The Value of (Biblical) Meditation
Meditation is becoming increasingly popular in American society, though most do not see a connection between the practice and biblical Christianity. Many do not realize that it was mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures (what Christians today call the Old Testament) around the same time or even earlier than it was written about in the Vedic scriptures of Hinduism.
The idea of focusing on something as a way to calm the mind and restore a sense of peace and purpose, though, is not just for practitioners of yoga. There is a difference, however, between the biblical concept of meditation and the adulterated version of the eastern religious practice common in the U.S. today. And that difference is what is being meditated upon.
We see below from two of the biblical passages in which meditation is mentioned that God’s word specifically directs us to focus our thinking on His Law.
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 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: 7 – 8 [ESV]
The Hebrew word Joshua used here which gets translated into English as ‘meditate’ means to contemplate, think about, imagine or study. One minister said it means to chew on or chew over something so that it really sinks in.
Later king David begins the book of Psalms with the same discussion around meditating on the law of the Lord.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1: 1 – 2 [ESV]
So what is the “Book of the Law” and what would it mean (especially for us today) to meditate on it? The Book of the Law also known as the Law of Moses or just The Law consists of the first 5 books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Among many other things, these five books – written by Moses – contain the story of creation, man’s rebelliousness against God, the promise of someone who would be a blessing to all humans and the Ten Commandments (which are actually in The Law twice).
The main messages of the Law deal with who God is, who man is and how the Lord deals with His creation. To meditate on the law (or on the Bible as a whole which would be an appropriate extension of the concept for Christians today), therefore, does not just mean to memorize the Ten Commandments or study and think about what God says is right and wrong.
Biblical meditation involves thinking about who the Creator is, who I am and what scripture says about that relationship. Spending quiet, dedicated time focusing on this (and refocusing on it when our mind wanders) after we have read the Bible or before we pray has spiritual and emotional benefits that far outweigh meditating on our breath or thinking uninterrupted about grasshoppers.
Some of the most popular and effective Bible study methods are based on the concept of reading scripture and discussing what the verses say about God, what they say about you as a person and your relationship to God and what the verses directly state or imply about the appropriate way for you to act or react to the world based on that relationship. Meditation simply takes this approach and internalizes it, making it a soothing mental process rather than one for group dialog.
Christians, myself included, probably do not spend enough time thinking about, singing about or meditating on the attributes of our amazing God. It is a critical but common mistake to make our religion about us, how we are supposed to act, the benefits we get from our relationship with God, etc.
Meditation that focuses on God and His attributes – His being eternal, His perfect love, perfect justice, unending holiness, steadfast faithfulness, the fact that he created all in existence, sustains all in existence and provided the only way to redeem a cursed creation – not only provides the calming affect of meditation but will help keep our faith focused on God, as it should be.
Meditate on the God who inspired the Bible and what He had written in it about Himself and about you. Focus your mind on your total dependence on Him and meditate with thanksgiving about the blessings He has given you in your life. Thinking on elements such as these will provide a fresh, more emotionally healthy perspective on life.
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 6 – 7 [ESV]
Andy’s book, Clear Vision: How The Bible Teaches Us To View The World, can be purchased here.