Meditation: A Habit of Grace
by David Riley, Elder
If you have been reading your Bible more during this time of the Coronavirus, that is a good thing. However, some biblical teachers suggest that meditating on the Scripture you are reading is even better!
In his book, Reading and Understanding Scriptures, Richard Greenham, a sixteenth-century Puritan, emphasized meditation as one of the eight “properties” of faithful and reverent reading of Scripture. Greenham wrote that one can read diligently, but the reading will bear no fruit if meditation does not follow. Reading may give some breadth, but only meditation and study give depth. He goes on to say that the difference between reading and meditation is like the difference between drifting in a boat and rowing toward a destination. “Meditation without reading is erroneous, and reading without meditation is barren.… Meditation makes that which we have read to be our own. He is blessed which meditates in the law day and night” (Psalm 1).”
Meditation involves our minds and understanding. It also involves our hearts and affections, that is the motives or reasons for the things that we do. To reach a sound and settled judgment on various truths, the mind must be brought to understanding. Meditation also “digests” this settled judgment and makes it work on our affections. If our affections do not become involved, our sound meditative understanding will erode away. The Scriptures must be transfused through the entire texture of the soul.
What does the Bible say about meditation? After all, don’t Eastern religions and Yoga participants practice meditation? Can it be the right thing for a Christian to do?
David Mathis in his recent book, Habits of Grace, helps to clarify. “Christian meditation...is fundamentally different than the ‘meditation’ co-opted by various non-Christian systems. It does not entail emptying our minds, but rather filling them with biblical and theological substance - truth outside of ourselves - and then chewing on that content, until we begin to feel some of its magnitude in our hearts.”
It is recommended by many biblical teachers that we follow our Bible reading with meditation. This, in turn, is followed by prayer. In essence, meditation can be said to, “bridge the gap” between hearing from God through His Word and speaking to Him in prayer.
A brief Bible word study for the term meditation reveals much. As Christians, we may meditate day and night (Genesis 24:63) or, at least regularly and privately (Deuteronomy 6:6, 11:18; Psalm 1:1-2, Nehemiah 8:8: Psalm 1:2; Acts 15:21 and Peter 1:19). We can meditate on precepts, statutes, works and law (Psalm 119:15, 23, 48, 78, 97, 99). For the Christian, meditation means having “the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). This involves pausing, reflecting, memorizing, and rolling Scripture over in one’s mind.
By meditating on the Scripture, it becomes so ingrained in us that it becomes part of us. As Deuteronomy 6 says, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8).
And so, I would encourage you to add Bible meditation to your Bible reading. Meditate on passages that are new to you, and definitely go back and meditate on passages that you may have known and loved for years. If you have been a Christian for a while, you probably already know how the Lord can show you new truths in passages you have known for years and possibly even memorized in the past. However, it should be stressed that the purpose of meditation is not to receive new revelation but to see and absorb more deeply the true message of Scripture and apply it to your life.
For further study:
Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
David Mathis, Habits of Grace