“A pious soul meditates on the truth and holiness of the Word. He not only has a few transient thoughts, but leaves his mind steeping in the Scripture. By meditation, he sucks from this sweet flower and ruminates on holy truths in his mind.” -Thomas Watson
I love this quote from Watson, don’t you? The word picture he presents of sucking sweet nectar from a beautiful flower is a perfect expression of the lovely and satisfying nature of the Word of God.
Unfortunately, we don’t always come to the Scriptures with this view. Many times we come to the Word of God and treat it as though it is a mere item to be checked off of our to-do list or a magic potion to make our day run smoothly. In our digital age we flit from one devotional blog post to another and are tempted to assume we’ve fed our souls all the spiritual nutrition they need. But this should not be so. We are privileged to have divine communication from our Holy God bound in a book that we can read whenever we please. This privilege demands more than a cursory reading. It begs for the slow, purposeful discipline of meditation.
In many Christian circles meditation has either been abandoned altogether, or shaped around the popular, secular understanding. But biblical meditation should be vastly different from worldly meditation. In his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life Donald Whitney wrote:
The kind of meditation encouraged in the Bible differs from other kinds of meditation in several ways. While some advocate a kind of meditation in which you do your best to empty your mind, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and truth. For some, meditation is an attempt to achieve some kind of mental passivity, but biblical meditation requires constructive mental activity. Worldly meditation employs visualization techniques intended to “create your own reality”. And while Christian history has always had a place for the sanctified use of God-given imagination in meditation, imagination is our servant to help us meditate on things that are true (Philippians 4:8). Furthermore, instead of creating our own reality through visualization, we link meditation with prayer to God as responsible, Spirit-filled human action to effect changes.
In his helpful book, Donald Whitney uses the illustration of a tea bag: the longer it steeps in a cup of hot water, the stronger the flavor gets. In the same way, we need to really take the time to soak up all the flavor coming out of the Word of God. The longer we soak, the stronger the flavor of Christ will be in our lives.
Meditation isn’t just a thing we do during our designated Bible reading times. When we look at Psalm 1 we find that the blessed man [or woman] delights in the Word and meditates on it day andnight. This means that meditation is something that spills over into our entire day as we seek to live in a constant awareness of God’s presence. Slowing down as we read and purposefully taking the time to contemplate Scripture allows us to better retain the truths we’ve learned in order to treasure and apply them throughout the day.
How To Meditate On the Word:
Meditating on scripture is not a difficult discipline, but it is a discipline–especially today when our attention spans hardly last the length of an 800 word blog post. The rewards of this type of ruminating upon the Word of God however, are well worth the effort!
If you are reading your Bible with the intent of learning and applying and drawing near to the Lord, there will undoubtedly be sections of Scripture that you either find interesting, awe inspiring, convicting, and/or challenging. It is only natural then to want to think about them more deeply. Unfortunately, our tendency is to feel the pressure of time and skip this important step but by doing so we rob ourselves of the sweet nectar Watson spoke of in the quote above.
So, when you are struck by a particular text, take the time to stop for a moment and think deeply about it. While it is important to be taking in large amounts of Scripture, this should not be at the expense of thoughtful, joyful meditation.
There are different ways to practically go about meditating on Scripture so I would like to share a few helpful examples that Donald Whitney gives in his book:
- The first method is to repeat the verse in different ways. You will be surprised by how much can be learned by simply picking at each word in a single verse and seeing how each detail contributes to the truth God has revealed. Simply repeat the verse in your mind, but each time stress a different word found in the text. Work through the verse word by word thinking deeply about each one and how they relate to the others. By the time you finish with this exercise your understanding and knowledge of the text will be thoroughly deepened.
- The second method is to rewrite it in your own words. Take out a pen and some paper and brainstorm about what the verse means. This is a great way to make sure you understand what you are reading. If you are a journaler you will find this a very natural method.
- The third method is simply to look for the application of the text. Take a moment to stop and think about what you just read. What is it that the Lord would have you change about your perception of him? Is there something in particular the Holy Spirit is desiring to convict you of or encourage you with?
- The last method is to pray through the text. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you what it means and then talk to the Lord about it. Talk to him about how it applies to you and what it shows you about him.
If you can’t add time for meditation into your daily reading, it may be wise to cut back on the amountof Scripture you are tackling each day in order to truly soak it up. This may be a startling thing for you to read, but it is better to read less and truly get something out of it than read as much as you can and leave the Book unchanged.
When you meditate-when you read a verse over and over and contemplate its meaning-it begins to fill your heart I believe that is why God gave us a book and not a music video. A music video just goes flying by, jumping from one angle to the next, bombarding you with images, and then it’s gone. Even the best movie just washes over you like a wave and then recedes. Our experience of it is fleeting. But words on a page are frozen there permanently. You can go back to the same page, the same verse, over and over, and keep meditating on it. You can compare and contrast it to other verses. You can synthesize what several verses say and interpret them carefully. That is meditation-not just a momentary encounter with the truth, but immersion in it. Putting His Word in a book was the best way God could put a tool in our hands that would teach us to meditate. -John MacArthur, The Heart of the Bible
How much grace is available to the children of God through his revealed Word! I pray that each of us will not neglect this marvelous gift, but truly seek to soak up as much of the life-giving truths found within the pages of our Bibles!
Do you use any of these methods? If so, which is your favorite/most helpful? What other helpful ways have found to meditate on the Word of God? I would love to hear from you!