Meditation in the Bible
by Terry Gardner
Meditation for a disciple of Jesus is to think deeply and carefully about the Word of God. To meditate, according to dictionaries, is “to contemplate, think, consider, ponder, reflect, deliberate, ruminate, or to mull something over.” Thinking, to find understanding, to find meaning and value, defines us as people of God. We are called to “set your minds on things above, not on things on earth” (Col. 3:2).
Some things are necessary for meditation. We need quiet . . . and we may find real quiet more elusive in the twenty-first century than ever before. Quiet requires turning off all the background noise—the television, radio, “smart” phone, texting, computers, snap-chat, and our innumerable “devices.” When the patriarch Isaac wanted to meditate he went into the field in the evening (Gen. 25:63). In the wisdom psalms, a great source for our understanding of meditation, we find the psalmists again and again walking out to look up and to look around them, considering the wonders of God’s creation, the work of God’s fingers, the moon and the stars, the earth and everything in it, as in Psalm 8:3-8.
When I turn off all distractions there is soon nothing left except for me and God. Meditation forces me to deal with who I am and what I am. Sometimes we want the noise because we are hiding from God. Sometimes we want to shut off the noise of the world but find that we cannot. I am in many homes where television or radio constantly provide background noise that may crowd out our relationship with God. When we want to meditate we must find quiet.
We need to drink deeply of the Word of God. In the wisdom psalms, one who is blessed finds “delight in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:2). Do we delight and discover joy in God’s Word? Is thinking and reflecting on the way of the Lord what gives us happiness? In Psalm 1:3 such a person will be “like a tree planted by rivers of water” that bears fruit and “in all that he does, he prospers.” In Psalm 119, a praying meditation on the will of God, the psalmist exclaims, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97). In the wisdom of Proverbs, a father instructs his son to “be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to the one who finds them, and healing to all his flesh” (Prov. 4:20-22).
Consider that our brother Paul tells Christians that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). How may disciples of Jesus find that peace? Paul knows that “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, if anything is worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). When we visited with Ruth Sawyer before she died, she showed to Connie and me one hundred note cards of Scriptures that she was memorizing. She was more than 80 years old at the time, but still learning and meditating on God’s Word. Do we think about things true, honorable, right, pure and lovely? Do we find times and places to focus on those things, to mull them over? To ask how we can be better persons? Better Christians? Better friends? Better neighbors? Are we looking for the peace of God? Let us spend time with our creator in meditation and in prayer.