When I speak of meditation, some people may become puzzled or even alarmed. The New Illustrated Bible Dictionary comments that meditation today is a “lost art for many Christians.” Some of our popular translations even substitute other words when they translate “meditate” or “meditation” in the scriptures. Today the Church has virtually surrendered meditation to the New Age Movement and to eastern religions. She has also surrendered other things like the rainbow. However, we should not in the least be willing to surrender these biblical realities to others. The Bible makes it clear that meditation belongs to the children of God. Today people have a deep spiritual need to meditate, whether they realize it or not. It is undoubtedly for this reason that some people with Christian backgrounds have been drawn into the cults. So let us look at the Bible and try to understand both the use and purpose of biblical meditation.
MEDITATION IN THE BIBLE
It is recorded in the Bible that many of the great men of God meditated. Isaac went out into the field to meditate (Gen. 24:63). The Psalmist certainly meditated even in the night watches (63:6). He meditated in the Law of God (1:2); on God’s precepts and ways (119:15); in his statutes (119:23); and on the mighty works of God (143:5).
The Psalmist prayed that the meditation of his heart would be sweet (104:34) and acceptable to God (19:14). Thus we can see in scripture that the Psalmist used meditation as an approach to God. His meditation then led him to greater understanding (49:3).
Even Joshua, the great military leader, spoke of the values of meditation. In Joshua 1:8 he advises: “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. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” A similar thought is expressed in the New Testament as Paul advises young Timothy: “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Tim. 4:15 NKJV).
Now, what exactly is meditation? When we meditate we muse, contemplate and reflect on the things of God. One of the Hebrew words used for “meditation” is the word ha-gah, which means to “mutter.” This is almost like talking out loud to oneself, however, the muttering or mumbling reaches the ears of God. To meditate is a little like a cow chewing her cud. We first eat the word, then we bring it up and “chew” on it some more. When we do, we get extra nourishment and understanding. Biblical things begin to fit together much better and mysteries begin to be revealed.
MEDITATION FOR TODAY
Since it appears that the devil has almost stolen away meditation from the Church, we need to quickly recover it. We will find that when we do our lives will become much richer. I have been a Christian for well over half a century. I can say without a doubt that most things I have learned from the Lord during that time have come through meditation in his word. For many years I diligently kept a notebook of these meditations. Even today when I write articles I often refer back to this old notebook. Often I am surprised at the things I learned from the Lord so long ago.
Now, how do we go about meditating? We can meditate almost anywhere, on our beds, at work, washing dishes, or walking in the field like Isaac. It is probably best to find a quiet place, ideally in the natural setting. We also may just open the Bible and reflect on a particular passage until it speaks to our hearts. Sometimes God gives us an intense interest in some subject and that is oft-times our cue for meditation. We should also not hesitate to ask God about things on our minds or things troubling us in scripture. Through meditation on these subjects the divine light may come on.
When God does speak to us in our spirits we need to be diligent to follow up with a thorough study of that subject in scripture. For this, we will probably need a concordance and perhaps a Bible dictionary. We will find that when God teaches us on a subject we will be ready and qualified to share with others in that area. In the scripture we see how Jesus often expounded all things in private with his disciples (Mark 4:34), after he had taught the crowds. The Lord wanted them to really get the picture. He also desires to expound to us as well. In Isaiah 54:13, the prophet gives us this assurance: “All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace.”
As a wonderful and ever-present aid to meditation we believers have the Holy Spirit living within us. The Bible gives us this word about him: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jn. 14:26).
THE PATH OF BIBLICAL DISCOVERY
The one who meditates in the spiritual realm is very much like a scientists in the natural realm. In a very real sense it involves revelation, experimentation, and “discovery” of God’s laws. The discovery is, of course, God’s revelation to us.
Let us take just a few moments to consider the benefits of such revelation and experimentation in the natural realm. Let us look at some steps in the discovery of electricity and of the electric light. How important this is, since many of the discoveries of the last century are based somehow on the discovery of electric light. Without it we would not have computers, copiers, lasers, microwaves, etc.
600 BC The Greek, Thales discovers static electricity by rubbing amber with a cloth, thus electricity is mistakenly named from the Greek word for amber.
1600 AD William Gilbert made further developments in static electricity.
1700s Stephen Gray discovered the use of conductors and non conductors.
1746 Ben Franklin introduced the positive and negative concepts of electricity.
1752 Franklin sent up his kite discovering natural electricity in the heavens.
1786 Luigi Galvani experimented with frog legs, a copper hook, and an iron railing. He concluded wrongly that frog legs contained electricity.
1800 Alessandro Volta produced first storage battery.
1822 Andre Ampere developed the science of electric currents and electro magnetism.
1826 Georg Ohm formulated Ohm’s law of resistance.
1831 Michael Farraday developed electric generators and transformers.
1879 Thomas Edison finally developed the first successful carbon lamp.
It is noteworthy that Edison tried numerous times to produce light from electricity. He spent two years searching for the proper filament for his bulb, even sending agents to the jungles of Amazon and to the forests of Japan. Finally he turned to a carbonized thread and after many failures the light came on. Obviously he was very persistent in his search.
We know as Christians that what men often call “discovery” is really the revelation of God. We also see by this that people build upon each other’s revelation. Sometimes we get it a little wrong, and that is a good reason for always checking it out thoroughly in the Bible. We should also talk with others, particularly spiritual leaders, about our revelations. We might clarify here that we are not talking about brand new revelation but a rediscovery of the old. What we “discover” will always be reflected in God’s word.
As we can see, with revelation and “discovery” comes progress. No doubt, because of our failures at biblical meditation we are still living in a sort of spiritual stone age. Think of what the discovery of natural laws has brought us. In early times the cave man may have enjoyed roasted meat only when lightning hit the tree and a roasted fowl dropped in his lap. However, today housewives can put the fowl in the microwave and have roasted meat anytime they choose. What has brought this about? Men have searched and have come to understand the numerous natural laws that apply to electricity.
What spiritual wonders await us when we begin to meditate on the laws of God. Today when we pray for the sick and receive a miracle we are often powerless to bring about another one. When we have a wonderful meeting and the Lord is present it often seems nearly impossible for us to duplicate it. What is the problem? Could it be that we do not yet understand the laws of God’s kingdom? There are spiritual laws relating to his presence, his holiness, his power, etc. David once found this out when he tried to move the Ark or the Covenant in a cart like the Philistines had done. After a good man died in the process David went home and studied up on the laws of carrying the Ark. The next time he went for it, he had it carried on the shoulders of the Levites as the law prescribed. Their rejoicing that day was not interrupted by disaster.
We often hear laments today that the Church is almost irrelevant to our modern culture. We wait breathlessly for the world to make new discoveries or for the latest computer program to be released. I wonder if we have it all backwards. If we will meditate day and night on the Lord and on his word, we will be the ones bringing the latest revelation to the world. The people in the world will be the ones waiting breathlessly.