by Jack Wellman
How do we meditate on the Word of God? The Bible instructs Christians to meditate on the Word but how are we supposed to meditate on the Word of God and what does it mean to meditate?
A Secular Definition of Meditation
When you look in the dictionary and see what the word meditate means, you can get dozens of differing definitions. I will try to give a general definition based upon what most people think meditation is and then what God means by His command to have us meditate on the Word of God. Most dictionaries define meditation as: Intentional contemplation on the author’s work with the express purpose of reflecting upon it, contemplative thinking, the revolving of a subject in the mind or a self-directed practice of calming the mind and body.
Other definitions are a clearing of the mind, an emptying of thoughts, having a mind that is open. The thing that I don’t like about this kind of meditation is that a clear, open mind is one that is subject to spiritual attack or evil influence from demons or wicked spirits. The problem with an open mind is that it often needs to be closed down for repairs! What is called Transcendental Meditation for example is a technique that is derived from Hindu traditions that promote deep relaxation through the use of a mantra. However a mantra’s different for differing belief systems like Buddhism, Hinduism, and New Age ideas and so its definition depends upon the group’s beliefs and is dependent upon the context of it. Some of this is practiced even in the work place, at Yoga classes, and in many Eastern religions. This is not what the Bible means by meditating on the Word of God.
Meditating on the Word
Our church elder said that meditating on the Word of God is a lost art in the church today. He is absolutely right. We lose out on so much when we simply read over the Word and don’t meditate on it. Part of what the Psalmist says where we are to “hide your Word” in our heart is simply meditating on it. Yes, memorizing Scripture may be part of this hiding the Word, but there is so much power even in one verse…in one word…that we don’t tap that power when we read right past it. The Scriptures often tell us to do this both day and night and so you can never meditate on it if you are not reading it…both day and night.
Benefits of Meditating on the Word
Here are a few verses that tell us that we should meditate on the Word of God, why we should meditate on it and what the benefits are:
“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.” Joshua 1:8
If we meditate on God’s Law, and I don’t mean the Mosaic Law, then we will “be careful to do all that is written in it.” You can’t obey what you do not know. And God promises to “make your way prosperous” and you’ll have “good success” if you meditate on it. Meditating and memorizing Scripture is like “hiding His Word” in your heart. When you are tempted, you can more easily resist sinning because you already know the precepts, statues, and Laws of God.
“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97
We will love the law of God only if we meditate on its meaning. It is not so much “don’t do this” but “do this and suffer” and “don’t do this and prosper.” God doesn’t want us to hurt ourselves or others and that is why we must love His law and meditate on it. God loves His own law so much that the biggest chapter in the Bible is dedicated to the law in Psalm 119; it must be of high importance to God. If it is that important to God (and it is) then it must be for us as well.
“May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.” Psalm 104:34
God is well pleased when we meditate on His divine Word. The Psalmist wrote that rejoicing in the Lord is tied to meditating on His Word. Imagine you get a letter from your loved one. You have been separated from him or her for a long time. You love re-reading it…reflecting on the words, and so you will rejoice in this letter and your loved one and you will meditate on certain lines, would you not? The same applies to God’s Word. It is the greatest love letter ever written!
“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” Psalm 119:15
I love this verse. Here the writer is fixing his eyes on God’s ways. He is meditating on the precepts of God for they are always true, faithful, and good. To “fix” your eyes is to meditate on specific things and these things (like precepts) are in the written Word of God. Try fixing your eyes on one verse today. You’ll be amazed at how the Holy Spirit will enlighten your mind to it.
“My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.” Psalm 49:3
Here is a cause and effect verse. Our mouth can speak wisdom only because the meditation of our hearts on His Word gives us understanding. This is not a subjective, human wisdom but the wisdom of God Himself because when our hearts mediate on His truth (which is objective), what we say will be wise because it is the wisdom of God. By the way, the seat of the intellect in the Jewish idiom is the “heart” and so when you read the word heart, you can understand that it is talking about the mind.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
Although Paul didn’t use the word “meditate”, the intent is the same thing when he said to “think about these things.” When we think on “these things” we are pondering them, we are reflecting on them, and we are contemplating (meditating) on them.
“My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.” Psalm 119:148
Many of the strongest Christians have the most worn out Bibles and you have probably heard that a Christian whose Bible is coming apart has it most together. This verse speaks of meditating on the Word before “the watches of the night” or late at night, perhaps before bedtime. They are meditating on God’s promises and that helps to keep a believer’s hope strong. His promises are all revealed in Scripture and what better thing to meditate on than those promises which are sure, true, and can not be broken.
“Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.” Psalm 119:24
The writer here ties together our ability to not be discouraged or fearful even while our enemies are plotting against us. How many times have we laid awake at night, unable to sleep or “turn it off“, worrying about our problems (even if they are people)? We can sleep in peace by meditating on the Word before we go to bed. I have known fewer solutions to my sleeplessness than to open the Bible and read His Word for I realize that even that bad things will work out for my best (Romans 8:28). That is another of God’s promises.
We have read from Scripture that there is so much good that can come from meditating on the Word of God. The shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). I tried to meditate on this shortest of verses and found it to be one of the most powerful verses in the entire Bible. I thought of why Jesus wept, what He was weeping for, who He was weeping over, and how He showed such depth of emotion in His love. By asking who, what, why, where, when, and how over a single verse, the Holy Spirit can speak to us through the written Word because the Holy Spirit is the Author of the Word (2 Peter 1:21). I thought of His humanity, the suffering that He saw, the lost sheep of Israel who would have nothing to do with Him, the depravity of mankind, the compassion that He had. What must Jesus have been thinking (meditating) on when He wept?
It must grieve the heart of God to know that many will be called but few will be chosen. Many have heard of Jesus but few will trust in Him. The path to destruction is broad but the way of life is narrow and winding and few are they that find it. That makes me want to weep too. For all those who refuse to believe, those who will not come to saving faith, I meditate on their eternal, future fate. That makes me want to share the gospel all the more. I want to be about my Father’s business in rescuing the perishing. The Bible is full of God’s desire that no one will perish (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4, Ezekiel 18:23). Meditate on what breaks God’s heart and your heart will be broken too. Meditate on the Word of God and you will hide it in your heart (memorize it). Then you will have the Word in you to be able to resist when temptation comes. You can meditate on God’s desire to save those who are headed for the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 21).
This week, choose one verse to meditate on. I choose John 11:35 (“Jesus wept“). I wanted to align my heart with Jesus’ heart. Take one line from the Word of God and memorize it, think about it, ponder it, reflect upon it, and then God “will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8). That is a promise from God. There is nothing more certain in all the universe than a promise of God. Just meditate on that for a while.