In his book The Miracle of Love, Charles Allen talks about how difficult it is to define the word love. He says it’s like honey. You can’t adequately define it or sufficiently describe it. You have to taste it. He puts it like this:
Someone once asked me to define the word honey. I studied about it and finally came up with this definition: “Honey is a sweet, syrupy substance manufactured by bees.” I realize that is a very inadequate definition. I know I cannot tell you what honey is. All I can do is give you some honey and let you taste it for yourself.
We know what Dr. Allen is talking about, don’t we? Some things do indeed defy description. They are too big for words. To understand them, we have to experience them personally. We have to taste them. That is precisely what the psalmist is talking about in Psalm 34 when he says these classic and powerful words that have resounded throughout the ages: “0 taste and see that the Lord is good” (v. 8). That was one of the first verses of Scripture I memorized as a little boy in Sunday school.
It’s not enough to just see the goodness of the Lord. It’s not enough to just hear about it from others, or touch it fearfully, or catch a brief whiff of its fragrance. We need to taste and see that the Lord is good. Taste it for yourself. Don’t just go by what others say. Taste it, savor it, relish it. Receive it within.
Let me ask you something, a question you and you alone can answer because it’s so personal. Be honest, now. Have you tasted the Lord’s goodness? Have you tasted it for yourself? Have you personally experienced God in your life? Have you really received him within? We can ride on our parents’ coattails or our friends’ faith experiences only for so long. At some point, we have to seize our moment, take our plunge, experience our own leap of faith, make our own personal decision to welcome God into our lives. We have to taste the goodness of God for ourselves. Nobody else can do it for us.
Have you tasted God’s redeeming love? The single most important question of your life and mine is this: How do I become a son or daughter of God in my life’s journey? The answer: By God’s redeeming power.
Redemption is what the Christian gospel is all about. It is God’s gracious ability through Christ to turn your life around, and God’s gracious ability through Christ to take that which seems useless and make it usable; to take that which seems hopeless and make it hopeful; and to take that which seems defeated and make it victorious. That’s what the cross is all about: God changing sadness to joy, despair to confidence, death to life. It’s about God in Christ redeeming the situation, and a symbol of shame becoming a badge of triumph. The good news for today, the take-home- value for today, is this: God has the power and the desire to redeem your life and make it better If you will let God, He will turn your life around.
Have you heard about the king who once owned a magnificent, large, perfect diamond? It was the pride of his empire. However, one day, under mysterious circumstances, the brilliant diamond was damaged. Its resplendent beauty was marred by a long, hairline scratch. The king was heartbroken. He sent word throughout the kingdom that he would give an enormous reward to anyone who could repair his diamond. No one came forward. All the best diamond cutters feared failure. Then, an artist appeared and offered to rescue the diamond. “Its greatest flaw shall be its most splendid glory,” he announced confidently. He kept the diamond in his possession for many weeks, then he returned it to the king.
As the king unveiled his precious stone, he held his breath. Perhaps the artist’s hand had slipped and the stone was now worthless. Perhaps the artist was a fraud and a scoundrel, or maybe even a robber. Slowly, carefully, the king unwrapped the diamond. When he finally caught a glimpse of his priceless treasure, it was so magnificent that it took his breath away. The king was absolutely delighted! The artist had performed the miracle of redemption, turning the hairline scratch into the long stem of an exquisite rose now carved delicately into the diamond. The diamond had been saved by the touch of the master’s hand. That’s the story of redemption. We can be changed like that, saved like that, redeemed like that—by the touch of our Master’s hand.
Well, that’s the first question. How did you do? Has God turned your life around? Have you tasted, really tasted God’s redeeming love?
Have you tasted God’s forgiving love? Some years ago, on a ranch in South Texas, an elderly woman was critically ill. She was at the point of death. All the family, the ranch hands, and the neighbors had gathered around her deathbed. Quietly, respectfully, they waited and watched. The doctors had told them the end was near and there was nothing else that could be done medically. Suddenly there was a knock at the front door. It was a traveling revival preacher. He had arrived in the nearby town that morning, and someone had told him about how seriously ill the woman was. He had come right out to the ranch. He went to her bed and took hold of her hand. Weakly, she opened her eyes and said to him, “Who are you? I don’t know you.”
The revival preacher patted her hand and said, “They tell me that you don’t have much time left. You are approaching death fast now, and I have come to forgive your sins and to get you ready to meet your Maker.”
The elderly ranch woman suddenly sat up in bed and firmly said to the revival preacher, “Let me see your hands.”
She took a quick look at his hands; then resolutely she said, “You, sir, are an imposter!”
“Pardon me?” answered the preacher.
“You, sir, are an imposter,” she said a second time. She then added, “Only that one with nail prints in his hands can forgive my sins! Only that one with nail prints in his hands can get me ready to meet my Maker!”
Let me ask you something: Have you personally felt that forgiveness that comes only from him with nail prints in his hands? Have you tasted the redeeming love of God? Have you tasted for yourself God’s forgiving love?
Have you tasted God’s encouraging love? It’s so easy to become discouraged in today’s world. There are so many pressures, stresses, deadlines, burdens, problems, and disappointments. Life can be so complicated and so demanding these days. The truth is that we all need encouragement from time to time. We need someone to say “I love you” and “I believe in you.” The word encourage literally means “to put the heart in,” and the word discourage means “to tear the heart out.” The good news of our Christian faith is that our Lord is a God of encouragement. When the world threatens to rip our hearts out, God is there for us with grace to encourage us, to put the heart back into us, to relight the spark, to give us new life.
At a recent meeting, I had dinner with a minister friend of mine. I asked him how he felt God’s call to the ministry. His answer impressed me greatly. He said, “I owe so much to the church. It literally, saved my life over and over.” Then he continued:
“When I was a little boy growing up, my dad worked in the oil patch, so we had to move a lot. In fact, we moved so much that I went to eleven different schools in twelve years. It was really hard at first, all that moving, but I learned something pretty quickly that enabled me (even as a little kid) to handle all those changes and all those pressures. I knew that wherever we went, there would be a Sunday school teacher in a church just waiting to welcome me with open arms. The love and encouragement the church gave me held me up and kept me going, and eventually led me into the ministry.”
I was so touched by that thought. He was saying, “Through the church and through a number of Sunday school teachers, I had tasted the encouraging love of God.” As we talked there in that little restaurant, the food we were eating suddenly began to taste different. Actually, we were having the hamburger special, but all of a sudden it tasted like Holy Communion as we talked about the power of God’s encouraging love.
Well, how is it with you right now? Have you tasted God’s redeeming love? Have you tasted God’s forgiving love? Have you tasted God’s encouraging love? The word of the psalmist long ago is the word for you and me today: “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Dr. Fred Andrea is the pastor of Aiken’s First Baptist Church.