Once upon a time many years ago there was a young preacher named Mike. He did not have much money and did not always spend what he had as wisely as he should have. When he needed a new suit, he liked to shop at a department store that carried nice clothing. Mike did not buy the more expensive clothing there. But a kind gentleman named Wiley always assisted the young preacher and treated him as if he were his best customer.
Once after Mike selected a modestly priced suit, Wiley made a suggestion when the young man was looking for a shirt.
He said, “Mike, I’d like you to try one of these. I’m going to give it to you. It costs a little more than what you usually buy. But it is a much better shirt, and I think you will enjoy it.” Wiley was right, and Mike bought many more of those shirts in the years that followed.
You’ve had a similar experience, haven’t you? Have you ever been offered a sample of something like a sausage or some cheese or a cookie in a store? (Have you ever been offered a sample of celery? I didn’t think so.) I’ve bought quite a few things marketed under the banner of the old television ad for Alka Seltzer: “Try it, you’ll like it.”
A long way from Psalm 34? Not that far, really. In this psalm, David sang a song in the first half and preached a sermon in the second half. There’s enough for a good-sized book in this psalm, so I tried to choose a verse to focus on for this brief column. I picked Verse 8: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
See? It’s the principle of a trial size or a sample. It’s the logic by which we try (usually without much success) to broaden our kids’ menu choices. It summarizes David’s praise for another rescue from danger by God’s gracious hand. It’s a synopsis of David’s teaching about the value of fearing and trusting God.
Experience is an excellent teacher, even if the lessons are sometimes painful. But the lessons to be learned from trusting and obeying God are all positive. David encouraged his readers and fellow worshipers to find out for themselves how living a godly life makes you less stressed and more blessed. As He put in in our text: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.”
We find something good to eat via our taste buds, and here David told us how to find the goodness of God. It’s the rest of the verse: “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” I like the way many other versions have “trusts” for “takes refuge.” Trusting God enough to seek and follow His will, walk in His way and rely on Him for strength in trouble is how we discover the goodness of God. Others may tell us how wonderful it is, but we really do have to taste it for ourselves. We have to trust God enough to try it His way to learn how good He is.
I enjoy good Mexican food. But a few years ago, I would not have taken a bribe or a dare to taste guacamole. Now I’ve learned to like it, at least a little bit. But I had to try it. When I did, I learned it wasn’t as bad as it looked.
Speaking of eating green things, do you remember Dr. Seuss’ literary classic, “Green Eggs and Ham?” The character Sam-I-Am pesters his friend to try green eggs and ham. When Sam finally persuades the other guy to try the dish, his friend is surprised and delighted to learn he does
— despite his adamant protests to the contrary — like green eggs and ham.
If you think our illustrations of this principle are silly, that’s fine. It’s sometimes easier to receive an admonition when both the admonisher and admonished are smiling. I really want you to try life God’s way. God wants to bless you. Taste and see, and discover the blessing for yourself.
Mike McElroy is a regular faith columnist for The Tribune.
(This week’s column is a preview chapter from Mike McElroy’s forthcoming book on the
Psalms. Two other books, Christmas Pilgrims and The Abiding Companion are available directly