The Necessity of Meditation – Part 2
Continued from Part 1
Meditation is necessary because it unites Scripture with the heart and mind. Meditation aims at a depth of knowledge, not so much a breadth. It takes Biblical truth and attempts to put the full weight of the truth on its shoulders. The mind responds in an attempt to understand. The heart responds in an attempt to enjoy. Take, for example, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” We know that this means Christ guides and protects us, therefore bringing us contentment. But we can easily read over that sentence without any more strength to face the day. Meditation responds like this:
- The Mind. “Who is my Shepherd? The verse says ‘the Lord,’ which is really ‘Yahweh,’ the self-existent One. Surely, then, His care for me is not based on my changing whims, but on a commitment that is rooted in God’s very Being. Therefore, I cannot run from His shepherding, lest God cease to be God. But why is He my Shepherd? How can the infinite God commit Himself to an individual so personally? What would motivate Him to become the companion of this fallen son of Adam? I cannot as yet find the answer. But what do we make of the ‘Shepherd’? It means I am a sheep. It means He is my Protector and Guide. It means He is tender in His dealings with me. Oh, and how meaningful all this is since David the shepherd was speaking! Surely, he understood the care involved, yet was confident the Lord was fully devoted to His people. And he says, ‘I shall not want’ as if all his needs were met, not in solutions, but in the Shepherd’s Person.”
- The Heart. “Ah, if He is my Shepherd, is there anything I desire but Him? How can I not determine to be content in that He is by my side? Dear mind, you ask why He would love us so personally, but you will never understand. Continue to wonder, and while you wonder I will bask in the light of His face. The day is full of troubles. But I have Him. Shall I not put His sufficiency to the test? Come, weary heart, and find rest in the bosom of your Beloved! Come, wicked heart, and find forgiveness in the blood of the Saviour! Come, worried heart, and remember the hand that guided you safe thus far! Come, wounded heart, and see if your Shepherd cannot heal you! Indeed, I shall not want for I have all that I need. Perfect rest is mine, and I can face the day.”
After this internal conversation takes place—and this is only an excerpt of a much fuller discussion!—both mind and heart are equipped to understand the many sides of the Scripture, to be strengthened by the truth of the Scripture, and be enamored with the Author of the Scripture. You see, then, how meditation takes the words on a page and turns them into living realities of the soul. We could surely get the sense of the psalm in a short while, but to be satisfied in it we must take time to meditate.
Meditation is necessary because it allows the Spirit to be our Teacher. The Spirit of God does not teach amid noise. Elijah was to hear God, not in an earthquake, fire, or wind; he heard God in a quiet voice that was gentle. God speaks to men who take time to listen. In that He dwells within our hearts, He must have the attention of our hearts. We cannot give attention when the heart is looking out and is distracted by its surroundings. Only when the heart can be self-conscious can it be God-conscious, for God must speak in the stillness and silence. Meditation achieves this goal. It sets all aside and invites the quiet communion of the heart with the Spirit. It thinks intently upon Scripture, awaiting illumination. It tarries long with Christ, hearing Him open the Scriptures while our hearts burn within us. Then, when the time of meditation is over, once Christ ceases to illumine further, we realize that we were communing with Him, and this drives us to love Him more. Therefore, we must mark this point well: we cannot know God until we can rejoice in quietness.
Meditation is necessary because it is what we do when someone we love writes to us. We are interested to hear the thoughts of those we love because their thoughts enhance our love for their unique persons. Therefore, to receive a long-awaited letter or email, written full of affection and delight, we will carefully weigh every word and read it over again so we may not only interpret the words but delight in the heart behind them. Love to God operates in the same way. If we really believe He is speaking, then we will carefully weigh His words in an attempt to hear the beating of His heart.
Meditation is necessary because it is the path to godliness and all its blessings. When the Word of God is assimilated into the heart and mind, it cannot but change the life. And when a life is changed in obedience to God, it discovers afresh all the blessings of faithfulness. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God my be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Godliness does not belong to the scholar who can discuss inspiration. Godliness belongs to the Christian who can equate inspiration with blessing and view the God-breathed nature of Scripture as his greatest profit. This comes to the man who can meditate on Scripture and not analyze it only. Does not the first psalm declare the man blessed who “meditates day and night”? It is this man who is stable. It is this man who is fruitful. It is this man who prospers. It is this man who stands in the judgment. Meditation leads to godliness, for it changes the heart that directs the life.
Meditation is necessary because it is featured in the loftiest psalms about Scripture and communion with God. Psalm 1, as we have seen, is a chief example of this, and God intentionally placed it first so that its tone might run through the entire collection. Other psalms come to mind as well, specifically Psalm 19, 63, and 119. Psalm 19 describes the supremacy of God’s written revelation over God’s creatorial revelation, and it ends with a plea: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (v. 14). Psalm 63 describes the satisfaction of communion with God, and David describes his nightly practice along these lines: “I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches” (v. 6). Psalm 119 is entirely devoted to the Law of the Lord and has at least eight references to meditation, the chief of which is, “Oh how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97). Spiritual giants of the past knew the secret of knowing God: they were able to contemplate Him. May we not miss the emphasis found in these psalms, for the same joyful experience could be ours.
Meditation is necessary because it empowers our preaching. It does this in both a mental and emotional way. The mental impact is illustrated in men like John Calvin, George Whitfield, and John Wesley who preached daily in many cases. Pastors of today would take a week to prepare for a sermon for which these men could prepare in a few hours; and the week-long preparation would produce a sermon half as powerful. The reason is today’s pastors are trained in homiletics, but men of a past day were trained in meditation and the presence of God. When one studies Scripture only to preach it, the scope of his message will be the limit of his knowledge. But when one aims for a depth of understanding in the presence of God, messages will flow from the sanctuary for God’s people. There is more power in a man who grasps Scripture by meditation than a man who analyzes Scripture by scientific methods. The man of formulas will produce something, but it will be confined by the limits of his formula. But the man of spiritual insight, taught by the Spirit Who searches the depths of God, will teach with oceans of thought, mountains of glory, and gold-mines of richness.
The emotional impact will readily be felt by the audience as well. A man who has been taught by God’s Spirit will carry God’s Spirit with him to the pulpit. A man who has been taught quietly will speak in a voice that can touch hearts clouded with noise. A man who has meditated will teach his audience in the style and content of his preaching that God’s Word properly received changes the life. If the gravity of God has impressed the preacher, it will impress the audience also. This is exactly what we need, for God looks to those who tremble at His Word (Isaiah 66:2). Perhaps He would grant us some reviving if we would but learn to meditate.