Psalm 34:8, "O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him."
This morning, there is much about the spiritual kingdom that the world has never nor will ever understand. To see the kingdom by spiritual sense, many times we have to remove the natural perceptions of things. For example, the number of God's faithful in the earth at any given time throughout history has been relatively small in comparison with humanity in general. Natural man puts emphasis and importance on superior numbers, thereby making it inconceivable to natural sense that a faithful few would be where truth, strength, and majesty are found. Another brief example shows that natural man puts high importance on might or strength. Yet, the Lord's kingdom is oftentimes seen through a poor and afflicted people that are neither strong in natural riches, physical beauty, or inellectual prowess. Yet, many times, these poor and afflicted realize and sense real strength, real beauty, and real intellect (of a spiritual design) through their poor and afflicted state.
One of the things that never ceases to amaze me when reading from the Scriptures is the seeming irony of different circumstances. When things seem to be going so poorly, we find some of the most wonderful descriptions of joyful praise by God's saints. For example, Paul and Silas were thrown in prison for preaching the gospel in Acts 16, but that miserable situation included a "midnight singing" by those two faithful men that eventually led to their own jailor's conversion. What a scene that must have been, and how equally incomprehensible is that to natural sense! Our study verse above shows a similar situation that behooves us well to consider for our own edification and strenghtening in our service here below.
David's psalms have a broad spectrum of tone. Some of them exalt God with praises of the highest order (Psalm 8), others show some of the most sorrowful suffering (Psalm 51), others give grand doctrinal discourses (Psalm 139), others prophesy of Christ (Psalm 22), and yet others are very petitionary (Psalm 38). Some of these psalms have a tone that we would expect – David's sorrow in Psalm 51 comes on the heels of his transgression in murdering a man after taking his wife. However, some (like ours under consideration) have tones that we would not expect due to the nature of the circumstances.
Psalm 34 has a tone of rejoicing in the excellency of God, rejoicing in His name, and displays one of the "happier psalms" that we have recorded. Yet, what is the circumstance during its composition? The title points us to a very odd time in David's life. This writing occurred while he feigned himself as a madmen to save his own life from the Philistines. (I Samuel 21) The circumstances in David's life were less than pleasant and certainly quite undesirable: king Saul sought his life, he has fled his home country, and now finds himself in the land of his enemy. His enemies recognize him for who he is. When David arrives in the land, the inhabitants remark to their king that this is the one who the women sang praises as having slain his "ten thousands." To top it all off, what city was David in? He finds himself in Gath: Goliath's home town. Doubtless, the inhabitants of the city recalled to mind that this man before them was the one that dashed their hopes those years ago on the battlefield by destroying their champion – the city's "pride and joy."
Putting ourselves in David's position for a moment, what would be a probable "knee-jerk" response? My own thoughts would probably include some complaint of, "Why me? What have I done? Why is all this happening?" Instead, David does not complain about his situation and further does the "unthinkable." His behaviour was the last thing the Philistines would have expected. He humbled himself to act like a madmen in their sight. He pawed at the doors of houses and let his spit run down his beard like a clinically insane person. Yet, Psalm 34 dictates for us his spiritual appearance. He rejoiced! Further still, he was in a position to understand some things perhaps better than he had before.
Our verse commands two senses to be put to use in a spiritual way. While we do have natural sight and taste, the verse primarily directs us to focus our spiritual senses of sight and taste upon God and see Him for how He truly is. He is good, and He does not fail to bless those that trust in Him. David could have laid in the dust and declared, "I have been faithful to God, and I am still in peril." Instead, he rejoiced in God even in the midst of his tribulations and peril. By doing so, he focused his senses upon One more worthy than himself. Whenever we focus our thoughts, affections, senses, and appetites upon ourselves, we declare (by those actions) that we consider ourselves more worthy than anyone or anything else. Yet, if we focus those same actions upon God, those actions state that we honour God as being more worthy than anyone or anything else.
In today's climate, I fear that far too many professing Christians have taken rich and vital words and regulated them to an "intellectual level." When most people talk of theological words such as grace, mercy, hope, faith, etc., they are theological concepts that we hear about in church. That is regrettably where the story ends for many. I have even heard such shuddering thoughts as, "If all I had was hope, I wouldn't have anything." Friends, these words like hope, grace, and mercy are more than just words. They are concepts that flow from the fountain of God that deserve our spiritual senses' attention.
Grace should be seen as something to "sink our teeth into" and taste with the spiritual man. (I Peter 2:3-5) Grace is to be tasted and used for strength to the soul. Hearing about free grace should excite the new man like nothing else, for that concept – when properly seen and tasted – will grant the true nourishment that we need to walk acceptably and war a good warfare in this life. Mercy is a delight to be honoured, for the sight of mercy should immediately stir in us the reverence that God deserves from us. He has spared us from perils so great that our mind cannot fathom, and seeing that sight should make us desire to honour Him. Faith and hope are great pieces of armour that keep our heads and bodies safe from being swept away by the wiles of the devil. (Ephesians 6) Our helmet and shield should ever be found in their proper place, and should they be so, our sight of the Lord will not be diminished by the circumstances of life no matter how badly they seem.
Let us consider David again for a moment. Here is the man that was blessed to kill a giant against seemingly insurmountable odds. Here is one that has already been anointed as king over Israel even though he has not yet ascended the throne. More than that, here is one that God had closely fellowshipped with both publicly and privately. Let us ponder for a moment our own lives. Has God blessed us to overcome "a giant" in our lives against insurmountable circumstances, anointed us as kings and priests in this world, and fellowshipped with us pubicly in His house and privately in prayer and study? During those great feast seasons with God, doubtless we feel His strength in our lives. Grace, mercy, peace, faith, hope, and love seem both real, rich, and alive.
Now let us consider down moments in our lives? Is God's grace, mercy, peace and less real? Do faith, hope, and love lose their power and might? No, they do not, even though many times our perception of them seems that they have. Instead of thinking that these rich and vital things in our lives have lost their strength, sometimes we need to pull our sight and taste past the immediate and natural things. And yes, sometimes we may even have to abase ourselves. God told Paul that His strength was made perfect in weakness, and His grace was still sufficient for him. Doubtless, Paul would have preferred God to just remove the thorn, and equally doubtless, David would have preferred not to be in the land of the enemy and at odds with Saul. God could have removed that problem immediately, but instead, David continually had sufficient grace for his peril. Today friends, there is still sufficient grace for our perils and problems. We may even find ourselves abased and as "madmen" in the sight of those our own enemies.
It is regrettably easy for the flesh to say, "I won't do that." Goliath was David's defeated foe, but David acted like one of the dogs of the street in Goliath's own hometown. This was not a lack of faith on David's part (as this Psalm shows), but rather, it displays for us the humility that David was willing to endure against himself all the while rejoicing in the Lord. Considering that our Lord humbled Himself beyond the base state of a crazy person even to endure mocking, cruelty, and death at the hands of His vast inferiors, it truly is no great thing if we are abased in this world but still rejoice in spirit for that rich grace and mercy. May the taste and sight of our Lord and HIs glorious work unto us – both for what He has done and for what He will yet do for us – encourage us not to focus our senses tightly upon this vanity under the sun but instead into the bright, shining portal above. It does truly make no sense to the world, but may our senses have that good sense.