Psalm 34:8, 9
I would like to express my sympathy to you as a family at this time of grieving. The Bible describes death as an enemy so whenever we face it we come face to face with something that is wrong, that is not what God intended when He created the world good. We get used to thinking that death is not as terrible when a person is old, but death is still an enemy which warrants sober reflection. To you Miss Loewen was a sister-in-law and a special aunt and you will grieve her passing.
One of the things which you told me about her was that she loved to prepare food. You spoke of memories you had of her when she was still living in her home when she prepared great meals with lots of food on the table. You mentioned that the pie was always placed on your plate because there was no room on the table because of all the other food that was there. It seems that she was a woman who enjoyed serving food. It was her delight to invite those who came to share the table to taste all the good things set before them. The invitation to taste is an appropriate word for Mary Loewen.
So it also seems appropriate to reflect on Psalm 34:8, 9 at her funeral. There we read, "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing." Not only is this passage appropriate because the word taste suits her in regards to food, but also because her life stands as an invitation to taste that the Lord is good. She had a long life in which she experienced the goodness of the Lord. It is out of that long life of following God that her life invites us to taste and see that the Lord is good. As she came to the end of her life, you indicated that she was ready to go, that she had no doubt about her acceptance with God. Her hope in God also stands as an invitation for us to taste and see that the Lord is good.
As we reflect on this Scripture and on her life we are invited to taste and see that the Lord is good. How is the goodness of the Lord discovered in a long life?
I. The Invitations
There are three invitations in this passage. The first two are presented as a pair and then the third one in the next verse.
A. Taste and See
First of all, we are invited to taste and see.
There is nothing mysterious about the word taste. It refers to the normal idea of tasting. There are different ways of tasting. I have seen people dip their little finger into a sauce and take just a little bit to see how it tastes. They don’t want to make a commitment; they just want a little taste. As they taste, they wonder if they will like it or not? When I was in New Orleans a number of years ago with an MDS group, a number of people decided it was a good opportunity to taste alligator – an opportunity to taste something new. They made a commitment by ordering a whole meal. Sometimes we need to taste something repeatedly before we actually decide whether we like it or not. The invitation to taste is one which invites us to find out whether we like something or not. The text invites us to “taste and see” and in doing so invites us to discover what God is like.
There are many ways of discovering things. We can read about something and discover it that way. I don’t know if Mary was a woman like my mother-in-law, who liked to discover food by collecting and reading recipes. We can discover what God is like from His word. There are many TV shows these days that invite us to discover food as they cook it in front of us. It is very disturbing to watch these shows just before supper and not be able to smell the food or taste it. You can’t experience food by seeing it on TV. You also can’t experience God by observing other people’s experience. The best way to taste and see is by personal experience and so the invitation comes to us to personally experience God through a relationship with Him. In fact, this phrase is an imperative and so invites or perhaps we could say, commands us to discover what God is like.
Mary Loewen’s life invites us to taste and see, but finally each of us must also individually taste and see. Matthew Henry says, “We must taste that he is a bountiful benefactor, relish the goodness of God in all his gifts to us, and reckon the savor and sweetness of them. Let God’s goodness be rolled under the tongue as a sweet morsel.”
B. Fear the Lord
The other invitation given in this passage is to fear the Lord. Because this word is spoken so often in the Bible, it is one we really need to understand.
The fear of the Lord is not directly being afraid of God and yet in a sense it is. Primarily the fear of the Lord is recognizing who God is. It is to recognize that He is the sovereign creator of the universe. We must learn that He is holy in a way that no one else is holy. The fear of the Lord means understanding that He is the judge who determines the course of nations and the final destiny of every person on earth. It also means that He has the power to change the course of human history. When we recognize these things and recognize them in a way by which we think about them reverently and trustingly, that is the fear of the Lord.
So these two verses invite us to experience personally that God is good and to recognize who God is.
II. The Promises
If we taste and see and if we fear the Lord what will we discover?
The entire Psalm contains many phrases of the blessings that come to us because we taste and see and because we fear the Lord. The Psalmist writes these things out of his own experience. He discovered what God is like and this is what he says:
Vs. 4 – I sought the Lord and He answered me
Vs. 5 – those who look to Him are radiant
Vs. 6 – this poor man called and God delivered him out of trouble
Vs. 7 – the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him
Vs. 10 – those who seek the Lord lack no good thing
Vs. 15 – the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
Vs. 15 – His ears are attentive to their cry
Vs. 18 – the Lord is close to the brokenhearted
Vs. 19, 20 – He delivers and protects
Vs. 22 – He redeems.
But let us take a closer look at the specific promises which are made in verses 8, 9.
A. The Lord Is Good
Those who take the time to discover what God does, who by faith explore a relationship with God will find that God is good. Where do we see that goodness? What was the goodness that Mary discovered?
Perhaps the next phrase gives us a clue. It says, “…blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”
We were on a canoe trip when suddenly a thunderstorm came up. We quickly paddled to shore, turned the canoe upside down and crawled underneath. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was safer than being on the water when there is an electrical storm. It was a refuge. It is a much more comfortable refuge to be at home during a thunder storm.
What does it mean to take refuge in God?
We need refuge when we are in danger and so to answer that question we need to think about the danger we are in. The danger we are in is that we are sinners who are destined to eternity apart from God. How is God a refuge from that danger? He has provided a way to escape the danger and to take shelter in Him. Jesus came to earth in order to die so that our sins could be forgiven. Jesus rose from the grave in order to give us eternal life. What a refuge for sinners!
If we take refuge in God by faith in Jesus Christ, we will experience a refuge from our sins because they will be forgiven. We will discover a refuge from death because we will receive eternal life. Miss Loewen has now received that blessing.
She had assurance that God was her refuge. She knew that He was good because she experienced the blessing of His salvation. Anyone who will enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ will find the same refuge in Him and experience all the blessings He gives.
B. No Lack
We have noted that the next verse invites us to fear the Lord. If we do, the promise is that we will lack nothing. In other words, if we live our lives under the knowledge and conviction of who God is, we will be able to rest in the promise that He will provide all the things that we truly need.
When you mentioned the bountiful table which was set when Mary was making food it provides us with a picture of the bountiful table of God’s blessings. This is the way in which God provides for all the things that we need. He gives us salvation and He gives us eternal life. But He also gives us His Spirit who teaches us how to walk in the fear of the Lord. He gives us His Word, which helps us understand God. He gives us the community of faith in which we can be encouraged and helped in our life. He provides us with our daily needs. Even as we grieve in the presence of death today, we have the assurance that God will provide the comfort and hope which we need.
The next verse adds some important thoughts on how we come to the place that we will lack nothing. It speaks about young lions – animals which more than any other are self sufficient, strong and able. However, even these powerful animals sometimes lack what they need, but those who seek the Lord, who take refuge in Him will not lack. What this teaches us is that having all we need is not a function of our ability, but a function of the ability of God to provide. So the key is not to try to fix things ourselves, but to taste and see and fear the Lord and then we will know that He is good and we will experience His provision.
When we taste and see that the Lord is good and when we understand who God is, we are satisfied and at rest and will be for all eternity.
Mary lived a long life. She never gave up, but discovered salvation in God and rejoiced even at the end to have a hope that went beyond death to an eternity with God.
As we reflect on these verses in light of her life, the invitation comes to us as well. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Fear the Lord.
If we do, we will also discover the blessings of God who is good and we also will lack no good thing.