Diocesan Metropolitan of Kandanad Diocese, Malankara Orthodox Church


O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! [Psalms 34:8]

Psalms are the choicest and most excellent parts of the scriptures which act as the wings of the souls to lift up and repose our hearts towards God. Those are the Godly directions divinely inspired through the Psalmists which refers to and largely intended to all metrical compositions of our day to day life. Psalms are manifestly intended to kindle in the souls of men for devout affections to the creator God and to convey divine light into our understandings. Psalm 34 is one of the most beautiful Psalm sung by David. This Psalm was penned upon a particular occasion, as it appears by the title. It is a Psalm sung by David when he changed his behaviour before King Achish, who drove him away, and he departed.

The background upon which David penned this acrostic thanksgiving is detailed in 1 Samuel 21:13-16. David, being forced to flee from his country to escape from rage of Saul wandered in the forest aimlessly. David went to Ahimelech the priest, under pretence of being sent by King Saul upon royal business, begged of Ahimelech, bread and a sword. David ate the consecrated bread supposed to be only for the use of the priests and their families, took the sword of Goliath, which was laid up behind the ephod as a monument of the glorious victory David obtained over Philistines. Eventually David landed to the country of Philistines, to seek for shelter among them remaining undiscovered in the court or camp of Achish king of Gath. Servants of Achish identified him as triumphant over the Philistines and the one much talked of by the daughters of Israel as, 'Saul has slain his thousands, but David, this very man, his ten thousands.' David took these words to heart and greatly feared Achish king of Gath. David disguised his sanity before them, and acted insanely in their hands, and scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva run down into his beard. And it had the effect he desired; by this stratagem he escaped the dangerous hand of the enemy of Israel. God made Achish to beleive him to be an insane and the King humoured the incident saying, '"Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this one to act the madman in my presence? Shall this one come into my house?'

Achis therefore drove him away and David composed this excellent Psalm on this occasion which shows that in the greatest difficulties and hurries his heart was fixed, trusting in the Lord. He starts his song saying, that he will praise Him openly: His praise shall continually be in his mouth and he concludes the Psalm with this assurance, that none of those that trust in God shall be desolate, though they may be, as he now was, solitary and distressed, persecuted, but not forsaken. He resolves, that he will praise God constantly: I will bless the Lord at all times, upon all occasions.

In the traditional ecclesiastical history of the Church this praise song of Psalm 34 was the prayer recited before and after taking Holy Communion. There is something very phenomenal in its composition, for it is what is called an alphabetical Psalm, in which each line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each verse of it touches the human heart very deeply. David engages and excites himself to praise God. The Lord heard him, took cognizance of his case and of his prayers, and saved him out of all his troubles. We must taste the savour and relish the sweetness of the goodness of God in all his gifts to us. How David could say this? David has personally experienced the mercies of God in his life.

In the Holy Scriptures there are many mention of blessedness. The first Psalm endorse the one whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and meditates in His law day and night, as the blessed one. The Second Psalm considers the one who take refuge in Lord as the blessed man. Psalm 32 describes the blessedness of the man unto whose transgression is forgiven, and sins are covered. Psalm 41 define the one who considers the helpless as the blessed one. In the fifth chapter of St. Mathew we see a long list of criterias for blessed man. As per the worldview, the Blessednesses are to him with blessings of all ingredients of happiness, material and worldly kinds, of the wealth, education, position etc. etc. enough to make him earthly happy. But the Scripture undertakes to describe a blessed man, those only are happy, truly happy, that are holy, truly holy; more concerned to know the spiritual ways to divine blessedness.

How we can taste the God is good? We should think of three experiences in our life to know that God is good to us.

  1. When we evaluate our bygone days we come to know that God was good to us all these days.

    The past experiences of David we read in 1 Samuel Chapter 17. When David reached the military camp to meet his brothers he saw that the Philistines despising and challenging Israel, the army of living God, with their champion Goliath. Saul and his army were greatly afraid. Both armies lay encamped facing one another but neither came forward to engage the challenge. David took up the challenge to face the giant champion Goliath. The pious resolution David undertook to encounter this Philistine was because of past experience that God was good to him. David didnot have any credentials in the war to present to the King as reasons for his claim other than his wilderly experience as a shepherd. He claimed that he got the divine assistance, spirit enough to encounter and strength enough to subdue a lion once and another time a bear that robbed him of his lambs. David knew that it was the Lord that delivered him from the lion and the bear and gave praise to Him for that great achievement, and thence he infered, "He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine". Eventually David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone. With these past experiences only David say the Psalm, "taste and see that the Lord is good."

    When we were in great distress in our past, when we walked through the valley of the shadow of death, when we were in utter desperation in all our evil occassions, we enjoyed the goodness of God and we took comfort in His arms. Peter had told about it, 'You have tasted that the Lord is gracious.' [1 Peter 2:3] He is good, for He makes all those that trust in Him truly blessed; let us therefore be so convinced of His goodness as thereby to be encouraged in the worst of times to trust in him.

