the same. This psalm has something for everyone that lives in a fallen world.
This is a fallen world, so there is ugliness; but this is also my Father’s world, so there is beauty. “In the rustling grass, I hear him pass, he speaks to me everywhere” (Babcock). In particular, there is poetic beauty. David penned a poem here that is an acrostic—22 lines in the poem, each line starting with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in an orderly, structured way.
There is a deeper pattern here in the Psalms that we have seen—a creation psalm followed by an acrostic psalm. We saw it with (creation), then (acrostic poem). We saw it again with (creation), then (acrostic poem). Now we see it again with (creation), then .
David creates poetic structures that will allow the emotional depths of his experience to flow straight and true as praise. He will bless the Lord at all times. God delivered David and now David wants you to praise God with him and trust God when you are in similar circumstances for a similar deliverance. He asks us to look, taste, see, enjoy, fear, and trust God for ourselves.
Main Point: Taste the goodness of taking refuge in God.
The Testimony (vv. 1–10)
The Teaching (vv. 11–22)
Many commentators break the psalm into either two or three sections. In the end, I agree with those who say that the two-fold structure of the psalm best captures the flow of the psalm because verses 1–3 fit so closely with verses 4–10. The testimony in verses 4–7 begins (vv. 1–3) and ends (vv. 8–10) with an invitation to join in. David is inviting others to boast in the Lord with him and his testimony is designed to back up his boasting and bolster the invitation further in order to push the hearers to become tasters.

1. The Testimony (vv. 1–10)

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!
The terms David uses here are all so powerful and descriptive: “bless” (v. 1), “praise” (v. 1), “boast” (v. 2), “magnify” (v. 3), “exalt” (v. 3). We could devote a sermon to each word! I will try to cover these five words in five minutes.
First, the word “praise” is perhaps the most familiar to us. In one sense, to praise God means to proclaim what is praiseworthy about God. Your heart is gripped with awe and it sings with delight in what is praiseworthy about God. Thus the lips declare what the heart delights in. All praise will have the savor of enjoyment and delight.
Second, the last term, “exalt,” is also familiar to us. It means to “lift something” or “elevate something.” We want God’s name to be lifted up. We want it to be so high, so elevated that it soars high above every other name. It is the same as praying, “Hallowed be your name”—may it be regarded as high, holy, transcendent, separated supremely above all others.
Third, we all know the word “boast” as well. To boast is to take pride in something, to brag about it. We take pride in God. This is the humblest, most fitting thing we can do. Pride is pre-occupation with self (and it is empty), and thus humility looks away from self so that faith can come into full flower, which is preoccupation with God in Christ. Therefore, it takes humility to make a boast in the Lord because it means you are preoccupied not with yourself but with God and his greatness. Thus, it also takes humility to hear and receive and join a boast in the Lord.
We all know what it means to brag. We tend to look down on people who brag about themselves. It is a little more socially acceptable to brag on other people, especially sports teams. When our team wins, we wear our jerseys or we brag to others—“How many championships has your team won? We can boast in a big number of victories or championships.” It is a little harder to do with the Vikings, but maybe we can say to other fans, “Our stadium is bigger than your stadium.”
Fourth, the first term in verse 1 is actually the hardest for many people. We know that God can give us a blessing, but can we “bless” God? Can humans really add blessing to the God who is already blessed forever? We don’t add blessing to God because he lacks blessing or needs us to give it, but because he is worthy of it and we need to give it in order to enjoy Him fully.
Fifth, the last term to talk about is “magnify.” Magnify means to bring who God is into focus so that he is rightly seen and savored. Pastor John has often explained “magnify” in terms of the difference between a microscope and a telescope. I don’t think I can improve on that distinction. We don’t make God appear bigger (like a microscope), we bring God into focus so that he looks more like he really is (like a telescope). We don’t take something small and make it deceptively bigger to study it more; we take something that appears deceptively small and bring it into focus so it looks more like it really is (“I Will Magnify God with Thanksgiving!” preached November 23, 1980).
