“O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.”
Psalms 34:8 (NRSV)
It is lamentable that more and more we find Christian funeral services being referred to as “celebrations of life.” While they are that, they are more than that, being celebrations of eternal life and celebrations of God Himself. I recently heard a podcast featuring a Christian pastor along with an atheist “celebrant” discussing funerals. When asked if the atheist funeral was missing something by not having any reference to eternal life the celebrant responded with something close to: “it is like running, some people enjoy it, but I don’t, and so no I don’t think I am missing anything.” The first thing that struck me was how much I am on the same page with the atheist with regards to running. Even thinking about going for a run would stress me out, and when I am stressed I eat, especially chocolate, and then I gain weight. So you could make the case that running is bad for my health. But is this a suitable analogy for eternal life? You could think of any hobby or pastime that some people love and find some negative side that will cause others to not care for it. I love sailing and was excited to take my future wife on her first sailing trip one day but unfortunately that little trip turned out to be more of a baptism, so now my wife does not care for sailing! Consider motorcycling, exciting for some, relaxing for others, too dangerous for many. But the analogy breaks down in that there is nothing to dislike about eternal life. It is not just living forever that we are talking about, which I could see many people taking a disliking to; it is life, true life, lived in the presence of God for eternity. There is nothing to dislike; the Psalmist does not say “try God, you might like Him,” but “O taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8a (NRSV).
But what do we mean by that?
By “The Lord is good” we do not mean that all that we experience in life is good. I was recently the officiant of a funeral of a friend not much older than myself who passed away quite suddenly. That was not good for him or for anyone who knew him. We are no longer in the Garden of Eden, nor are we completely and fully in the coming kingdom yet, so expect troubles. That The Lord is good can be quite independent of many of life’s experiences.
By “The Lord is good” we do not mean that religion is good. Some people taste and see that religion is bad and so conclude that the Lord is not good though they have never known Him. Other taste and see that religion is good, and unfortunately this too may keep people from knowing the Lord. We are not talking about the merits of religion, but the goodness of God.
By “The Lord is good” we do not mean that “a god is good”. This is not a generic word for a god here, but the specific name for The Lord who revealed Himself and whose revelations of Himself we find in the Old and New Testaments.
By “The Lord is good” we do not mean “The Lord is nice.” I was trained in high school never to use the word ’nice’ in writing for it is so tame a word that ends up meaning very little. I suspect and fear that there are many people who think of God as being merely “nice.” That gets no where near what God is really like.
By “The Lord is good” we mean that He is holy and His holiness is perfect, He is just, and His justice is perfect, He is merciful and His mercy is perfect, He is gracious, and His grace is perfect, He is eternal and unchanging, and His existence is perfect, He is powerful, and His power is perfect, He is sovereign, and in His sovereignty, He is perfect, and so much more . . .
And exactly how do we “taste and see that The Lord is good”? Through good theology that strips away the mere “niceness” of The Lord so that we may know him as he truly is. May 2014 be a year of taking our knowledge of The Lord to deeper places! “O taste and see that The Lord is good!”