Friday, July 28, 2006
“My meditation of him [God] shall be sweet…” (Psl.103:34)
I practice meditation. Before you panic, let me quickly explain that I am not talking about the mind-over-matter, mumbo-jumbo exercise practiced by over ten million American adults, if you can believe the 8/4/03 edition of Time Magazine. It can take one of several forms, but basically, it involves “sitting in silence for 10 minutes to 40 minutes a day and actively concentrating on a breath or a word or an image [training] yourself to focus on the present over the past and the future, transcending reality by fully accepting it” (p.51). Supposedly, it is a way of feeling ‘“at one’ with the universe” (p.52). Why anyone would feel a need to bond with Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn, when there are some days when you can’t even see eye-to-eye with your own husband or wife, is way beyond me! On the contrary, what I am talking about is something that has the ability to calm the heart and mind (without a state of semi-consciousness), while at the same time providing thoughts of substance, rather than mindless word repetition.
I am talking about meditation “with understanding” (Psl.49:3), that is “acceptable” to God (Psl.19:14). The vast majority of our meditation should come within the framework of the Word of God, or the Law, as we are told in Psalm 119. All through this chapter we are encouraged to meditate in God’s laws and His precepts. I am not saying that we must only think about spiritual things, for a great many activities in life require our full concentration. But concentration and meditation are two different things. Activities or studies that require precision call for concentration. However, what I am saying is that meditation should be reserved for the higher themes in life, as enumerated by Paul in Philippians 4:8.
Meditation is not study. Study is a means of finding truth, while meditation expands and pins down truth, making it workable in our own lives. As children of God, studying the Word will give us a greater knowledge of Him; meditation will make Him a reality in our lives. It takes truth, and stamps it into our minds and hearts.
When is the best time for meditation? One would almost have to say the morning, though we are told in Genesis 34:63 that Isaac preferred a field “at eventide.” Perhaps this was the quietest time for him, which seems to be of greater consideration even than the time of day. Most of us are incapable of deep thought in the midst of noise and distraction. Still, it was in the morning that David chose to “look up,” (Psl.4:3), and it was “a great while before day” when Jesus was said to have “departed into a solitary place” to commune with the Father (Mk.1:35). The idea of giving God the first hours of the day was one that was highly regarded among the old Puritan preachers and writers. It was Thomas Watson who wrote:
God deserves the first of our thoughts; some of His first thoughts were upon us; we had a being in His thoughts before we had a being: He thought upon us “before the foundations of the world.” Before we fell He was thinking of how to raise us. We had the morning of His thoughts. We have taken up His thoughts from eternity: if we have had some of God’s first thoughts, well may He have our first thoughts.
As to how much time we should spend in meditation, I would suggest that we should not quit until we are conscious of the presence of God, and have made something from the Bible applicable to us. That is why reading the Bible is the most logical prelude to meditation. It is a time to take a general truth and make it specific. We have always assumed that the admonition to hide God’s Word in our heart (Psl.119:11) was a command to memorize, but I have seen too many “Bible-quoters” who failed miserably as “Bible-livers.” To learn something “by heart” doesn’t mean you have taken it to heart. That will take meditation. But I warn you; one of the by-products of meditation is conviction of true sin. One reason we are dependent on someone else to identify sin for us is that we have lost the art of meditation.
There are those who have been described as “great thinkers.” But there are no greater thoughts than God’s; so the only truly great thinkers are those who think after Him. You and I can be among them. But in order to qualify, we will have to practice meditation…sweet meditation of Him.