LCN Article


Taste and See That the Lord Is Good!

March / April 2019

Wallace G. Smith

During the Days of Unleavened Bread, we often focus our messages and personal study on the Bible’s use of leavening as a metaphor for sin. Sin “puffs us up” like leavening puffs up bread, and leavening spreads through dough, just like sin spreads through our lives and within a community—it is, truly, an effective and instructive picture. Before the seven-day Festival begins, as we rid our homes of leavened bread and the agents used to leaven our food, we recognize the picture of repentance and putting sin out of our lives. And in refusing to eat leavened bread for seven days (Exodus 12:19), we symbolize our commitment to keeping that sin out.

But we must remember that the Almighty did not name the Festival “the Days of Don’t Eat Leavened Bread.” They are called “the Days of Unleavened Bread”! Ridding our homes of leaven and then avoiding it for a week makes only part of the picture. We must also eat some unleavened bread during every one of those seven days: “And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread” (Leviticus 23:6). The command concerning this day is a positive one concerning something you should eat, not just a negative one concerning what you should not.

Just as leaven pictures sin during these days, unleavened bread pictures the righteousness of Christ, which we seek to actively absorb into our lives every day. Paul, for example, uses both sides of the picture in his own instruction: “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). The Feast is kept with the unleavened bread, not just with the removal of the leaven. As Dr. Roderick Meredith so frequently said, we must feed on Christ.

To focus almost exclusively on the need to remove leaven (sin), downplaying the need to take in unleavened bread (righteousness) each day, is to miss one of the great lessons God intends us to learn during the Days of Unleavened Bread! And what an appetizing lesson it is.

Treats Unique to These Days

While unleavened bread is often characterized as “the bread of affliction” (Deuteronomy 16:3), let’s be honest: The creativity of our bakers and cooks truly shines during the Days of Unleavened Bread. My family and I thoroughly enjoy the remarkable variety of treats that my wife and mother-in-law create during these beautiful days, as well as those created by other culinary engineers in our congregation. Some of these treats only see the light of day (and the heat of the oven) during this brief seven-day period, wherein it is not uncommon to hear someone say, “Mmmm… We should make these year-round!”

My wife creates savory, cheesy, unleavened biscuits that I could happily eat with every meal, every day, all year long. And when our local congregations have covered-dish meals during the Days of Unleavened Bread, the dessert tables often overflow with sweet, imaginative treats that show up during no other time of year. Even basic matzo—fondly characterized by some as “edible cardboard”—is transformed into chocolate-and-toffee-covered “bark” with sprinkles of chopped pecans and sea salt. These seven days really do create a season of delights for our taste buds.

And while there is something to be learned during these days from the simplicity of unadorned, very flat bread (and I’m not knocking you matzo fans out there!), there is something, too, to be learned from the more savory and sweet treats that adorn our platters during this week. King David captured the sentiment I have in mind when he wrote in Psalm 34:8, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”

Indeed! It is easy to focus too exclusively on the dangers and harms that come from living a life of sin. Such concerns certainly should add to our motivation to make real that half of this Festival’s picture—examining ourselves for evidence of sin and Satan’s influences, removing them from our lives, and seeking to keep them out. But the Days of Unleavened Bread also invite us to examine the other half of the picture: the delights and joys that come from pursuing righteousness. These days beckon to us, asking us to meditate not only on the need to avoid sin, but also on the joys of a life lived in the light of God’s word and under the blessings of His favor.

Truly, these days invite us to taste and see that the Lord is good! Let’s consider only a few of the treats the Father and His Son spread before us with the way of life they offer.

Families the Way Families Should Be

Consider the joys of marriage. Boat-rocking psychologist Jordan Peterson has noted that even from a purely secular point of view, there is no real, fundamental satisfaction when couples merely “live together” (now sanitized as “cohabitation”) rather than marrying under the binding power of a lifelong vow.

That conclusion is supported by too many studies to list here—studies bearing witness to the fact that long marriages, built and maintained in the manner that God prescribes in His word, increase one’s odds of happiness and satisfaction.

But how wonderful it is to know that we don’t have to wait for academics and researchers to figure out information that God shares with us freely!

All the joys of marriage—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual—are unlocked, activated, and empowered by God’s way of life. The unending studies of academics in the halls of Ivy League schools can be bewildering and untrustworthy. Yet no one needs a college education to open up the Bible and study to find what he or she needs for building and cultivating a marriage filled with joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction.

We should reflect on the pleasures of married life, the safe harbor it provides during life’s storms, and the various facets of happiness only accessible within the confines of its borders. And as we do, we should add our voice to David’s, declaring that “the Lord is good”!

That goodness is also reflected in the children those marriages often produce. What way of life creates an environment that gives children the opportunity to grow and flourish like the way of God does? The stability of a loving father and mother, the instruction of God’s word, the connection to a family that is behind you and ready to support you in your endeavors… In the rich, life-enhancing soil God provides, our children can plant their roots deeply and securely, and then grow to spread their branches broadly, open to the sun and sky.

Those of us who grew up without those blessings—separated from the “unleavened life”—can surely appreciate that. We rejoice when we see our children and grandchildren sitting at God’s table as invited guests!

Relationships Done Right

The delicacies of that table include even more than satisfying marriages and sanctified children (1 Corinthians 7:14). All of our relationships are richer and deeper because of the privilege we enjoy at the Eternal’s unleavened feast.

