Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.

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On Monday I started a five part series on how to hear, read and study the Bible. In the first post I looked at the importance of hearing and studying the Bible for our spiritual growth. On Tuesday I gave you a few practical tips on how to study God’s Word.  On Wed, we looked at the importance of memorizing and meditating on God’s Word. Today we’ll learn how to mediate on the Word of God and the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Meditating on God’s Word- Benefits and Methods

Meditation in today’s culture is most identified as non-Christian systems of thought than with biblical Christianity. Even among Christians, the practice of meditation is often closely associated with yoga, transcendental meditation, relaxation therapy, or the New Age Movement. As a result of this many Christians are uncomfortable with the whole topic of meditation and suspicious of those who engage in it. Christians must remember that meditation is commanded by God and modeled by the godly in Scripture.

The kind of meditation encouraged in Scripture differs from other kinds of meditation in several ways. While some advocate a kind of meditation in which one empties their mind, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and truth. For some, meditation is an attempt to achieve complete mental passivity, but biblical meditation requires constructive mental activity. Worldly meditation employs visualization techniques intended to create one’s reality. Christian history has always had a place for the sanctified use of one’s God-given imagination in meditation, imagination is one’s servant to help one meditate on things that are true (Philippians 4:8). Instead of attempting to create one’s reality through visualization Christians link meditation with prayer to God and responsible, Spirit-filled human action to effect changes.

Meditation is the deep thinking on truths and scriptural realities as revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application and prayer. Meditation goes beyond hearing, reading, studying and even memorizing as a means of taking in God’s Word.

Joshua 1:8 and the Promise of Success

There is a scriptural connection between success and the practice of meditation found in Joshua 1:8. As the Lord was commissioning Joshua to succeed Moses as the leader of His people He told him, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

The prosperity and success the Lord speaks here is prosperity and success from God’s perspective not the world’s. From a New Testament perspective we know that the main application of this promise would be to the prosperity of the soul and spiritual success. True success is promised to those who meditate on God’s Word, who think deeply on Scripture not only as one time each day, but at moments throughout the day and night. They meditate so much that Scripture saturates their conversation. The fruit of their meditation is in action. They do what they find written in God’s Word and as a result God prospers their way and grants them success.

Psalm 39:3, “My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue.“ The Hebrew word translated meditated here is related to the one rendered meditate in Joshua 1:8. When we hear, read, study or memorize, the fire of God’s Word, the addition of meditation becomes like a bellows upon what we’ve taken in. As the fire blazes more brightly, it gives off more light (insight and understanding) and heat (passion for obedient action). As a result of this one will be prosperous and successful. Why does the intake of God’s Word often leave one cold and why don’t we have more success in our spiritual life? Thomas Watson has the answer, “The reason we come away so cold from reading the Word is, because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.”

Psalm 1:1-3- The Promises

God’s promises in Psalm 1:1-3 regarding meditation are every bit as generous as Psalm 1:1-3, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

We think about what we delight in. The tree of your spiritual life thrives best with meditation because it helps you absorb the water of God’s Word (Ephesians 5:26). Merely hearing or reading God’s Word can be like a short rainfall on hard ground. Regardless of the amount or intensity of the rain most runs off and little sinks in. Meditation opens the soil of the soul and lets the water of God’s Word percolate in deeply. The result is extraordinary fruitfulness and spiritual prosperity.

The author of Psalm 119 was confident that he was wiser than all his enemies (Psalm 119:98). Moreover he said, “I have more insight than all my teachers” (verse 99). Is it because he heard or studied or memorized God’ Word more than every one of his enemies and his teacher? Probably not! The Psalmist was wiser; not necessarily because of more input but because of more insight. Psalm 119:98-99 gives the answer to this issue, “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.”

It is possible to encounter a torrential amount of God’s Truth but without absorption one will be little better for the experience. Medication is the absorption. Meditation is important for spiritual fruitfulness and prosperity. Even if the total input of God’s Word were the same as it was in prior centuries, we today have experienced a flash flood of information that the psalmist could never have imagined. Combine this with some of the modern responsibilities and the result is a mental distraction and dissipation that choke one’s absorption of Scripture.

Select an appropriate passage
The easiest way to decide what to meditate on is to choose the verses, phrase or word that impressed one the most during the reading of Scripture. Meditation is essentially a subjective activity a fact that underscores the importance of basing it on Scripture the perfectly objective resource.

One’s understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit also leads one to believe that many times He, as Author of the book, will impress one with a certain part of Scripture because that is the very part He wants one to meditate on for that day. This approach can be misused or taken to an extreme. We must use wisdom to make sure we don’t fail to meditate on the Person and work of Jesus and the great themes of the Bible.

Verses that relate to one’s concerns and personal needs are one’s that you should use for meditation. We should not approach the Bible as simply a digest of wise advice, a collection or promises or an “Answer book,” it is God’s will that we give our attention to those things He has written that directly pertain to one’s circumstances. If you’ve been struggling with your thought life, read Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.”

One of the most consistent ways to select a passage for meditation is to discern the main message of the selection of your encounter with Scripture and meditate on its meaning and application. After one does this one should repeat the verse or phrase of Scripture by mulling it over. The point here is not to repeat vainly each word of the verse until they’ve been emphasized. The purpose is to think deeply upon the light (Truth) that flashes into your mind each time the verse is turned. After one does this look for application. Ask yourself, “How am I to respond to this text?” The outcome of meditation should be application. Like chewing without swallowing, so meditation is incomplete without some type of application.

Pray through God’s Word. Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your life.” The Holy Spirit guides one into all truth (John 14:26). Meditation is more than just riveted human concentration or creative mental energy. Praying your way through a verse of Scripture submits the mind of the Holy Spirit’s illumination for the text and intensifies your spiritual perception. The Bible was written under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, so pray for His illumination in your mediation. Meditation always involves two people- the Christian and the Holy Spirit. Praying over a text is the invitation for the Holy Spirit to hold His divine light over the words of Scripture to show you what you cannot see without Him.

When meditating on Scripture take your time. Read less if necessary. Although many Christians need to find the time to increase their Bible reading, there may be some who are spending all the time they can or should be reading the Bible. If you could not possibly add more time to your devotional schedule for meditating on Scripture reading, read less in order to have some unhurried time for meditation. Even though you may find moments throughout the day when you can meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 119:97), the best meditation generally occurs when it’s part of one’s main daily encounter with the Bible.