Charles Spurgeon on the Sweetness of Tasting God’s Word
Note from Randy Alcorn: When you taste honey—and Winnie the Pooh will back me up on this—you naturally want more of it. When you taste God’s Words, you naturally want more of them!
While it’s true that Scripture is nourishing, the thought of nourishment alone won’t bring us to the table. We need to actively cultivate our appetite for God and His Word, and experience its sweetness for ourselves.
A. W. Tozer wrote in The Pursuit of God, “The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.”
In the following introduction to his sermon on Psalm 119:103, Charles Spurgeon encourages his listeners to actively “taste” God’s Word. May we too experience the sweetness of Scripture—today and every day!
“How sweet are Your Words unto my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103
…Do you not think that two of the words in our text are very strange? If you had written them, would you not have said, “How sweet are Your Words unto my ears”? The Psalmist says, “How sweet are Your Words unto my palate!” for that is the word in the margin. He did not write, “Yes, sweeter than honey to my hearing!” but, “sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Are words, then, things that we can taste and eat? No, not if they are the words of man—it would take many of our words to fill a hungry belly. “Be you warmed and filled.” It would take many tons of that sort of fodder to feed “a Brother or Sister destitute of daily food,” for man’s words are air and airy, light and frothy. They often deceive, they mock, they awaken hopes which are never realized. But God's Words are full of substance—they are spirit, they are life, they are to be fed upon by the spiritually hungry!
Marvel not that I say this to you! It was God’s Word that made us—is it any wonder that His Word should sustain us? If His Word gives life, do you wonder that His Word should also give food for that life? Marvel not, for it is written—"Man shall not live by bread, alone, but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” God’s Words are meat, drink and food—and if bodies live not upon words—souls and spirits feed upon the Words of God, and so are satisfied and full of delight! This is the language of an eater as well as of a hearer—of one who heard the words and then ate the words. The expression is oriental, but we are not quite strangers to it, even in our western talk, for we say, “They seem to eat the man’s words,” that is, when the hearers are very attentive to them, when they enjoy them, when the preacher’s words seem to comfort them and to minister sustenance to their mind and to their spirit.
I like this way of describing the reception of God’s Word as a matter of eating, for a man cannot eat God’s Word without living! He that takes it into himself must live thereby. There is a reality about the faith which eats. There is a something there most sure which contains the elements of salvation, for tasting is a spiritual sense which implies nearness. You can hear at a great distance by means of the telephone, but, somehow, I do not think that anyone will invent an electrical taster. Nobody knows what may be done, but I fancy that I shall never be able to eat anything in New York. I think that we shall hardly ever reach such a triumph of science as that! There will always have to be a measure of nearness if we are to taste anything and so it is with God's Word. If we hear it, it is music in the ears, but still it may seem to be at a distance from us. We may not get a grip and grasp of it—but if we taste it—that means that we really have it here within ourselves! Then has it come very near to us and we enter into fellowship with the God who gave it.
This idea of tasting God’s Word contains the thought of receptiveness. A man may hear a thing and, as we say, it goes in one ear and out the other, and so it often does, but that which a man gets into his mouth till he tastes it, and it is sweet to his palate, well, he has truly received that. If it is sweet to him, he will not do as they who have something lukewarm, which is objectionable, which they cast away out of their mouth. But when he finds it palatable, the sweetness will make him keep it where it is till he swallows it down into his inward parts. So I love this thought of tasting God's Word because it implies nearness, an actual reception and a veritable holding-fast of that which is so appreciated by the taste.
Tasting is also a personal matter. “Friends, Romans, countrymen,” said Mark Anthony, in his oration over the body of Caesar, “lend me your ears!” And they go to be lent and numbers of people hear for others. But tasting, surely, is a personal business—there is no possibility of my eating for you! If you choose to starve yourself by a long fast of 50 days, so you must. If I were to sit down and industriously attempt to eat your portion of food, and my own, too, it would not help you in the least! You must eat for yourselves and there is no knowing the value of God’s Word till you eat it for yourself. You must personally believe it, personally trust to it, personally receive it into your innermost spirit, or else you cannot know anything about its power to bless and to sustain! I do pray, dear Friends, that we may, every one of us, tonight, understand what the Psalmist meant when he spoke of tasting God's Words and of finding them sweeter than honey to his mouth.
Excerpted from “The Best Christmas Fare”
Delivered on Lord’s Day evening, December 24, 1893, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington