In my last post, I discussed the prevalence of meditation in the Psalter. The Psalter begins with the call to meditate. The one who is to have fullness life is one who meditates on God’s law day and night. The Hebrew word describing this total blessed life is asûre. The asûre-one is one who lives the life of flourishing, much like the tree which bears its fruit in season and who’s leaf does not wither. This idea manifests throughout the Psalms, but especially in Psalm 119 as the quintessential example. One who wishes to live in accordance with the law of the Lord, to demonstrate nearness to God, is one who meditates upon his precepts.
Moving forward in our look at this vital Christian practice, we come to the archetypal Psalm 1 asûre individual—Jesus Christ. The totality of Christ’s life demonstrates this Hebrew concept of asûre and its effects. But where in Scripture do we see Christ as meditating on the law both day and night? While the New Testament only provides a small window in the meditative life of Christ, Jesus’ life and ministry exemplifies the natural consequence of one who meditates upon the law of the Lord. In one of the only early occurrences of Jesus’ boyhood, we find him in the temple sitting at the feet of the teachers and asking questions. Scripture says, “And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:47 ESV). When his parents confronted him regarding his three-day temple staycation he replied, “And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’” (Luke 2:49 ESV). He was dwelling in the temple where the law of the Lord was proclaimed and taught, demonstrating his zeal for the word and his knowledge of God’s law.
When facing temptation from Satan, Jesus reveals a heart thoroughly established in God’s word. Let’s look at the exchange.
“And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.” (Matthew 4:2–11 ESV)
It was precisely because Jesus had meditated upon the law, in a manner described by the psalmist in Psalm 119, that he was able to defend against temptation. The blessed life of following God in the pursuit of holiness and righteousness flows from the words of Psalm 1 and finds it reservoir in Christ, who in turn is capable to give forth “living water” which “will become…a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:10, 14). Christ’s greatest desire for his disciples is the joy that he has in following the Father, and the call to disciples is to abide in Christ (a term not unrelated to meditation; see John 15:1-15).
Elsewhere we see in the life of Jesus a man who is committed to prayer. After feeding 5,000 (not including women and always hungry children), Scripture says that Jesus went away alone to pray (Matt 14:23). Jesus encouraged his audience on the mount to go away in secret to pray in order to receive true reward from God, rather than momentary reward from man (Matt. 6:6). Jesus enters into his passion through an earnest time of pray before the Father (Matt 26:36-39). Such a life of prayer, sitting alone before the Father, demonstrates a desire to meditate upon God’s character and the promises. Such a life of prayer is the warp and woof of Christian meditation.
What does this have to do with meditation? Does Jesus REALLY meditate in these passages? Am I going too far here? I want to suggest that Jesus’ life exemplifies one who meditates upon the law of the Lord even if we are only given a small glimpse at what that may have looked like. Jesus Christ represents the archetypal Psalm 1 asûre-one. This one is full of joy in following his Father and meditating upon his precepts, while reflecting on his character and promises in prayer. Such is the life of Christian meditation.