Taste and See

What do we mean when we say “God is good?”  I suspect that for many people, it’s a bit like saying “God is love.”  Each statement is a good, proper Sunday School-type statement.  But they don’t serve us well or take us deeper into an understanding of or relationship with God.

A few months ago I was talking with one of our grandchildren about what they were learning in Sunday School.  They said, “All they tell us is that God loves us, and I already know that!”  Statements like “God loves us” or “God is good” can easily become what one might call, a simplistic bumper-sticker theology (or window decal).  Great sayings, but out of sight (or in the case of decals, backward when we see them in the rear-view mirror).  I suspect that most of us want something more than a bumper-sticker theology.

What does it mean that God is good?  In Psalm 34, the psalmist, David said: Taste and see that the lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him (34:8). In a previous post, we tasted and saw the goodness of God in the creation narrative (see Tov Meod). Our understanding of God’s goodness comes from the biblical narrative.  The creation story points to God’s intrinsic goodness.  It’s who he is.  It’s an objective reality of his character. (If you’ve ever read C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man you will understand what I mean by “objective reality”).

As the biblical narrative developed, we continue to see His goodness manifested, especially as it relates to humanity.  Sin entered the picture, disrupting God’s good creation.  To restore and redeem his good creation, God called Abraham and his descendants to be integral to the redemption project.  Abraham’s decedents, God’s people, were called to be a blessing – to communicate God’s objective goodness to the world.

As you may recall, they taxed God’s goodness.  They constantly turned away from Him, chasing after other gods, proving to be unfaithful to him and to their calling.  But God, in His goodness, remained faithful and loyal to the people and to his commitment to redeem the world.  The story culminated with Jesus entering history with the good news that God’s kingdom had broken in and complete redemption was on the horizon.  This is what we call the Gospel – GOOD news.  Don’t miss the significance of that.

In the middle of the narrative, about a thousand years before Jesus, David found himself running for his life – the jealous King Saul was out to get him.  Though David had been anointed to become the next king, survival itself was in doubt.  It was during this time that he likely wrote Psalm 34.  What we know of David is that he was a man after God’s own heart, and we see this in his song:

1 I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

Given his personal history with God, David could say with confidence: I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears… Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:4,8). He could say, with confidence…

God has my best interests in mind.

When our kids were young, whenever I needed to make a Saturday run to the hardware store or the lumber yard (they were two different stores 30+ years ago), I would always grab whichever of our four kids was available to go with me.  The excursion usually included a stop at the local Food Bonanza to visit all the Saturday morning food-sampling stations.   As the kids got older, it took a little more encouragement to get them to drop what they were doing to join their dad as he ran errands.  My usual enticement came in the form of “Have I ever steered you wrong?”   

When Jonathan, our youngest, was about 11, we were living in the Memphis, TN, area.  One Saturday I needed to make a Home Depot run and took Jonathan with me.  As we were driving along, I asked him, “Do you know how much I love you?”  We drove in silence for a while as he pondered his response.  Then, in classic Jonathan-style, he said, “Well, you’ve never steered me wrong.” I suspect that David not only knew that God had his best interests in mind, but also that God had never steered him wrong. 

We are going to continue to discuss the goodness of God, especially as it relates to our day-to-day living. Remember, this blog is about practical theology. In the meantime, as you read the biblical narrative, taste and see that the Lord is good. Maybe check out some images of his good creation via the Hubble telescope. Or via the new James Webb Telescope (which is 100 times more powerful than Hubble). And keep in mind the objective reality that the one true God who created this vast universe…

Has our bests interests in mind!

Tov Meod

Growing up on a farm, we had a dairy herd with a mix of registered and non-registered Holstein cows. My dad was on the cutting edge of dairy husbandry, locally and nationally. He served on the local Holstein Association board and on local and national levels of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association. I might have mentioned elsewhere that we received monthly computer printouts showing production, cost analysis, and mature potential for each cow, dating back to the mid-1960s.

The Holstein Association provides a classification system similar to academic grading. The herd owner pays a significant fee to have a “classifier” come to the farm to grade each registered cow. Even though a well-developed rubric is used, the process is a bit subjective. The classification categories are Excellent, Very Good, Good, and Fair. Excellent and Very Good classifications garner national attention, leading to a greater value of the cow, beyond just her production history. I noticed on the Holstein Ass’n website that there is a national “honor roll” of cows receiving one of these two classifications, as can be seen here. It’s a big deal! And we are only talking about cows.

Ever wonder how human value is classified/determined? Historically, we have created classification systems that separate out royalty, aristocracy, common people, serfdom, etc. (think Downton Abby). What about God? How does he classify humanity in the grand scheme of things?

Looking at the creation narrative (Genesis 1) we can see that at the completion of each of his creative activities, God saw that it was good (cf 1:10, 1:12, 1:18, 1:21). The Hebrew word for “good” is tov. God looked at his creation, calling it tov. We love God’s tov creation, which is one reason we so enjoy nature and national parks so much.

I love looking at images from the Hubble telescope. The Hubble was designed to peer deep into space, into this massive universe that God created. Here are a few fun images…

Our Galaxy – the Milky Way

The bottom Hubble image is a photo peering deep into the Milky Way, our galaxy. Scientists estimate the Milky Way to be 100,000 light-years in diameter and 20,000 light-years thick (keep in mind that a light-year is approximately 6 trillion miles), consisting of a couple billion stars. And there are several billion such galaxies in this universe that God saw as good, tov.

Looking further into the Genesis 1 creation story, we find the description of the creation of humanity…

Right now I don’t want to focus on the “in our image” portion – that’s a whole nother conversation. What’s of importance here is the fact that the narrative repeated three times that God created humans. Something to know about Hebrew poetry: Anything stated is worthy of our attention. If stated twice, then more so. However, anything repeated three times is exponentially more important. We should lean in and take heed. Repeated three times is an indicator that the creation of humans far outweighs the creation of the rest of the universe, as beautiful and grand as it is. We are of great value!

After the completion of humanity, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Very good in Hebrew is tov meod. Only after the creation of humanity did God describe his creation project as very good, tov meod. Apparently, as the pinnacle of his creation, we are exponentially more valuable to God than the rest of creation. Or as someone reminded me 40 years ago…

As a creation of God’s, my worth is a given. There’s nothing I can do to gain more worth or to lose my worth – tov meod news!