[This first appeared last February in a shorter form as a guest post at Rachel Stone’s blog Eat With Joy. I thought it somehow appropriate for Thanksgiving.]
I love my taste buds. I figure God loves them too, since he made them. He even tells us to imagine what it means to taste him and to receive his blessing by doing so: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8.) So that gives me yet another thing to love about God, because I do love my taste buds and I do love his blessings!
My Taste Buds, My Taste Buddies
I love the way food tastes, how it feels, the sight of it on the platter or in a bowl or filling a cup, the smell of a cooking kitchen. One of my philosophies about food (and I have several) is that I’ll try just about anything that is standard fare somewhere on the planet. That has led me to try a lot of foods, and almost always to my benefit. My taste buds get to experience sweet, salty, bitter, sour and savory tastes. Alone or in combination, these render some wonderful experiences in my mouth.
So I’m pretty indiscriminate, yet very appreciative, when it comes to good eats. I can eat pizza every day for a week and still say yes if someone suggests it for the next meal. Soup can be black bean or butternut squash, gazpacho or garbanzo, lentil or leek, or just about anything else that sits well in a bowl. Casseroles? Bring ‘em on, along with steaks, ribs, cutlets and burgers too. If you think all I’m after are the hearty dishes I can assure you that fresh fruits and vegetables are always around our house, and happily where we live in California they’re in abundant supply year round.
When you stop to think about it – believe me, I have – God didn’t have to give us such wonderful senses of taste and smell so we can enjoy our food so much. He could have given us merely moderate senses so that we would eat what we need to for sustenance but not necessarily have the ability to enjoy food to such an extravagant degree.
And that’s what it is, extravagance. Our God has created us with extravagant grace and it’s a common grace for all, just like being able to breathe air and enjoy the feel of warm sunlight on our skin and marvel at the sights offered by a walk through a pine forest. To that list I add taste buds. Ex-tra-va-GANCE!
God’s Word, God’s Menu
You might wonder, though, whether God really cares as much about food and how I interact with it as I let on here. Is there a spiritual component to all this, an eternal significance to how we relate to food? I say yes, and I think the Bible does too.
The Bible not only uses food imagery in describing our relationship with God and all the goodness he has for his people, but the Bible tells us that we can actually partake of God in a spiritual sense just as we do food in the physical sense. Here are some examples.
He invites us to his feast and overwhelms us with his love:
“Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love.” (Song of Songs 2:4-5.)
Can’t afford the price of admission? God’s covering the tab for you:
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55: 1-2.)
God’s refreshment satisfies us abundantly:
“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:13-14.)
And both our hunger and thirst are eternally satisfied (awesome!):
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” (John 6:35.)
With God the functional and the spiritual are always inseparable, so can these word pictures that use food perhaps be more than mere metaphors? Yes, and Jesus – the Living Water and Bread of Life himself – showed us how.
Spiritual and temporal significance
John 2:1-12 depicts a scene most of us can relate to: a wedding reception. But the wedding coordinator miscalculated the supply of wine needed for all the guests, and feared he had a disaster on his hands. So what did Jesus do? On the urging of his mother, he turned water into wine. Not just any old wine in a box, as some of us might have done if we were there and rushed off to the nearest convenience store for supplies, but a fine noteworthy wine:
“Then [Jesus] told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’”
What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:8-11.)
To say that God’s food is only spiritual or to say that our enjoyment of food is only functional misses the point entirely. God gave us taste buds as part of our very beings so that we can understand what it means to taste and see that he is good. How do we know this? Because by this miracle, by not only seeing what Jesus did but also tasting the wine as proof of how good he is, the disciples believed.
Feasting on God
One day we will all join in a feast that will allow our spirits and our bodies to experience together God’s sustenance as it is truly meant to be enjoyed, because “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:9.)
Yes, blessed indeed. In the meantime, I will enjoy the good food God gives me to taste here and now as a reminder of the great banquet to come.