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.
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.
I read another profound piece of work by Jonathan Edwards this week and it illuminated and sharpened my understanding of glorious joy - the joy that is from God, through God and to God. The title of this work, a sermon he preached to his congregation in 1734, is "A Divine and Supernatural Light, Immediately Imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God, Shown to be Both Scriptural and Rational Doctrine." I would recommend reading it in it's entirety...in fact, I would recommend reading it over and over again because the supremacy and glory of God shines in this work but in order to avoid making this post about Edwards and not Jesus I want to weave some of what Edwards argues for in this sermon into a discussion about the text from Psalm 34.
Notice, first of all, that David is praising God and expounding upon his own satisfaction and joy in God. He says that he will "bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord;..." Many of the Psalms are about praising and worshipping, in fact most of them are either about the experience of joy in God or a longing for God, but there is something in particular that should stand out to us in this text. The fact that David calls people to "taste and see that the Lord is good!" How can we obey this call of David's to taste the Lord and to see that He indeed tastes good?
Obviously, David is not literally telling us to taste God with our taste buds. So what does David mean by this statement? We must take him seriously and we must assume that David is calling us to do something that can indeed be done. Thankfully, though we cannot taste God with our tongue, what he is indeed calling us to do is not all that different from eating or drinking.
In his sermon, Jonathan Edwards skillfully shows that there is a supernatural light that God imparts to a person which enables him or her to "sense" God rather than merely being aware of His existence. This light is not the product of simple human intellectual ascent but is the supernatural product of God shining His light into the very soul of a person and awakening them to the reality of God's glory.
Says Edwards of the person experiencing this impartation of light,
"He does not merely rationally believe that God is glorious, but he has a sense of the gloriousness of God in his heart. There is not only a rational belief that God is holy, and that holiness is a good thing, but there is a sense of the loveliness of God's holiness. There is not only a speculative judging that God is gracious, but a sense of how amiable God is upon that account, or a sense of the beauty of this divine attribute."
So Edwards is arguing that rational thought and intellectual ascent do not constitute this "sense" of the glory or beauty of God. There is a difference between believing that God is holy as a matter of fact, and actually sensing (feeling or tasting) His holiness. The same holds true for every single attribute of God. I can believe all the true doctrines of God and never taste or feel the reality of them. I can believe that Jesus is the Son of God; I can believe that He died for sin; I can believe that Jesus rose from death; I can believe all these things with my mind and never taste the glory of the supremacy and beauty of God in them. I can know about God and never know Him intimately in my soul. One verse, in particular helps drive this home for us:
"You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe - and shudder!" James 2:19
You see, it is possible to intellectually know and accept facts about God and never feel or sense the goodness of them or more accurately, feel or sense the goodness of God in them. Notice what James tells us regarding a demon's response to the facts that he knows about God - he shudders. We shudder when we are afraid, frustrated, angry and in general don't like what we see or know. This is the sin of unbelief - to not treasure and cherish the God that we know about. Contrast this response to the response spoken of in 1 Peter:
"Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:8-9
Do you see it? The people to whom Peter is speaking have the opposite response from that of the demons. Instead of believing and shuddering these saints love Jesus and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. What is that all about? Why is their response so different from that of the demons? The difference between the demons and the saints is simply that the saints have tasted God and have seen that He is good. They have drunk from His river and experienced the delights of God Himself. Their eyes have been opened and they have seen His glory and they relish in it. The demons shudder at exactly the same sight...because they don't like what they see - even if it is true.
So when David calls us to taste and see that the Lord is good He is simply calling us to true faith - the faith that results in glorious and inexpressible joy. Consider this analogy from Edwards' sermon:
"There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former, that knows not how honey tastes; but a man cannot have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind."
Now we are getting close to what David is speaking of. As Edwards points out here, it is entirely possible to be told that honey is sweet and yet have no idea what it tastes like. I can know, as a matter of fact, that honey is sweet because others have told me that it is and yet not know the sweetness of it. The same is true with God. And David is calling us to actually taste that the Lord is good - not just believe it because he tells us it is so.
So how does one go about tasting and seeing that the Lord is good? I mean, there must be some practical thing we can do to have this experience, right? Well, there is and it relates back to my previous post on the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says that we have all been "made to drink of one Spirit." The "Spirit" is the Holy Spirit and Paul is using language very similar to that of David in Psalm 34 referring to a drinking of the Spirit. Other allusions to this kind of drinking of the Spirit can be found many places in the Scriptures. For example, in Ephesians 5:18 we are told: "Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit..." clearly alluding to the fact that rather than drinking wine we should drink of the Holy Spirit. In Psalm 36:8 we are told that saints "feast on the abundance of your [God's] house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights." In the Gospel of John Jesus tells us to eat His body and to drink His blood. We could go on to see a few more verses that deal with this "tasting" of God, but hopefully you see that what David is in fact calling us to do is to experience/sense/feel/know God's goodness and not just infer from the Bible that He is good.
