None but a child of God could take up this expression. Because none besides has a spiritual taste. The exercises of David in this sacred word were delightfully varied. Its majesty commanded his reverence. Its richness called forth his love. Its sweetness excited his joy. Its holy light, keeping his heart close with God, naturally endeared it to his soul. How barren is a mere external knowledge of the Gospel! The natural man may talk or even dispute about its precious truths. But he has never tasted them—at least not so as to relish and feed on them. The highest commendation cannot explain the sweetness of honey to one who has never tasted it. Thus nothing but experience can give a spiritual intelligence. But what we have really tasted, we can warmly commend, "Oh! taste and see that the Lord is good." Having once tasted of His Divine goodness, the sweetest joys of earth will be insipid, distasteful, and even bitter.
Do we ask—what is it that gives this unutterable sweetness to the word? Is it not that name, which "is as ointment poured forth?" Is it not "the savor of the knowledge of Christ", that revives the soul in every page with the breath of heaven? For can the awakened sinner hear, that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life"—and not be ready to say—How sweet are Your words to my taste! yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth? Can the weary soul listen to the invitation to "all that labor and are heavy-laden;" and not feel the sweetness of those breathings of love? Who can tell the sweetness of those precious words to the conflicting, tempted soul—displaying the Divine sovereignty in choosing him, the unchanging faithfulness in keeping him, and the Almighty power of the Divine will in the gift of eternal life? And how can the believer hear his Savior "knock at the door" of his heart, calling him to fresh communion with Himself: and not turn to Him with the ardent excitement of his love, "All Your garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made You glad!"
But are there not times, when we gather no sweetness from the word? It is with the spiritual, as with the natural food—a want of appetite gives disgust, instead of sweetness and refreshment. An indolent reading of the word without faith—without desire—without application—or with a taste vitiated by contact—with the things of sense—deadens the palate, "The full soul loathes an honeycomb: but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet."
But how melancholy is the thought of the multitudes, that hear, read, understand the word, and yet have never tasted its sweetness! Like Barzillai, they have no sense to "discern between good and evil." Full of the world, or of their own conceits—feeding on the delusive enjoyments of creature-comforts—nourishing some baneful corruption in their bosoms—or cankered with a spirit of formality—they have no palate for the things of God; they are "dead in trespasses and sins." But how sweet is the word to the hungering and thirsting taste! We eat, and are not satisfied. We drink, and long to drink again. "If so be we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, as new-born babes" we shall "desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby." We shall take heed of any indulgence of the flesh, which may hinder the spiritual enjoyment, and cause us to "loathe" even "angels' food" as "light bread." Instead of resting in our present experience of its sweetness, we shall be daily aspiring after higher relish for the heavenly blessing. And will not this experience be a "witness in ourselves" of the heavenly origin of the word? For what arguments could ever persuade us that honey is bitter, at the moment when we are tasting its sweetness? Or who could convince us that this is the word of man, or the imposture of deceit, when its blessed influence has imparted peace, holiness, joy, support, and rest, infinitely beyond the power of man to bestow? But let this enjoyment—as the spiritual barometer—the pulse of the soul—accurately mark our progress or decline in the Divine life. With our advancement in spiritual health, the word will be increasingly sweet to our taste: while our declension will be marked by a corresponding abatement in our desires, love, and perception of its delights.
"How sweet are your words unto my taste!" He had not only heard the words of God, but fed upon them: they affected his palate as well as his ear: they had an inward effect on his taste as well as an outward effect on his hearing. God's words are many and varied, and the whole of them make up what we call "the word": David loved them each one, individually, and the whole of them as a whole, and therefore he tasted an indescribable sweetness in them. He expresses the fact of their sweetness; but as he cannot express the degree of their sweetness he cries, "How sweet!" Being God's words they were divinely sweet to God's servant; he who put the sweetness into them had prepared the taste of his servant to discern and enjoy it David makes no distinction between promises and precepts, doctrines and threatenings; they are all included in God's words, and all are precious in his esteem. Oh for a deep love to all that the Lord has revealed, whatever form it may take!
"Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" When he did not only eat but also speak the word, by instructing others, he felt "an increased delight in it The sweetest of all temporal things falls short of the infinite delicious-ness of the eternal word: honey itself is outstripped in sweetness by the word of the Lord. When the Psalmist fed on it he found it sweet; but when he bore witness of it, it became sweeter still. How wise it will be on our part to keep the word on our palate by meditation and on our tongue by confession! It must be sweet to our taste when we think of it, or it will not be sweet to our mouth when we talk of it. We must taste in the study what we preach in the pulpit. We must first spiritually become men of taste, and then we shall have a true enjoyment in setting forth the beauty and sweetness of the truth of God.