Developing our spiritual senses #1: TASTE

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(Below is the talk I gave last Sunday at church. I found a talk outline on the internet and adapted it to suit us at our church, so most of the words below are my own, but thanks to the person somewhere in the USA who put their talk online for me to adapt!) 

Psalm 34: 1-8

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.

My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 
Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. 
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. 
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

Taste and See That the LORD is Good

What kind of person writes words like that? Quite obviously it was someone who knew God very well. Many scholars think the writer was King David. If you recall your Bible stories, David was a shepherd in his youth, spending lots of time praising God with songs while keeping one eye on the wolves and wild animals that wanted lamb chops. David and God the Father were on the same page, they’d spent a long time together out there on the hillsides alone over the years. 

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Now that is an important bit of information; when you want to know something about a person, you ask the person who knows him well. When someone applies for a new job they usually have to provide references from someone who can vouch for what they’ve put on the form and give more information about that person’s character and life.

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David and the LORD were close – and if you want to know how to have a good relationship with God, David is not a bad place to start.

In verse 8 of our text David gives us the equation that leads to a great blessedness, or happiness in God. In the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, he says: 

‘O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.’

Whereas in the NIV it says ‘Blessed.’

But both are positive things to have.

Let’s look at some of the background to this Psalm.

After young David killed Goliath he became a friend to the Israelite King Saul. However the prophet Samuel had anointed David to be the future king of Israel and Saul had heard about this. Saul became very jealous of David and his anger turned against him. David ended up running for his life away from Saul. At one point early on he found himself seeking refuge with a neighbouring enemy King and he was afraid of the King so he pretended to be crazy. You can read the story in 1 Samuel 21.

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Most scholars agree this Psalm was written to celebrate God’s protection for David when he was being chased all over the countryside by an angry King Saul. David gives testimony in verse 4-6:

‘I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD, and was saved from every trouble. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.’

So David knew what it was like to be “hero AND zero”.

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He’d killed Goliath and was national hero for that and now he was running for his life all alone. But through it all he was still in relationship with God. And He qualifies as a good example to give us insight into how to have a right relationship with God; how to be blessed:

‘O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.’

Let’s unpack those words.

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To “taste” here is literally to perceive by experiencing. It involves a conscious decision to be involved.

Like the issue of a relationship with God. Many people are more than willing to give their opinion about God without first knowing Him.

It is the theological equivalent of, for example, football fans who have hardly ever played the sport since leaving school and yet somehow when watching a match they presume to know how the professionals should do it.

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People who claim to know all about living the spiritual life, yet have never even had an authentic conversation with God, have not “tasted”; they have only looked.

“Tasting God” means taking Him at His word.

It’s a leap of faith that says: “I commit my life to you, what will you do with me?”

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If “tasting” is to perceive by experience, “seeing” is knowing by that same experience. There is something that happens when you take that leap of faith – something on the inside that validates the closeness of God.

There’s an old expression of doubt that goes: I’ll believe it when I see it.

But with God it’s the other way around; you will actually never see until you believe!

Until you take that step of faith and trust that God will be there, answer your prayer, provide for what you need, you might not fully experience all that God has for you.

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When I was in South Africa I was running feeding programmes for the orphans in my school during the holidays and when it came to the World Cup Holiday in 2010 it was going to be 2 weeks longer than usual. I wrote in my prayer letter that I wanted to feed kids and needed some money to be able to do it and nobody responded. But I knew that that was what needed to happen and that God would provide somehow.

So in the next prayer letter I wrote that I would be feeding the children and that I’d need just £200 to cover it. During that Holiday, various people gave money and I had well over that amount and enough to feed them and more. But if I’d waited for the money to come in before starting that programme it would have never happened. I needed to take a step of faith that that was what God was wanting me to do and then the doors opened for people to see the need and give me the money. It was a valuable lesson. Whatever God calls us to, he provides for.

What is it that we “see” when we ‘taste’ and take a step out?

What we see, according to David, is that the LORD is good!

Trust and be Happy/Blessed

To take refuge is to trust. Happiness with the general direction and outcome of life is a matter of trust…always.

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That is because we cannot see the future. 