While the world so often focuses on the differences between younger and older generations, those who are choosing, day by day, to take in the bread of life are learning to see things differently. Though it is true that the young certainly grow up in a world and culture that differs from the one that surrounded the elderly during their youth, with God’s guidance we learn not to let those differences define the relationships between the young and the old. God frees us from our natural prejudices and each generation’s all-consuming belief that the other one “doesn’t get it,” and it focuses us on what we have in common—the things that really matter.

Our children learn to respect the years of experience that have accumulated in the lives of the aged, to honor those older than they are (e.g., Leviticus 19:32), and to seek to learn from them—and in doing so, they develop a state of mind that will benefit them for the rest of their days. Meanwhile, our elderly are taught by God not to despise the youth of our youngest members (cf. 1 Timothy 4:12), but instead to see them as He does: as children He loves, claims as His own, and longs to bring into His very own family. What a blessing!

Consider the friendships we build within the Body of Christ. When we reflect on those whom God has given to us as brothers and sisters—tied to us by the bonds of the Spirit, which far outweigh the bonds of flesh and blood—do we see the marvelous gifts and blessings of our Eternal Father at work in our lives? How satisfying are the friendships that exist within the Church! They provide a testimony to both the goodness of God and the blessings available when the love of Christ dwells in us.

Take the time during these Spring Holy Days to reflect upon the relationships you have in God’s Church. They are the blessings of unleavened living! Whether you believe that they are few or many, truly consider them. Are you grateful? Have you thanked God for His goodness, expressed to you through the spiritual family He has provided for you—a family that pictures, in however small a way, the eternal family we will inherit when our Elder Brother arrives?

Jesus said to us that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29). Through the friendships we enjoy in God’s Church—including friendships many of us have enjoyed for decades—we experience a foretaste of the ultimate fulfillment of His promise. How good those relationships should taste to us! The bonds we share, which provide so much joy and satisfaction, are only possible because they are nourished by our daily intake of the living bread (John 6:51).

Perspective, Purpose, and Peace

Meditating on the goodness of God is a life’s work, and we know that we can only scratch the surface in a discussion this brief. Jesus said that He came so that we may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10), and while this certainly refers ultimately to eternal life as spirit beings, our lives in the here and now are also made more abundant as we follow Him. God’s way of life is a source of delight, and not just delight in the world to come, but delight in the lives we live now. You will no doubt be able to think of manifold joys over the course of the Festival that won’t appear here in this article.

At the same time, we also understand that physical blessings, in their fullness, cannot always be guaranteed in this world, which is still the devil’s (John 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4). There are true and faithful Christians who have not yet been blessed with spouses, or children, or health, however much they may long for them.

Yet no matter our circumstances, we can taste and see that the Lord is good.

Many times, my wife and I have looked at the circumstances in the world—our own personal circumstances and those of others—and we have noted how terrible and hopeless life would seem without the perspective only God provides. But our Father does provide that perspective, not only helping the world to make sense, but filling us with a hope that transcends the world.

Anchored in the iron-clad fact that Jesus Himself has been raised from the dead, and noting both the joy of the future to come and the grace we experience now that should make us glorify God in gratitude, Paul makes this observation:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).

The empty philosophies of atheists and humanists can do nothing to assure us that our afflictions are light or momentary, nothing to help us see that the weight of those afflictions is exceeded by a glory that is now at work, and nothing to direct us to a yet-unseen world where eternity truly lies.

But within the realm of God’s truth, and wielding an understanding that is only possible through a relationship with our Creator, we are provided a perspective on the world that we would otherwise never possess. We are blessed to know the purpose of our lives—a purpose that gives meaning to our afflictions and points us to a future glory, against which no trial or suffering can compare (Romans 8:18).

As David said to His Master, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5). Those who do not have the privilege of dining at the Lord’s table have but scraps to feed upon when faced with difficulty. But God provides real sustenance and true refreshment. Who, sitting far from the table of God, can express the assurance of the Apostle Paul, who remarked that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28)? Who, unable to dine upon the delicacies only the Eternal can make available, can access “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding”—a peace with the power to “guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7)?

How good, how wonderful this should be to our taste! When the world is upside down—filled with fury, fear, and chaos—we can find rest in a sense of true peace that is available to few in this world. How precious is this to us?

Blessings Without End

Reviewing the entire multitude of blessings we enjoy as followers of Jesus Christ would be a monumental task—certainly one too large for an article such as this. Do we ponder the joyous truth that our sins are completely forgiven through the sacrifice of Christ, who continues even now to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25)? Do we pause to consider what it means to be partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)? Do we tremble in the knowledge that it is God who works in us, achieving His own pleasure in our lives (Philippians 2:13)—that He is committed to finishing that work in us until we are ready for glorification at His Son’s return (Philippians 1:6)?

Truly, the joys of the ways of God are never-ending!

During these Days of Unleavened Bread, let us not forget the positive command to eat some unleavened bread each day. Whether that means a bite of simple matzo or enjoying one of the delectable treats in this issue’s recipe collection, let us take the time as we eat to reflect upon the need to take in the spiritual unleavened bread of righteousness. Then, let us also meditate upon the manifold blessings that we receive from this remarkable spiritual diet, so that we can sincerely declare alongside King David, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”