For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Meditation on Meditation

One of Baptists’ major downfalls in recent generations is the overly reactionary nature of our faith and practice. We often define ourselves by what we are not, what we don’t believe, rather than by who we are and what we do believe. The end result is that we often miss out on many truths and experiences that would be to our benefit.

For example, our aversion to anything Catholic, or even Catholic-sounding, has led us to do away with the concept of catechisms. This is spite of the fact that there are several Baptist Catechisms in our history, most notably Keach’s Catechism and the Baptist Catechism published by the Charleston Association in 1813. Renowned Baptist pastor Charles Spurgeon also produced a “Puritan Catechism with Proofs” in 1855. The Southern Baptist Convention actually voted to commission Baptist preacher/theologian J. L. Dagg to produce a catechism in 1879, and Southern Seminary founder/president James Boyce did write a Baptist catechism. In spite of all this, Baptists today largely have discarded this useful teaching tool.

Other concepts have been ignored or discarded because they have been appropriated by other religions all together. One such idea is the concept of meditation. Eastern mysticism and News Age philosophy has corrupted most folks’ understanding of what it means to meditate. When we hear the word, many think of shaven-headed devotees in robes sitting in the Lotus position, eyes closed, and chanting and humming. Obviously, our folks want nothing to do with such a practice.

However, the idea of meditating, especially meditating on the Word of God is very much a biblical concept. In Genesis 24, Isaac’s first meeting with Rebekah came while he had gone “out into the field one evening to meditate.” (Gen. 24:63 NIV) Joshua begins his leadership of Israel with a call to meditate on God’s Word: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. (Josh 1:8 NIV)

The Psalms are filled with admonitions to meditate. We are told to meditate on God’s unfailing love (48:9) and to meditate on God’s works (77:12; 143:5; 144:5). But most of all, the call is to meditate on God’s Word. In the beautiful song of devotion to God’s Word in Psalm 119, we are told on eight different occasions to mediate on His precepts and commands. Psalm 104:34 even asks that our meditation be pleasing to the Lord.

The key is in understanding the difference between this biblical concept of meditation and the corruption of that concept by others. Meditation simply involves going to the Word of God, spending quality time searching it out, and applying it to our own hearts and lives. Here are several practical helps in meditating on the Word of God that I’ve found useful.

I. First, we need to be alone with the text. Isaac had gone out in the field to meditate. Jesus removed Himself from public to pray and seek God. The idea is to get alone, to get away from distractions, to put yourself in a place where you can genuinely hear from God as you go to His Word.

This isn’t always as easy as it might seem. Some folks have a hard time finding time and place where we are completely alone. As a father with four children, I can sympathize. Yet we need to make the effort; find that time when you can at least go into the other room. Tune out all the other affairs of the day. Get alone with God.

II. Second, we simply need to meditate on the text. I know it may sound redundant to say that the way to meditate on God’s Word is to meditate on God’s Word, but follow along with me for a minute.

The word “meditate” simply means to consider, or to contemplate. In Psalm 48:9, the NIV says “we meditate on your unfailing love.” Other translations simply use the word “thought;” we thought on your love. We contemplated it. In Psalm 119 the word translated “meditate” is a word which simply means to ponder, to muse. Sometimes it is translated by some as “talk.” Talk it out. Work through it. Meditate on it. Ponder it. One word rendered “meditate” in Psalm 77:12 even has the idea of roaring and growling. It seems we are to deal with a text in a passionate, vigorous, concentrated way.

III. Third, meditation on God’s Word is helped along by memorizing verses; committing God’s Word to memory. One of the first verses our children learned was Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” This verse then becomes the driving force in understanding the need to memorize other verses.

Meditating on God’s Word means that we take time with the text. Go over it again and again. In order to commit it to memory, we need to read it in context so that we have a greater understanding of the meaning of the text. Then apply that text to our lives and review it again and again and again. To be in our heart requires meditation on God’s Word, memorizing.

IV. Let me offer one final suggestion for meditating on God’s Word: Sing it. This is why I began by suggesting that you should make every effort to be alone!

Songs are an important part of God’s Word. Obviously we know the Psalms were intended to be sung, but there are other songs as well. Moses and his sister Miriam sing songs of praise for deliverance in Exodus 15, and Moses then teaches the people a remembrance song in Deuteronomy 31. Deborah offers her song in Judges 5. We see David’s lament in 2 Samuel 1 and his song of praise in chapter 22 (which parallels Psalm 18). And Luke records for us the songs of Mary and Zechariah and Simeon.

God’s people have always been a singing people. So much so that when Jehoshaphat went to war against Ammon and Moab, the singers went out at the head of the army, praising and glorifying God (2 Chronicles 20:21). Over and over in Scripture we are admonished to lift our voices in praise. Worship and singing and the Word of God all go hand in hand.

Not only is this an aid in worship and meditation, but in memorizing as well. I can remember when our oldest daughter LoriAnn was only about 4 or 5, she made up a little song to go with the last part of Nehemiah 9:5. To this day, our family remembers that verse, and that song!

Get alone with God and His Word; contemplate His great truths; break down and memorize the Word; and lift your voice in praise to the One who is worthy of your praise. Hopefully these simple helps will aid in reclaiming meditation as a part of our Christian walk on a regular basis. And “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalms 19:14 NIV)

(NOTE: For more information of good, godly Christian meditation, I highly recommend any books by Dr. Don Whitney; Simplify Your Spiritual Life, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, etc.)

1 comment:

Gregg said...

Good Word today! Great reminder that we all need.