These three verses picture God as the center of the psalmist’s unbroken praise. All creation praises him instinctually by doing what God designed it to do; humanity gets to join by joyful, intentional response—the O! O magnify him with me. Praise that exalts God will also encourage the people of God by arming them with reminders for rejoicing.
Now David’s testimony beginning in verse 4 is intended to back up his boasting. These are the reasons for his rejoicing in story form (vv. 4–7).
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.
The paradigm in this testimony is important. The psalmist starts with the results of trusting in God and turning to him as your refuge (answered, delivered, radiant, unashamed faces). You know what this is like. You tell your kids you are going somewhere and then you are not able to go there or you go there and it does not measure up to their expectations. Look at their faces. What do you see? Disappointment, discouragement. When we seek the Lord and he answers us and delivers us, our faces are beaming with joy (radiant gladness, not ashamed or disappointed).
Notice also that the people who cry out to the Lord cry out because they first realize their neediness or poverty. has many similarities to the Beatitudes, and here is a clear one. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God—“This poor man cried” and received the blessing. You are not going to ask for help if you think you can do it on your own. We cry out in weakness and discover his strength in the deliverance. Notice the scope of the deliverance. He delivers David “from all his troubles” (v. 6), but also “from all [his] fears” (v. 4).
Concerning the angel of the Lord, I don’t have time to go into detail here, but this is a great link in this text to Christ. You should go home and read the passage in about how the angel of the Lord encamps around the restored people of God and goes before them to destroy their enemies. He drives them away and pursues them to destroy them.
Now David tries to push his hearers to become tasters. Taste it for yourself. Don’t be content to just hear me talk about this meal I had. I can tell you all about the place and what I ordered off the menu and I can give you directions, but I am going to go further and say: Go there! Taste it for yourself! My words fail me. It is better than I can tell.Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!      Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,      for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger;      but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Most people raised in church have heard the phrase “taste and see that the Lord is good,” but they don’t connect it to the second half of the parallel: “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” In other words, the full verse taken together says: Taste the goodness of taking refuge in God. If celebrated the blessedness of forgiveness, celebrates the blessedness of hiddenness in God. A sweet, strong, blessed refuge. Ten thousand charms, ten billion tastes for my soul to find—way better than Baskin Robbins and however many flavors it has.
What do you find when you come to him as refuge? What do you taste and see and find? Those who fear him find no lack. This was the theme of —because the Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. No other creature can make that boast. I think the lions represent the most able hunters. They represent apex-predators, even young lions at the top of their game as highly skilled hunters who are the least likely of all animals to return empty-handed after a hunt (v. 10). But Christians do not need to depend upon their abilities; they are weak. Even so, depending on God means we will not return from prayer empty-handed. He will give us everything we need; we lack nothing if we have God.
Blessing the Lord at all times will mean tasting his goodness as our refuge in our fears and troubles. The righteous man is described as poor (v. 6), oppressed (vv. 6, 15, 17), brokenhearted (v. 18), crushed in spirit (v. 18), and needy of being saved from all of his troubles (vv. 6, 17, 19). You don’t really believe this psalm unless you turn to God for refuge when faced with your fears. Turn to taste the goodness of the Lord whenever you are faced with the yuckiness of life in this fallen world. How can I taste the goodness of the Lord in the bitter cup of suffering? One commentator said it so well—Some “may have trusted God with their minds, but they have not trusted him with their lives” (James Johnston). The greatest platform for sharing your testimony at Bethlehem is in our small groups. I want to challenge you to join a small group and taste and see together that the Lord is good. Taste the goodness of taking refuge in Christ together. Contact the small group pastor at your campus or visit the small group finder on the website.
2. The Teaching (vv. 11–22)
The point that landed on me this week is that the fear of the Lord is not defined as an emotion, but as obedience. It is not an attitude of reverence but an action of obedience, which flows from an attitude of reverence. They have to be kept together. We cannot say we fear God if we don’t do what he says.
Come, O children, listen to me;      I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is there who desires life      and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil      and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good;      seek peace and pursue it.The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous      and his ears toward their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,      to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears      and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted      and saves the crushed in spirit.Many are the afflictions of the righteous,      but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones;      not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked,      and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The LORD redeems the life of his servants;      none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Fearing the Lord consists of obedience that can be described in both negative and positive terms. Negatively speaking, we avoid three things:
(1) we keep our tongues from evil,
(2) our lips from speaking deceit,
(3) and we turn away from evil.
