In my previous post on meditation, I discussed how meditation in our culture is anything but a nonpartisan concept. Everyone wants to meditate, but not everyone agrees on what that means. Should I be inside or outside? With yoga or no? What about group meditation? Where do I buy the latest meditation clothing?
Starting with this post and continuing forward, my hope is to show that meditation is an integral part of the Christian life. Without meditation, we will have a less than satisfying Christian experience. With this in mind, it must first be understood that the call to meditate is a thoroughly biblical posture. This is not an imposition on the text—it is a instruction arising from within God’s word. When Puritan divine Edmund Calamy (c. 1600 – 1666) wrote his The Art of Divine Meditation, he begins with Isaac meditating in the field from Genesis 24. The biblical text was a launching point for understanding meditation. It should remain so for us today.
The best place to go in understanding the call to meditate is the Psalms (Psalm 119 being particularly insightful). In fact, the Psalter begins with a call to meditate. The Psalmist states, “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.” (Psalms 1:1–2 ESV). Meditation upon God’s word stands in contrast to one who walks according to “the counsel of the wicked” or one who “stands in the way of sinners.” Meditation therefore is a God-pleasing act which sets one apart from the unrighteous.
Meditation for the Psalmist also brings satisfaction and joy. He writes, “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;” (Psalms 63:5–6 ESV). The Psalmist conveys the consequences of meditation: satisfaction in the soul. There is an element of meditation which derives satisfaction as “with fat and rich food.” In this sense, there is a nourishment which comes with meditating on God and his promises without which one might be spiritually malnourished.
Psalm 119 stands out as the greatest example of a call to meditate. The psalmist highlights the act of meditation eight times within this Psalm. In many ways Psalm 119 demonstrates the believer described in Psalm 1. A “Psalm 1” follower of God would walk and talk very much like a “Psalm 119” person. The Psalmist meditates upon the Lord’s precepts and fixes his eyes on the Lord’s ways (119:15). He will meditate on God’s law all day (119:97). Because he meditates on the testimonies of God, he has more understanding than this teacher (119:99, probably not a good idea to mention to them in class, by the way). Again the dichotomy is made between the wicked and the one who chooses to meditate on the Lord’s precepts (119:23, 78). This is a life captivated by the word of God, raptured by the desire to know and love the Lord though loving and knowing his word.
The Psalter extols meditation and provides a pattern of life for one who chooses to meditate. The key among all the Psalmists’ call to meditate is Scripture. God’s law is the subject material of meditation. While the Psalmist desires to meditate on the wonder of God himself, such reflection is never divorced from what he has said in his law. The word of God fuels meditation of God. To sever the act of meditation from the content of God’s word is unthinkable to the Psalmist. It should remain so for us today.