Your eyes pass over the final words of the chapter, concluding today’s Bible reading. You make a mark on your Bible reading plan, or perhaps your own mental checklist, and prepare for the next task that begs your attention. It feels good to check off lists, right? There’s a satisfaction we get in swiping away a notification or physically crossing off an item.
Though there is nothing wrong with setting and accomplishing Bible reading goals, we do ourselves a disservice as followers of Christ when we approach our Bible time as something to check off. In fact, sometimes some of the greatest growth we can have from our Bibles takes place long after we’ve put the Bible back on the shelf. How do we do this? We find this by revisiting the often-forgotten practice of meditation.
Remember Your History
No, we aren’t talking about some sort of mystical chanting or extra-biblical revelation that we bring into our sanctification. Instead we are talking about something that has been going on throughout the life of the church for thousands of years. It’s easy to get so self-focused in our current culture and forget that for the majority of church history, many Christians did not even own a copy of the Bible. These days we sit with four or five Bible versions scattered about our room, access to a verse at the touch of a finger, and hundreds of studies to walk us through the reading. We are blessed by so much of these, but it’s important to remember that God built His church for years without all of these added resources.
For years, the church meditated on His Word. First, God’s people heard it proclaimed and read by Moses, then at the temple, then later, after Christ, they heard it preached during each meeting they attended. They eagerly listened to the letter written by Paul, Peter, or from the Torah. The wealthier among them might have reserved a copy, but many couldn’t read for themselves or afford their own copy. Instead, they hung on the words breathed out by the Spirit of God. Then they went home and worked, raised their children, and they meditated. They brought to mind the words they heard read in the days before. They mulled over phrases they had memorized and delighted in the truth they heard. They did this all without a coffee cup or a peaceful morning.
The Scriptures speak often of the practice of meditation. Isaac was meditating in a field in the cool of the day when Rebecca was on her way to become his wife (Gen. 24:63). The Lord told Joshua to not let the Word depart from his mouth, but instead to meditate on it day and night (Josh. 1:8). Psalm 1:21 tells us the wise person meditates on the Lord’s law day and night., and David tells us that he meditates on the Lord in the late night (Ps. 63:6). It’s a practice that has gone on throughout Biblical history and church history, and it’s clearly one we need to include in our own.
Building a Life of Meditation
So how do we practice meditation? In between deadlines, baby screams, and scrambling for our to-do-list, how can we ever find time to meditate? First we need to define the word to help us understand this kind of command. The Hebrew word for meditation is hagut and it is derived from the root word, hgh. This root word’s derivatives also include definitions such as “mutter”, rumbling”, or “to read in an utterance”. These last few descriptions put an interesting spin on the word “meditate”, and they show us how we are already very good at it.
If you’re anything like me, you can be very good at muttering. I’ve found myself doing this often during the day. How many times have we all caught murmurs coming out of our lips over something causing us frustration or anxiety. I’d venture to say we all have tumbled around a relationship or a problem that turns circles in our head while we sweep the floor or type out an email.
The truth is, we are already expert meditators. We just meditate on the wrong things. But, what if we changed our object of meditation? What if we were to turn our murmurs into something far more life-giving? Instead of muttering over our problems, we can meditate, which is simply grabbing a phrase from our Bible reading in the morning, or from the sermon on Sunday, and turning it over and over in our mind. It can be thinking a little longer about the verse in our minds, or an aspect of God’s character portrayed in the narrative we just read. When we do this, we join with the saints from years before us who have done the very same thing. There isn’t anything fancy we must do to meditate. We don’t have to cross our legs orclear our minds because meditation is, ultimately, not about us, butabout God’s Word, and thankfully we have been given a helper to guide us in it.
Trusting the One who Enables
God always provides for His people. He has already given us the greatest help to approach both our reading and meditation on the Word of God-His Spirit. Jeremiah prophesied that a new covenant would come that would put the law within the hearts of God’s people (Jer. 31:33-34). In the upper room Jesus told His disciples this new covenant was here, and that a helper would be sent to “guide you in all truth” (John 16:13).
We have that helper now. As Christians we are given the Spirit who through the Scriptures will take what is the Father’s and declare it to us both while we read, and when we meditate on it afterward. He allows the Word to dwell in us richly through many means from the sermon on Sunday to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in our local churches (Col. 3:16). I can’t tell you how many times I have been sitting in a passage of Scripture for days, and I begin to see incredible examples of how God has ordered my circumstances, the hymns sung in church, or the encouragement from friends to impress these truths upon me deeper. These are reminders that the Spirit is truly at work throughout the whole of my life as I continue to let the sweet words of the Lord marinate slowly over my days.
As you seek to spend more time meditating on the Word of God, remember it’s not simply a manner of thinking hard enough or long enough, but instead about dwelling in the Lord and trusting the Spirit of God to guide us patiently. There’s nothing mystical about meditating, but we can be sure the Spirit will continue sanctifying His children through the Word as we continue to bring it to the forefront of our days (2 Cor. 3:18).
Our growth doesn’t end once we close our Bibles for quiet time. In fact it’s just the beginning. So let’s slow down on our checklists and take time to mutter these words of biblical truth. Let’s turn them around in our minds throughout the day or weeks, and trust that the Spirit will continue to reveal the Father to us. Let’s join with the saints throughout all of church history and glory in the sweet honey of Scripture (Ps. 119:103). Though we’ll never plumb the full of their depths, we have been given the Spirit who will guide us to Christ all the way.