And positively, we go after three things:
(1) doing good,
(2) seeking peace,
(3) and pursuing peace.
So few people realize that the goodness of the Lord is also a moral goodness. Thus, you taste the Lord is good as you do good. The Lord speaks truth and he invites you to taste that reality for yourself. The Lord is a peacemaker and he invites you to taste that reality for yourself.
The fear of the Lord knows the eyes, ears, face, and presence of the Lord (vv. 15–18), and the judgment of the Lord (vv. 19–22). The righteous are justified—not condemned—so they are delivered. The wicked are judged—they are condemned and are not delivered from evil. Evil will slay the wicked. In fact, evil turns against the evil. They are destroyed by their own evil designs, caught in their own trap. Those who know the blessedness of hiddenness know no condemnation (v. 22).
Application In the application, I want to show you how the psalm builds three bridges to Christ.
First, I want you to notice the phrase that links both sections together in v. 8 and v. 22—“taking refuge in him.” This is the same phrase as the double doors of the psalm about how happy are those who take refuge in him—that is the Messiah, the Son (). Those who take refuge in the Lord know the sweetness of no condemnation (v. 22). There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (). No guilty fears! Those who take refuge in God taste the sweetness of rest in God. There is a sweet goodness that comes from resting in the refuge of God—like sinking into your bed at night. It feels so right, so good, to rest.
Second, look at the word play in verses 18 and 20 for the word “be broken.” The Lord is close to the brokenhearted (v. 18) and will not let their bones “be broken” (v. 20). What kind of teaching is this? The Lord lets your heart break, but not your bones break? How many Christians here have ever had a broken bone? Does that mean this psalm is false? It would be if it was speaking of you, but it is not. David is prophesying about the Messiah, the one we are to take refuge in.
When David reflected on God’s deliverance of him at Gath, he prophesied of Jesus’ deliverance at Golgotha, where Christ the righteous one was delivered from the breaking of any of his bones as the perfect Passover Lamb ().
These things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”
Third, the apostle Peter tells us that we taste and see the Lord is good in the gospel of Jesus. Peter says that the word of the Lord remains forever and then he tells us what that “word” is: “And this word is the good news that was preached to you” ().Then, he focuses on what we should avoid with our mouths and what we should fill our mouths with.So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
You have received salvation by receiving the gospel. You have taken refuge in Christ and tasted the Lord Jesus is good. Now grow up into this salvation. Long for the milk of the word like newborn babies. Babies are meant to grow. You won’t have a thirty-year-old who is the size of a toddler. Babies will physically grow.
Newborn Christians will grow as well—by feeding upon the word of God. What if Christians do not want the word? What if babies won’t want their mother’s milk? God creates babies in such a way that they cry out for the milk and will scream if they don’t get it. Newborn Christians are the same. A mark of being born again is that you are hungry for the pure milk of the word. Those who are saved will grow—if you have tasted that the Lord is good ().
Now that this psalm has led us to Christ where we find life, how do we live out that life? is also quoted in . Look at the way Peter sets it up.
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
Peter says that we are called to bless, not curse or repay evil for evil, so that we may obtain a blessing. Bless so that you may be blessed (literally, “obtain a blessing”—). Where does he go to back up that statement? !
For“Whoever desires to love life      and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil      and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good;      let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,      and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
How does that apply to us today? What do we do with our tongues in times of persecution?
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
Peter says that normally people will bless you, not persecute you or curse you for doing good. Then he adds, “but even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed” (). This text is so important for our contemporary context. It used to be that Christians in our country had the moral high ground. Even if people rejected the church, they looked up to its high morality and said, “I respect what you stand for; I just can’t live that kind of life myself.” Stunningly, the church has lost the moral high ground in one generation. People now reject the church as evil. We live in the midst of a country that would curse the church as bigots propagating hate speech.
