2015-Nov-Dec Front coverDeeply Imbibing

“O taste and see that the LORD is good, Blessed is the man that trusteth in Him” (Psalm 34:8).

Benjamin Stein

Imagine holding a freshly rinsed strawberry in your hands.  Notice how plump and juicy it is and its deep red color. You see a bead of water running slowly down its side. You hold it closer to your lips and take a bite. Instantly the rush of flavor and sweetness envelops your palate and compels you to take a second bite, and a third, until it is all gone!

If your taste buds are ready for a strawberry
after reading the first paragraph, you realize how powerful our sense of taste can be! After anticipating and tasting something, its taste is then etched in our memory. Each taste we  experience adds to a library of memories and feelings that guide us, and which we continually refine throughout our life.

Our library of taste memories helps us anticipate and avoid bad tastes too. We may reject meals that have too much salt, and we reject the taste of a bitter lemon when we expect a sweet orange.

Taste Equals Experience

When King David said, “O taste and see that the Lord is good,” he referred to his experience with God’s guidance, mercy, and loving kindness. He described God’s faithfulness as a beautiful taste that left a lasting impression and a precious feeling in his mind. He wanted more of God’s mercy and loving kindness. He gave us this advice out of his spiritual taste memory, and he promised that we too would be blessed if we put our trust in God.

Toward the end of his life, King David counseled his son Solomon about the goodness of God as well as the potentials for evil without God. “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek Him, He will be found of thee; but if thou forsake Him, He will cast thee off for ever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

Much later, Solomon provided similar advice to us out of his own library of wisdom and taste experiences when he said, “When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: and put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat” (Proverbs 23:1-3). King Solomon used the taste metaphors “dainties” and “deceitful meat” to describe the temptations of fleshly and unholy experiences.

Each time we yearn for an experience, it is an opportunity for either personal and spiritual growth or distancing ourselves from God. Following King David’s wisdom and Solomon’s warning, we should carefully consider the character of our opportunities. What looks like succulent fruit or delicious meat may actually be a distraction or perhaps even injurious.

Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul uses the metaphor of taste to describe Jesus’ experience in death.  “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9).

Jesus’ experience of tasting death as the ransom for all mankind is the most important event for the entire human race. In that moment, Jesus saved all mankind from the bitter curse of Adamic death. The Greek word geuomai  (Strongs  #1089), translated “taste” in this verse, means “to feel, make trial, experience.”  Jesus felt and experienced (tasted) death for all.  But Jesus did much more. As a perfect man, he suffered; he tasted the agony, the pain, and the humiliation of sin to a degree that we cannot adequately imagine.

By experiencing all of these for us, Jesus became our sympathetic high priest (Hebrews 4:14-15). If we follow Jesus, we too must be willing to taste (experience) similar agony, pain, and humiliation. During these similar experiences, we are able to comprehend the ultimate good in God’s plan for the permission of evil and His loving feature of the Ransom for all. Only from this vantage point as a mature Christian are we able to truly “taste” and see that the Lord is good.

Apostle Peter

The Apostle Peter combined the metaphor of milk with taste to describe God’s gentle touch at the beginning of our Christian walk, our experience with God. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:2-3). Perhaps Jesus’ earlier directive to Peter to “feed my sheep” provided the context for this admonition for us to desire the milk of the word and to taste God’s graciousness. Subsequently, the Apostle Peter fed both the Jews and the Gentiles with both the milk and the meat of God’s word, beginning at Pentecost, then to Cornelius, and throughout the rest of his life.

Just as taste is the last of the five physical senses that we use in our approach to food, experience is the last of our five spiritual senses that we use in our approach to our heavenly Father and our enjoyment of the spiritual food that He provides us.

