Tasting the Goodness of God2
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 1:22-2:3).
We’ve looked closely at the first four of seven things Peter tells us about the God’s Word and its power to change our lives. In this final article we’ll look at the remaining three characteristics.
(5) Fifth, the milk of God’s Word is pure and spiritual (2:2).
Being pure means it is undiluted and lacks imperfection and will not deceive or lead astray. There are no falsehoods in it.
In Psalm 19:7-9 we are told that “the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.”
First, "the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul" (v. 7a). As for its identity, it is a law, or instruction, pointing us in the direction of what is right and away from what is wrong. It does this perfectly, without the slightest defect, never lacking what is needed to address our circumstances. Its function is to revive our souls, to refresh and renew and to remind us that the pleasures of obedience to God’s law are delightfully superior to all rival claims that would lead us in another direction.
Second, "the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple" (v. 7b). Scripture is the record of God’s own witness to who he is and what he will provide for us in Jesus. This testimony is sure, which is to say it is true in principle and verifiable in life’s situations. The Bible takes the undiscerning, naïve and gullible person and makes him wise. He who is immersed in the Word is equipped to choose wisely where no explicit direction is found.
Third, "the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart" (v. 8a). God’s rules are never wrong. We can always rely on them to provide truth and accuracy. She whose heart is fixed on the precepts of the Lord is never at the whim of public opinion polls or the fickle fluctuations of human advice. In God’s precepts one finds cause for joy and reason for rejoicing. This is God’s remedy for a sinking, sad, broken heart. If your heart is sour and embittered and could use an injection of joy, memorize and meditate and mull over God’s precepts.
Fourth, "the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (v. 8b). That word “pure” may also be rendered “radiant” (NIV). God’s commandments shine and shimmer and glow and glimmer. They are brilliant and bright and dispel the darkness of human ignorance and senseless advice.
Fifth, "the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever" (v. 9a). David has in mind that fear of God that the Bible produces in us. It is clean both in terms of its essence and its impact on our hearts. Its power and purpose never end; we can always count on God's Word to do its work; God's Word does not change with the seasons or with fashions; it is always "in"!
Finally, "the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether" (v. 9b). What God says in his word is never false or off the mark. His Word is the only barometer for reality. One need never again live in doubt and hesitation concerning what is righteous. Guesswork is gone. The certainty of God’s Word is our foundation.
And the best part of all? The Word of God brings us satisfaction and joy and delight so that we will not be enticed and tempted by the passing pleasures of sin. The laws and precepts and commandments of God’s Word are more to be desired “than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:10-11).
Yes, there is “great reward” in the treasuring of God’s Word in our hearts. God’s Word rewards you with restoration of your soul, wisdom for your walk, joy for your heart, enlightenment for your eyes, truth you can count on, and the provision of righteousness. Wow!
(6) Sixth, this Word of God is to be earnestly desired and sought after and longed for (v. 2).
How do you feel about the Word of God? When I hear Peter exhort us to “long for” the Word I am reminded of Psalm 119 and I’m rebuked by the passion of the psalmist:
“In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches” (v. 14).
“My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times” (v. 20).
“Behold, I long for your precepts” (v. 40).
“for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love” (v. 47).
“The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (v. 72).
“Oh how I love your law!” (v. 97).
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (v. 103).
“Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart” (v. 111).
“Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold” (v. 127).
“I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil” (v. 162).
“My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly” (v. 167).
Peter’s point is simply this: Crave the Word of God. Be desperate for it! Seek it. Yearn for it. Long for it. Desire it. Tolerate nothing in your life that might diminish your hunger for God’s Word.
“But Sam, how can you tell me to desire something I dislike? I can’t just flip a switch in my soul and suddenly long for something that I find boring and dry and incomprehensible.” I gleaned much of the following advice from John Piper. He points out that it’s true that you can’t just flip a switch in your soul, but you can obey! You can discipline yourself to read and study and meditate and memorize and listen to God’s Word, all the while you trust God to use it to change your desires and to create a new affection in your heart.
What this says is that just as essential as having the desires for the Word that we are supposed to have is having the trust in God that he gives what he commands. If God says to desire, when we don't desire, then we trust him that he must know something we don't know. He must have some power we don't have. There must be a way. God commands it. So there must be a way.