But Peter speaks to us directly—just like David does—and tells us not to fear. Fear the Lord! We are not to fear them; we are to fear Christ, honor him as Lord, set him apart in our hearts. Give the reasons for the hope you have in those moments as you honor Christ in your hearts and hold him up as holy—as transcending all earthly treasures that you could lose by standing up for him.
This is where we once again talk about what to do in our suffering: The first step is to trust the suffering of God in the gospel. He knows. He tasted the bitterness of suffering so you could taste the sweetness of salvation. Embracing the suffering of God in the gospel is the gateway into trusting the sovereignty of God in our suffering. So many people act like God’s goodness is a riddle to solve in suffering. It is not a riddle in suffering; it is the only refuge in suffering. Sufferers sing a song of the sufficiency of Christ. He is enough. We lack nothing when we go to him.
The same thing is true in our Fighter Verses this week as a church ().
That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Did you hear those words: “That I may know him?” He is not a wax figure from history. He lives. How does he invite us into that life? Through suffering. God makes us like Christ in the same way that he made Christ like Christ. We learn obedience through the things we suffer. We are becoming like him in his death by sharing in his sufferings. Do those sufferings kill us? Do they crush our faith, kill our faith, bury our faith. No! We know Jesus in the power of his resurrection—the power of his resurrection, not just the mere fact of his resurrection. He doesn’t just call them to affirm the doctrine, but to taste it! We don’t check the death and resurrection box, we taste it, experience it, live it. Can you see? Your suffering as a Christian is not your own. It is Christ’s. You don’t check the box of Christ’s suffering; you are conformed to Christ’s sufferings. That is the way God brings you to know him, to taste him, to magnify him, and ultimately to be resurrected with him to be forever with the Lord together.
In , Satan says that Job will curse God to His face if God strikes everything that Job has. is the opposite testimony: We bless the Lord at all times. says we will worship. We taste the surpassing value of knowing Christ, and we taste that even in our suffering because it is not our suffering, it is sharing in Christ’s suffering.
Conclusion: Don’t Refuse to Taste and See
I will let one of you speak for you. Lydia Davis sent me a sermon illustration after hearing my illustration of the different pumps that people try to use to fill them up. It stirred up within her the example of chewing gum. You put a piece of gum in your mouth and it tastes so good for such a small window of time—just a little while. Then it loses its flavor. After it loses its flavor, it becomes like tasteless rubber and then you throw it away.
Chasing after sinful pleasures will always follow the bubble gum path. It may taste good for a while, but it quickly loses its taste and you need another piece—another drug, another purchase, another click of the mouse, another relationship, another encounter, another collectible, another whatever.
Jesus is different. He is better than chewing gum. He tastes good forever. In fact, he is the utterly unique gum that actually gets better the longer it is in your mouth. For all eternity! Ever-increasing, everlasting joy—fullness of joy, eternal pleasures in his presence.
Closing Song: How Sweet and Aweful Is the Place Sermon Discussion QuestionsOutlineThe Testimony (vv. 1–10)The Teaching (vv. 11–22)
Main Point: Taste the goodness of taking refuge in God.The testimony in verses 4–7 begins (vv. 1–3) and ends (vv. 8–10) with an invitation to join in. David is inviting others to boast in the Lord with him and his testimony is designed to back up his boasting and bolster the invitation further in order to push the hearers to become tasters. The teaching attempts to summarize the lessons for all the people of God.
Discussion QuestionsWhat is the main point of ? How does the rest of the Psalm help to unpack that main point?What words does David use for “praise” in verses 1–3? Does the picture of your life resemble the words of these verses? Explain. How can we grow up into more of a life of worship?
Application QuestionsAs a result of hearing this sermon, what is the first change you need to make in your life? Are there further long-range changes or adjustments you need to make?What aspects of have you experienced personally? Can you give testimony to times in your life when these things have been true or real in a tangible way? What parts of and feel very relevant in our modern context?How can you share the message of with family members, co-workers, or friends? Discuss how to do it and who you are going to share with – commit it to prayer.
Prayer FocusPray for a grace to magnify the Lord, taste his goodness, and testify to his goodness.
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