The Good Life: Gourmet Satisfaction
When I first read the psalms, I was appalled by the fervent cries for wrath, the vivid descriptions of violence, and David’s vaunted self-righteousness (anyone remember Bathsheba?). In one uplifting lyric a psalmist blesses the person who would seize the babies of Babylon and “dash them against the rocks” (Psalm 137:9). David, authoring another gleeful paean, promises to his enemies that God will “snatch you up and pluck you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living” (Psalm 52:5). Didn’t Jesus command his followers to turn the other cheek, after all? While these imprecations are alarming to contemporary sensibilities, I was missing a fundamental element of this musical book: a hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness.
The Lord created us to be satisfied on the feast of his goodness. We, however, have glutted ourselves in the fast food restaurants dotting the road to the prodigal’s far-off country. While the offerings may entertain our taste buds, the savor turns into subtle poison as the food reaches our stomachs. The heart created for divine communion will never truly flourish on a diet of false loves.
To still the hunger pangs quaking our bellies, we order anything promising satisfaction. Misguided affections—sex, alcohol, power, etc.—will not nourish the soul, however. These longings are good and right when done from a place of love for God because they are oriented in the right direction. They are like the spice and garnish on food, however; they add layers of flavor. They cannot, despite their grandiose promises, substitute for the meal.
Filled with God
Many have been misled with the notion that turning to God is like giving up a Big Mac in favor of a soggy McDonald’s side salad. The true difference, however, is much more qualitative. The empty idols to which we cling may indeed compare to McDonald’s hamburgers. Both are artificial, contribute to heart failure, and leave the eater feeling sick inside. The goodness of God, however, is like a gourmet burger from a top-rated, sit-down restaurant. The meal may take longer to prep, requiring patience, but the eating will bless the diner with genuine flavors, satisfying savor, and lasting nourishment. The life filled with God will be peppered with genuine joy, salted with great savor, and deeply fulfilled. To get this, however, we must chuck the Big Mac and forsake the golden arches.
Seeking God’s good gourmet hamburger for our souls requires hunger, an intimate understanding of our emptiness apart from Him. Hunger, the heart’s longing for God, may be painful, but it is God’s greatest mercy to the prodigal. It makes him realize he is in the wrong restaurant situated on the wrong road.
The pangs of our deprived stomachs should drive us to the feast that will eternally satisfy. When we acknowledge our hunger and turn to God, he is faithful to “fill the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:53). In Jesus Christ, the Father offers us the true bread of life that will never get moldy. Through his sharing of our humanity, God’s Son felt our hunger pains, and died of our spiritual starvation. This sacrifice on our behalf opened the doors to God’s heavenly dining hall. As we enter in, we see the Host both laying the table and laid upon the table. He feeds and satisfies us with his own life and righteousness.
When I return to the Psalms, I read them through the perspective of a hungry man seeking satisfaction from a God who loves to feed his children. Now I can truly rejoice with these holy songwriters when they declare:
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness. (Psalm 96:11–13)