And most often he will do it without you even knowing it. No goose bumps. No chills or physical manifestations or angelic appearances at the foot of your bed. But as you expose your soul to the Word and immerse your mind in its truths, the Holy Spirit will gradually and often imperceptibly reconfigure your thinking and ignite your feelings and recalibrate your heart and stir up a desire for even more.
If the Word of God is powerful enough to create new life through the new birth, then the Word of God is certainly powerful enough to create desire in languishing Christian souls. If God’s Word recreated you by causing you to be born again, can it not create desire in you as well? Trust it.
This metaphor of longing for “milk” like a newborn infant is easily understood by any parent who has been rudely awakened in the middle of the night by the desperate cries of a baby who is hungry and who simply will not shut up until he/she is filled!
When Peter speaks of “newborn infants” he is not talking about one stage of spiritual maturity, as if to suggest all Peter’s readers were spiritual infants or were languishing in immaturity. All born again people are to be like “newborn infants” when it comes to their hunger for the Word and their dependence on the Word for life and growth. Look at how babies desire milk. Be that way in your desire for Scripture. Feel the urgency that a baby feels when it is hungry. Be as desperate for God’s truth as a baby is for his mother’s milk.
(7) Seventh, and finally, your craving for God’s Word is the fruit of your tasting of God’s goodness (v. 3).
Why would you want to long for more of God’s Word? You only will want to do this “if” you have tasted that the Lord is good (v. 3)! In other words, what ultimately will motivate you to obey Peter’s command to long for the Word is your prior experience of the goodness and sweetness of God!
In other words, tasting God will make you come back for more! If you are truly devoid of a hunger for God’s Word, it may be due to the fact that you are devoid of any saving experience of God himself.
Why “taste”? Why didn’t David exhort us to “think” or “remember” or some other purely cognitive exercise? “Taste” is the most intimate and personal of all human senses. It is the one sense that entails ingestion, making the experience of God internal to oneself.
The words “long for” and “taste” point to experiences, to emotions, to deep and powerful affections and not mere thoughts. These are feeling words, words that point to an engagement of the whole soul, the heart, mind, spirit, will, and even the body.
There is a savoring of the Lord in all his goodness and beauty and greatness that Peter has in view. It is both intellectual and emotional, both in the mind and in the heart. The Spirit has given us new spiritual taste buds when he caused us to be born again and by them we savor the flavor of God! Only if the Lord is your delight and your treasure and your most valuable prize in life will you hunger after his Word and proclaim it fervently to a lost and dying world.
Remember: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him (Piper)! The imagery of tasting makes the point that experiencing God is pleasant and enriching to the soul. There’s a spiritual sweetness to the knowledge of God! God is delicious! Jesus is delectable! It’s as we savor the flavor of his glory and splendor that he is most honored and exalted in us.
This isn’t to say that those who “taste and see that the Lord is good” will be insulated from pain and persecution. Far from it. Their determination to seek ultimate satisfaction in God above all else may in fact expose them to even greater oppression and opprobrium. But it matters little, for abiding in his presence awakens spiritual joys that are incomparably full and spiritual pleasures that never lose their capacity to enthrall and satisfy (cf. Ps. 16:11).
So, what does it mean to “taste” the “goodness” of God?
• Knowledge of the forgiveness of sins
• The peace that comes from knowing you will never endure God’s wrath
• The presence of the Spirit awakening you to your status as God’s child (“Abba! Father!”)
• The power you experience in resisting sin
• The awe and amazement that fills your soul as you contemplate the moral beauty of Jesus Christ
• The joy that Peter says is inexpressible and full of glory (1:8)
• The love you feel for God
• The feeling of God’s love for you
• The calm in your spirit from experiencing his sufficiency in the midst of suffering
• The unshakable confidence in knowing that your eternal future is secure
• The excitement you experience in seeing God at work in transforming a friend’s life
• The breathtaking wonder evoked by God’s creative work in nature
• The abiding comfort in your heart knowing that God is present though trials are massive
• The gentle reminders from the Holy Spirit that God will never leave you or forsake you
• The experience of physical healing
• Answers to prayer
That is just a small morsel of what it means to taste the goodness of God! That is what Peter says will ultimately draw you back for more of God’s Word, for it is in God’s Word that God makes himself known to you and performs his work of grace in you.
The Word of God, whether it is preached and heard or read and memorized is more than simply true. It is effectual. The Word of God does more than merely announce: it accomplishes! It doesn’t just impart information: it creates life! God speaking is God acting (Michael Horton). God’s Word is always carried along by God’s Spirit and empowered to produce what it proclaims.