The proof is in the pudding. That’s one of those idioms we all know; it means that the end result will tell whether or not our efforts or planning were successful. But the phrase doesn’t make much sense when you really break it down: why is the proof in the pudding anyway?
It becomes clearer in knowing that this is a shortened form of the original phrase: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The word proof here is used in the sense of test rather than the more common meaning of evidence—like a baker proofing his dough to determine that the yeast is active. This sort of test was necessary given that, when the phrase first appeared in the 14th century, a pudding was not a sweet dessert but a mixture of meat and spices stuffed in a casing: a sausage. That could very easily be contaminated. In other words, you had to test the pudding by eating it to know if it was good or bad.
All of that reminds me of a passage in Psalm 34, where David says, Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! (v. 8). David’s challenge is that we make the pragmatic test. He invites us to “taste and see”. One of the great themes of Scripture is that the Lord is good. How do we come to know that? Not by hearing what someone has said. Not by believing the words of others. We find it by making a trial ourselves. We put it to the test.
Isn’t that in keeping with our practice in other areas of life? It’s the best way to find out whether anything is good. When we buy an automobile, we take it for a test drive. When we buy a suit of clothes, we try it on. When we go to a restaurant, if someone with us orders some concoction we are not familiar with, we ask for a taste. When you go to Baskin Robbins they have those little spoons so you can see what the ice cream taste likes if you are getting an unfamiliar flavor. That way you know what the tutti-frutti coconut coffee peach amaretto ice cream tastes like before you order a triple scoop.
When we try something, we can act upon the knowledge that we gain. We may not like the way the car handles. The suit may not fit just right across the shoulders. The poached pecan-crusted grilled tuna might not taste right (especially if it’s in ice cream).
So it is with God. David says, taste and see. But notice—he does not say taste and see if the Lord is good. He says taste and see that the Lord is good. There is no doubt. There is no question mark. It is a settled fact: the Lord is good. Of course, that does not dispense with the question for many. There are those who ask, “If God is good, how could he have made a world where suffering, injustice, poverty and disease exist? If God is good, then having made a world like this he must lack power! Or, maybe, he isn’t actually good at all!”
The fact that God doesn’t make life easy is no sign that he is not good. For one thing, Scripture tells us that good results can come from our hardships. Would Beethoven’s music have been more beautiful if had never known deafness? Would Milton’s poetry have been more moving if he had not been stricken by blindness?
Then, too, God gives us the freedom to accept him or reject him. The fact that God does not overrule our liberty to destroy ourselves is no proof He is not good. Suppose someone drinks too much, drives too fast and then kills someone. In the process, they also seriously injure themselves. Then they say, “if God is good, why didn’t he stop me? Why didn’t he prevent this?” If we choose to use our freedom to destroy ourselves, it is not God’s goodness we need to question but our own.
The words of the Psalmist are a challenge to the unbeliever and the doubter. To taste is an expressive image for personal experience. Tasting the goodness of God means to receive it and enjoy it in heartfelt experience. God’s goodness in pardoning sin can be known only by the pardoned sinner. God’s goodness in answering prayer can only be known by those who pray.
Scripture is filled with examples of the goodness of God. Just think of how God provided for the Children of Israel when they left Egypt. He parted the waters of the Red Sea to allow them safe passage. He provided manna in the wilderness. When they came to the promised land under the leadership of Joshua, he gave them victory after victory. When we come to the NT, we see the goodness of God in the forgiveness of Peter. We see the goodness of God as Paul was able to put the past behind Him. When we read the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15, it vividly demonstrates the love of God.
Of course, the ultimate example of the love of God is in the cross. There the Son of God died to save our souls from sin. The blood He shed is the blood that cleanses us and washes away our sin. When we taste and see that the Lord is good, we can then live with the confidence of Paul: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, Taste and see that the Lord is good.