To food and beverage companies, a “blind taste test” can be an important tool for research and recipe development. Participants are asked to taste two near-identical products from competing brands, without knowing which is which, and say which one they prefer. It’s also – if discerning cola drinkers and 80% of felines are to be believed – a well-used marketing technique!
Today’s Psalm is a song of witness: affirming an intention to praise God always, the singer testifies to God’s readiness to rescue and provide. And this gives rise to an invitation, which our paraphrase-setting conveys well: “Together let us all praise… In God we need put all our trust… Taste and see!” Indeed the full text of Psalm 34 expands upon the good things in store for those who answer the invitation: freedom from shame (v5), protection from foes (v7, 21), answers to prayer (v15, 17).
In my encounters with this Psalm, I’ve tended to associate “Taste and see” with that idea of marketing – the confident tone of a TV advertisement voice-over, or even the free trial period offered by online subscription services. Just give it a try, and we’re confident that you’ll quickly be won over – that sort of thing.
Thinking about it, though, I’m not so sure that’s what the Psalm is trying to say. The Hebrew word used here for “taste” is less about evaluating, more about experiencing. We’re invited to taste, not in order to choose between competing options, but rather in order to discover the reality of God’s presence.
And Psalm 34 would have us know just how immediate God’s presence really is. Testimonies may be heard, signs may be seen, but such things are still external to us, and we perceive them from afar. Yet God does not remain far-off: God reaches right into our experience, not just perceived but tasted!
And in Jesus, God has come among us; flesh and blood become the place of divine encounter.
God of sound and sight, God of touch and taste, God incarnate, hallowing this world: be magnified in our theories and our thoughts; be blessed in our praises and our prayers; be honoured in our choices and achievements. And above all, and in all, be present in our today and all our tomorrows. Amen.
Rev’d Dominic Grant, minister, Barnet URC and St Andrew’s Chesterfield Road URC.