Now, if you remember from my previous post, the Holy Spirit is "God's infinite love to and delight in Himself subsisting in the third person of the Trinity." So the Holy Spirit is God's love for and delight in Himself (Jesus' love for and delight in the Father and the Father's love for and delight in Jesus). So, the river we saw spoken of in Psalm 36 begins to make a lot more sense now. Saints have been given to drink of the "river of God's delights" and this river is none other than the Holy Spirit - or God's love for and delight in Himself existing as the fullness of God in the Holy Spirit. Do you see now what David is saying? Do you see that he is referring to drinking of the Holy Spirit or tasting with our souls the sweetness and goodness of God? This is a supernatural tasting and it is a supernatural partaking of God that only God, in His sovereignty, can provide for us. And He will provide it for us - all we need to do is ask Him.
"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:13
You see, we cannot force the experience of tasting God and His goodness - we must ask Him for it in humble and reliant prayer. We must desire to taste Him and we must acknowledge our need for Him to give it to us.
There are a few more passages of Scripture I want to look at before we close. The reason we need to look at these is that I don't want you to walk away with simply an abstract idea of "drinking" from a river that you cannot see. I want you to see the grand scheme of this concept and that it relates directly to the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. This is not simply the pursuit of a feeling or an experience - but a person, Jesus Christ. I want to show that when you drink of the Spirit you will see Him with your heart and you will delight in what you see and you will be filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.
"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18
So this first text shows two things that we need to consider: 1. That beholding the glory of the Lord is the way that we are transformed into His image 2. That this comes from the Holy Spirit That's right, Paul states emphatically that there is only one kind of transformation that ought to take place in the life of a saint - the change that God brings about as we behold His glory. And this "beholding" of the glory of the Lord can only be brought about by the Holy Spirit. So when we drink of the Holy Spirit and taste God we are beholding His glory and will be transformed into what we behold. But what is the glory of the Lord? What is it we see when we are beholding the glory of the Lord?
"In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." 2 Corinthians 4:4
We are inching closer to the crux of the issue now. When Satan blinds the minds of unbelievers he is preventing them from seeing the glory of the Lord and this glory is the gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ. So when we drink of the Spirit we see the gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ who is Lord over all. The most profound expression of God's glory can be found in the gospel. It is in the gospel that we see the love, justice, grace, sovereignty, power, mercy and patience of our glorious Lord. It is in the gospel that we see the Son of God dying for unworthy sinners to bring us to God. It is in the gospel that we see that the most important value to God is the glory of God. The Holy Spirit always points us to the glory of God and more specifically to the gospel of the glory of God.
"For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:6
There it is again! There is a seeing which takes place when we drink of the Spirit of God. We see the "glory of God in the face of Christ." In the gospel we see the glory of God and this is what drinking of the Spirit is intended to produce. But we have already shown that many people see the gospel - even demons have seen it, and they shudder. So what kind of seeing is this? Is this merely an issue of intellectual sight or is there more going on here? The key can be found in the Psalm that we started with.
"Those who look to him are radiant..."
There is more to this seeing than simply intellectually grasping facts. There is a beholding (which to me denotes enjoyment, cherishing, awe and delight) here which produces a radiance in the person who looks. This is the radiance that Moses had to hide from the Israelites in Exodus and it is the radiance of those of us who now taste the Lord. When we eat our favorite foods there is a noticeable countenance about our faces that lets those around us know that we are enjoying it. We show our delight in things with facial expressions, verbal cues and body language. This is the radiance that I believe is being spoken of in Psalm 34 and it is the same glorious (or shining) joy that the saints in 1 Peter are experiencing. So there is more than simply seeing the glory of the Lord - there is a beholding and delighting in it in such a way that those around us can see, but more importantly, this radiance shines the glory of God back to God so that He alone is glorified.
But don't forget that the way that God is glorified here is by our delighting in Him and tasting the fullness of God. God is glorified by our delight in Him. God gets glory and we get delight. God is magnified and we are satisfied beyond our wildest dreams.
God shone in our hearts to give us this knowledge by His Holy Spirit Who reveals to us the glory of God the Father in the face of Jesus Christ Who is the image of God. We continue to drink of the Holy Spirit to behold the glory of God and to delight in it. So this is both FROM God and it is THROUGH God by His Holy Spirit. Finally, this beholding is BACK TO God by His Holy Spirit filling us with the delight and joy that God has in Himself. We see, behold and delight in God and the joy and delight that we experience shines on our faces for everyone else to see and to radiate back to God who delights in His glories being delighted in. Everything is from God, through God and to God.
"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever." Romans 11:36Oh, that we would all take David seriously and taste the goodness of God Himself. That we would cast ourselves upon His sovereign graces and plead with Him to taste the delights that He has in Himself. Oh, how glorious and good is our God. He desires to share with us the love that He has for Himself and He desires to share with us of Himself in the Holy Spirit. Let us all get on our knees and plead with God for the gift of His Holy Spirit that we may taste and see that the Lord is good - that we may have radiant faces which display our pleasure as we feast on the glory of God. Oh that we would experience glorious joy - a joy that is from God, a joy that is through God, and a joy that is back to God as we reflect His glory back to Him and shine as heavenly lights for all to see that the Lord tastes good!
Blessings to you all!