    When do we fall into desperation? Firstly, we fall into desperation when we forget, how God had guided and made us to walk in the past. Secondly, we fall into desperation when we feel the lack of presence of God with us. In both these cases our current experiences may turn out to be our unbearable consternation and nightmare.

    God is the one who stay with us in our inabilities and helplessness. The experience of Moses well reveals this point. When God appeared to Moses in a blazing fire at the Horeb mountain and commissioned him to bring His people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt, Moses pleaded with God to leave him to keep sheep and send somebody else, with reasoning that he is not eloquent and slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. The almighty God could have immediately removed the infirmity of Moses to make him whole. But we read here that God needed Moses not as whole but as with his current disability. And the Lord said to Moses, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who make the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the Lord?" God did wonders with the hands and rod of Moses. We perceive a very similar experience in the life of St. Paul. Paul had some unknown affliction on his body, which was troubling him a lot. He prayed many times to God to remove it. But he got the answer; 'My Grace is enough for you!'

    When we have afflictions in our life, do not forget the experiences of the Just Job. Job had demonstrated exemplary patience in his strange afflictions. We learn here that many are the afflictions of the righteous, but that when the Lord delivers them out of them all the trial of their faith will be found to praise, and honor, and glory. Apostle James remind as of graces and duties of a state of trial and affliction, that when we encounter various trials consider it all joy as we should know that the testing of our faith produces endurance. Many a time we try to avoid the trials than suffering it. But the scripture teach us that the crown of life is reserved for the one who suffer the trials.

  2. The presence of God in our day-to-day life reveals us that God is good.

    If we cannot feel the presence of God with us, it will be futile to search for Him anywhere else. God Himself is Immanuel which mean 'God is with us'. If we cannot feel the presence of God on our bedside during our sickness we cannot see Him at any pilgrim places. It is a matter of great joy that God is with us always. The presence of God should be well revealed in our afflictions and trails. Many things we pray, but we get response or effects only for few. God who cares for us know well what we need and what we need not, what is good to us and what is not good?

    There is a story about a famous Chemist. He was very hardworking and used to work hard for eighteen hours a day with out rest. After many years hard work, one fine morning he found that he was not able to rise up from his bed. He was a pious Christian and he lived in the joy of Christian happiness. When his friends visited him on the sick bed to sympathize with him, he used to quote from Psalm 23:2; 'He maketh me to lie down'. The shepherd makes the sheep to lie down on the pasture in order that the animal can chew the cud. So the Chemist believed that God had made him to lie down to recollect and to realize the graces he had received from God while he was busy with his hard work. Now it is the time to realize how richly he had made him to walk in the past in the joy of God. God is our shepherd and we are His sheep.

    In his sorrow, Job cried out, "God has given. God has taken away. Blessed be the name of God." David enjoyed the caring presence of God and that is why he could boldly say; 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.. What shall I render to the Lord For all His benefits toward me?'

  3. From the experiences of others we come to know that God is good.

    How much wonders God work in the life of others whom we witness ourself? When we identify the work of God to neighbors and friends we come to know that God is good. If the God is good to them, He will be good to me also. Also the experiences of the people in scriptures reveals us that God was good to them and that God will be good to me too. The lives of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Abraham, Apostles, St. Paul, all are our life lessons. These all should influence our life too.

    The lives of the early church fathers, the afflictions they suffered, the tortures they faced from the persecutors these all should be our inspiration for our spiritual life. There is nothing for the contemporary Church to claim except the things we had acquired and inherited from these early fathers. The hardships they suffered are the foundation of the Church.

God administer this world in His goodness. Though evils are increasing in this world, God assent to only goodness. There is no evil in God. God is equipping us for the new sky and the new earth. In this process, we may have to suffer pain and affliction aroused out of the evils of man. The utmost source of man is also goodness as it being a creation of God. The evil is which he acquired by the evil nature of this world. As per the design of God he preserves the world in His goodness. We are living in this world, with the collective efforts of innumerous people, animal, plants and all living and nonliving of the present and the past. Goodness of God is the coordinating factor of all these collective efforts.

Realization of this goodness of God in the world should lead us for a charitable attitude. This charity should be extended not only to the human but also for all moving and non-moving entire creation of God. The collective effort in the world by which we enjoy our living in this world, cannot be compensated with our materials. It can be rewarded only with our mutual care towards them too. Mother Teresa told that if any body compensates me with millions of dollars to touch these lepers I will not do that, but the feeling that the child in my hand is the Jesus Himself makes me to caress their smelling wounds.

In this visible goodness of this world we should taste God as good. Then only our life becomes meaningful. It brings joy and hope in our life. It makes us to rejoice in the midst of any afflictions of this world. When we taste and find that the God who was with us, who is with us, and who will be with us, is good, then we become the most blessed of this world. Let God bless us for this assurance!

[The Message given at Kallooppara Convention Reported by: Cherian Alexander
Source in Malayalam : Translated for LOL by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]

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