“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8
Humans need regular infusions of nutrients to stay alive and healthy and there is no reason why those nutrients couldn’t be supplied in some kind of tasteless kibble. Happily, though, God has provided a myriad of colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, milk and juices, meat and fish – and all the millions of tasty combinations discovered by creative cooks, to encourage us by making eating enjoyable. Taste is a gift that we receive early on: The formation of the thousands of taste buds begins at eight weeks of fetal development, in preparation for all the experiences of our salty, sweet, bitter and sour world of food.
But sweetness is the best! Every baby’s eyes light up with the first taste of sweetness and that initial exposure becomes an embedded memory for most of us, who go on to love sweets for the rest of our lives. Sweets are an important part of making memories: we make candies and cookies to celebrate holidays, and beautiful cakes for birthdays and weddings. We add sugar to unpleasant tasting medicines to make them easier to swallow. Sugar gives us a rush of energy when we are flagging.
On the first day of preschool in many Jewish communities, there is a tradition of showing the children the Hebrew alphabet on a slate that has been slathered with honey. As the children lick the honey off, they learn the lesson that learning is sweet!
Foods and group meals are central to stories in both the Old and New Testaments: Trees bear forbidden fruits (Genesis 3:3) and trees have healing leaves (Revelation 22:2); foods are offered to God (Leviticus 2) and as peace offerings to angry kings (2 Samuel 25); great feasts are hosted by kings and queens (Esther 5; 2 Samuel 9; Mark 6:14-29; Matthew 22:1-14) and simple meals are delivered in the desert by ravens (I Kings 17); the Promised Land is a place of milk and honey with clusters of grapes so large it took two men to carry them (Numbers 13:23-27); sweet water flows from rocks in the desert (Exodus 17) and sweet wine flows from water at weddings (John 2:1-12); bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood (Matthew 26:27-29); unclean foods are declared good and clean and the Kingdom of God is opened to all (Acts 10). And best of all, our ability to enjoy food with our friends will never end: Jesus has shown us that we will be able to eat food in our resurrected bodies (John 21:9), and has promised us that when he returns to gather us to himself, he will host us at a great wedding celebration (Luke 22:29-30; Revelation 19:9).
We are helpless to provide food for ourselves without God blessing the earth with seed, sun and rain, yet God does not ask us to beg food from his hand in order to sustain our lives – it is provided generously. Since we have been given so much, how much more should we strive to sustain the lives of the unborn, helpless as we ourselves! Who are we to deny them their place at the Table of the Lord or to withhold the sweetness of knowing God?
“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” Psalm 145:15-16