But God can…and so trusting our lives and future to the One who holds that future is the only sane decision we can make!

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In some of John Wesley’s sermons he described an “experimental” aspect of religious activities – an “experiencing” of God’s power in one’s life. As we ‘taste and see’ and put our trust in God, we experience Him for ourselves. He knows our individual struggles what’s happened in our lives.

When we invite him in, He starts to show us how He wants us to live and helps us to live for Him rather than for ourselves. When we surrender our lives to Jesus, believing in what He’s done for us by his sacrifice on the cross, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and helps us, in fact more than that, He transforms us from within. It’s not always an easy ride, but it’s the best ride ultimately.

A few years ago, I studied a book by an American author called Henry Blackaby called “Experiencing God”. Blackaby contends that when we cooperate with the move of God in our lives we grow as a strong and useful disciple. It’s a really useful book and I would recommend you get a copy and work through it. It’s definitely helped me in my Christian journey so far. Obviously he goes into far more detail than this in the course but he refers to 7 steps or realities of experiencing God and they are:

  1. God is always at work around you.
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
  3. God invited you to become involved with Him in His work.
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.
  5. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
  7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.

It is this that we see here; 

• a person “tastes” by committing himself in a leap of faith to God’s control over his life. 
• because of this “leap” there is a “seeing” a knowing deep-down that God is truly good.
• faith is born strong in the inner self, and this leads to a contented heart and soul – happiness within.

David knew what he was talking about. When he was tasting and seeing and trusting he was among the most blessedly happy of men. When he got away from God and trusted in his own ways, his own strength and desires he became the most miserable wretch on the planet. He could write about being incredibly blessed, and he could also recount the emptiness of having forfeited the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. It’s all there in the Psalms and it reflects our lives as well. We’ve all experienced highs and lows and as we read those Psalms, we can understand and see ourselves in what David writes.

But, now, as much as we can talk all day about this, it does little to stir your taste buds.

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I fancy a snack. It is like this apple – I hold it and describe it, while I eat it. Chomp! Oh, it’s delicious….juicy….crunchy….sweet.

Yummm… that’s good. 
Did you taste it? Wasn’t it good? Did you enjoy that superb taste when I bit into it?

Are you satisfied? Happy with that? Of course not…you watched, your mouth may have watered; you may have tried to ignore my rudeness at eating without offering you some…but you didn’t get near it, did you? You’re just as empty as when I started. In order for you to see how good it is, you’ve got to taste for yourself.

So here’s the challenge for this New academic Year and new term.

Maybe you need to have an authentic conversation with God. He is always there ready to listen and respond. He may not respond always in the way we want him to, but he is there for us at all times. Just like in verse 4 of our Psalm today:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

Maybe you have experienced God and you need to go deeper in your experience of Him. He sees the big picture and He wants to lead us into good things for our lives. It’s much easier to steer a moving vehicle than one that is stationary. Maybe you need to take that leap of faith today and experience for yourself that God is good.

Learning about God shouldn’t be just a Sunday morning event. As you pick up your Bible tomorrow to read and learn more about God, ask Him to open your eyes to more of what He has for you, by the power of his Holy Spirit. You might want to get a copy of that book ‘Experiencing God’, or a similar one and decide to study it alongside the Bible.

Allow God to lead you deeper into him and let’s see what God does in and through you and through us as a church family over this month and year ahead. 

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Let’s pray:    Father God, thank you that David is a good example to us of someone who did ‘taste and see that the Lord is good.’ Thank you that you are good and that you love us. Help us at whatever stage we are at on this journey, to move one step closer to you today.

Lord I pray for those here who haven’t experienced the closeness and intimacy of relationship with you. Would you draw nearer to them and give them the courage and boldness to take a step of faith towards you. Thank you that you already know of every situation in each of our lives. You know the good and you know the bad, and you still love us completely.

For those of us who know you, Lord, would you take us deeper into you. Inspire us and give us practical ideas of how we can develop our relationship with you. Meet us where we are and take us further on in our spiritual walk.

Thank you that you have brought us together here as a church family. May we encourage each other to walk closely with you and share what you are doing in and through us over this next few months.

In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.

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