Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)
The title of Psalm 34 identifies its occasion as the events of 1 Samuel 21:10-15; while fleeing from King Saul, David sought refuge in the enemy territory of Gath. Fearing Gath’s king Achish, David feigned insanity in order to escape. Commentators generally agree that David was not trusting God in this episode; however, Psalm 34 indicates that he did cry out to God and sought refuge in Him.
In the Psalm’s first verses, David praises God “at all times.” The Psalmist references times of fear (v. 4), trouble (v. 6), hunger (v. 11), troubles (v. 17), broken heartedness (v. 18), and afflictions (v. 19). From beginning to end, the Psalm expresses a sense of David’s need of refuge. For him to praise God “at all times,” and then call on others to join his praise (v. 3), reveals that even amid trouble, God ought to be praised. David describes himself as humble (v. 2) and a “poor man” (v. 6); so, this Psalm is for people who know they can rest on nothing of themselves. It is a Psalm for those whom Jesus called “poor in Spirit,” who will inherit the kingdom (Mt 5:3). It is a testimony of anyone who, immersed in trouble, nevertheless cries out to God and finds deliverance, even if it is not immediate.
In verse 8, the Psalmist calls on the weak and afflicted to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” While often taken as an invitation to “try God,” this is rather an imperative (a command) to sense God in a very tangible manner. It is a call to believe, but to do so experientially. Hebrews 6:5 and 1 Peter 2:3 also use the idea of “taste” to describe one’s first venture into faith. The tasting, though, is not in order to “try God out,” but rather to prove God, as if to say, “taste and you will most certainly discover that God is good!”
Tasting is required, but alas, it is not enough. Hebrews 6:5 reveals that it is possible to taste and not see; so, David continues by saying, “blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” He calls upon us to “fear the Lord” (v.9). One may taste of the heavenly gift and yet not be blessed by taking refuge in or fearing the Lord. David then uses the second half of the Psalm (vs 11-22) to instruct us in how to fear the Lord.