Four Learning Methods

We learn by observation, reading, intuition, and experience. Experience is by far the most effective and lasting method. Experience is also the keystone of God’s plan for teaching mankind the grand lesson of sin. The permission of evil is God’s ingenious plan for teaching mankind the value of obedience through their experience with sin. Just like having too much salt or the bitter lemon, mankind has tasted sin for over 6000 years. Soon, they will have fully learned their lesson through very bitter taste experiences.

Could God have taught mankind the true value of obedience through either observation, reading, or intuition? We answer, No. Consider if God tried to teach the sinfulness of sin by describing the experience of the Jews in the Auschwitz death camp. While listening to God’s account of evil and mass murder would be deeply troubling, it would be far less impactful than the actual experience. The sights, sounds, smells, feelings, and the tastes that the Jews endured in the Auschwitz death camp cannot be replaced by mere observation, reading, or intuition. Today, through experience, the taste of sin is being etched in mankind’s collective memory.

Conveyed information is simply not powerful enough to effectively develop fallen mankind’s library of taste experiences. In God’s infinite wisdom, experience is the only learning method that will produce a lasting emotional commitment in mankind to love righteousness enough to hate iniquity. But learning from the experience of sin is bittersweet. The final lessons may be sweet but the experiences with sin are bitter.  “For his anger endureth but a moment; in His favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalms 30:5).

Physical Sense of Taste

Our physical sense of taste is very complex.  Our taste buds can sense the tastes of sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and spicy. Our spiritual sense of taste works in a similar way. In fact, Jesus used the metaphors “sweet as honey” and “bitter” to describe the influence of the Bible (Revelation 10:9-10). Also, King David praised God with flavor metaphors, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey in my mouth!” (Psalms 119:103). Our spiritual taste experiences with God are joyful and pleasing and are plentiful in our lives.
Just as wise and loving parents orchestrate the experiences of their child to be ultimately beneficial, God orchestrates our experiences for our ultimate benefit. Some of our experiences are sweet and some bitter. It takes both the sweet and the bitter experiences for us to grow closer to God.

Science Behind Taste

We were born with about 30,000 taste buds on our tongue and in our mouth. Our taste buds were the most sensitive to bitter and sour tastes when we were young. As we age however, we begin losing some of our taste buds and therefore our sensitivity to sour and bitter tastes lessened. This is why as we age, we are able to endure sour and bitter tastes more easily.

Our spiritual sense of experience matures in much the same way. As we grow spiritually, experiences that seemed bitter to us when we were young become more tolerable, even valuable to us as we mature in our Christian walk. As our new creature matures, we become able to accept the bitter experiences at an emotional level since we have learned they are for our ultimate good. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Sometimes, sweet tastes are bad for us.  There are many experiences that appeal to our flesh but they are actually sinful. If we choose to participate in sin, the sin may feel good to us at first but only because we have been deceived. Once we “eat” the sin experience and digest its impact on our life, we realize our fault and we feel a sense of shame and guilt. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25).

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve knew about the goodness of God. Their every need was provided for in the Garden of Eden, including their freedom. God gave them just one rule to follow: do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One taste of it was all it took. They disobeyed God and brought the curse of death upon themselves and upon their children. The seemingly small act of tasting of the forbidden fruit demonstrates the importance of each of our experiences, even the ones that seem insignificant. In God’s infinite wisdom, He sent Jesus to cancel the Adamic curse by tasting death for every man (1 Corinthians 15:22).

What lessons can we learn from tasting a beautiful strawberry? We learn the power of our desire that leads us to eat it. We learn to reference our library of taste experiences before we even touch it. Spiritually, we learn the need to override the power of our fleshly desires with the power of our sanctified will in order to obey our heavenly Father.

Today our experiences with sin are necessary to help us consistently choose righteousness during our walk along the narrow way. In God’s kingdom, all of mankind’s individual and collective experiences will be necessary to provide them with this same spiritual fuel to walk up the Highway of Holiness. “O taste and see that the Lord is good, Blessed is the man that trusteth in Him” (Psalms 34:8).

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