Devotion
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November 21, 2016
Day 1 - Meditation: What is it?

"The Word feedeth meditation, and meditation feedeth prayer. Meditation must follow hearing and precede prayer. What we take in by the Word we digest by meditation and let out by prayer."
~Thomas Manton 

I have a longing to deepen my practice of meditation.  If I am truthful, I have a longing to begin a practice of meditation.

(May I digress?  As Christians, why do we turn our backs on something clearly spelled out by the Word of God but hijacked by the devil?  Just because the devil stole the concept of meditation and has turned it into one of his own vehicles does not negate the fact that God himself instituted it and commanded it and inhabits it when done His way.  Christianity was never meant to be lived defensively.  Maybe we all need to meditate on that first . . .) 

In order to obtain a better understanding of Biblical meditation, we need to unpack it from the Christian perspective.  Over the course of this week through a new blog post each day, we will use the 5 W's (Who, What, When, Why, Where) and 1 H (How) to do this.

The answer to the question of WHO should meditate  appears obvious.  Anyone who considers themselves a child of God should meditate.  The Old Testament as well as the New Testament is filled with references to meditation.  The Word of God does not focus on defining who should meditate; it is implied and assumed that all who are in relationship with God and His Word meditate.

But WHAT is meditation?

The revelation and power that is ours when we pray the words of the Word--when the Holy Spirit within us connects with the Living Logos that spoke those Words in the first place--is immeasurable.  However, we do ourselves a disservice when we do not pray the Word the way the Word says pray.  In his book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Timothy Keller states:

". . . Many of us have a devotional life in which we jump from a fairly academic study of the Bible into prayer. There is a "middle ground," however, between prayer and Bible study, a kind of bridge between the two.  While deep experiences of the presence and power of God can happen in innumerable ways, the ordinary way for going deeper spiritually into prayer is through meditation on Scripture.  'If we pray without meditation,' writes Edmund Clowney, 'our own communion with God becomes poor and distant.'" 

Keller continues, "Psalms are the prayer book of the Bible, but it is noteworthy that the first Psalm is not a prayer per se but a meditation--in fact, it is a meditation on meditation.  This Psalm's prime place is not an accident.  Eugene Peterson points out that the Psalms are an edited book, and Psalm 1 is the entrance to the rest.  'The text [of the Psalms] that teaches us to pray doesn't begin with prayer.  We are not ready.  We are wrapped up in ourselves.  We are knocked around by the world.  Psalm 1 is 'pre-prayer, getting us ready.'" 

Meditation could actually be called the prelude to prayer.  As we read the Word and we seek to respond to that Word with our Spirits through prayer, we must first internalize what we have read.  We do that by meditating.  And we do it by meditating the way the Word defines meditation.

Dictionary.com says that meditation is "to engage in thought or contemplation."  Our first problem occurs right here.  So many times, we define meditation according to the current dictionary and current practices of society instead of researching the original words used in those scriptures and discovering more fully what they mean.

Take just a moment and read through the following few verses referencing Biblical meditation: 

Psalm 63:6-7-"When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate (H1897-hagah) on thee in the night watches. 7-Because thou has been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice."  

Psalm 77:12-"I will meditate (H1897-hagah) also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. 

Psalm 119:15-"I will meditate (H7878-siyach) in thy precepts and have respect unto thy ways."

Psalm 119:148-"Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate (H7878-siyach) in thy word."

Psalm 143:5-"I remember the days of old; I meditate (H1897-hagah) on all thy works; I muse (H7878-siyach) on the work of thy hands."

1 Timothy 4:15-"Meditate (G3191-meletao) upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all."

Psalm 1:1-2-"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stunted in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful, But his delight is in the law of the LORD: and in his law doth he meditate (H18970hagah) day and night.

In just those few verses, there are three different words from which "meditate" was translated.

The two Hebrew words from the Old Testament references are hagah and siyach.  The Greek word from the New Testament reference is meletao.

I'm not a Hebrew nor a Greek scholar, but the definitions from Thayer's Lexicon seem to be pretty straightforward:

hagah (H1897) - to murmur, to mutter, to growl . . . to speak with oneself, murmuring and in a low voice 

siyach (H7878) - to speak, to sing, to talk with oneself

meletao (G3191) - to care for, attend to carefully, practice.  (Thayer's Lexicon also states the usage of "hagah" seemed to have been implied in this verse.)

Now go back and read these definitions and verses again.  Look them up in your own Lexicon and do word studies on them.  When the meanings and implications are distilled down into a concept around which we can wrap our minds, Biblical meditation appears to be thinking about something, muttering, singing, or murmuring it to oneself.  So, when we are commanded to "meditate on the law of the Lord" the meaning is "to think about, sing, mutter, and murmur the Law of the Lord to oneself."  (I'm just not sure how to treat the word "growl" so I think I will just leave that for another day.)

These definitions alone tell us the difference between Eastern meditative practices and God's meditative practices.

Eastern meditative practices advocate emptying your mind and entertaining silence in order to achieve peace.

God's meditative practices advocate filling your mind with His Word and vocalizing it in order to achieve peace.

Keller puts it this way: "Mantra meditation seeks to suppress the analytical side of the mind.  Christian meditation, however, stimulates our analysis and reflection--and centers it on the glory and grace of God." 

And the convicting part of this concept is that the Word doesn't present it as a nice, alternative exercise for those who live stressful lives. It is commanded as an integral part of communicating with God.

I will never forget when I first became aware of the gaping hole in my life that should be filled with meditation. It was several years ago now and I was attending a conference at a large megachurch and had been assigned to a workshop with some forgettable title that had something to do with contemplation. Although I love people and crowds and dialogue and electrifying worship, I am only able to fully recharge alone and with the Word and my books, so thought I would probably find something of interest in this session. 

I don't really remember what the instructor taught. But I do remember the question/answer session at the end when the hungry, seeking young man came forward to the microphone in the center aisle and began stumbling through his question that was more of a plea for "more" instead of a question.  I don't recall what he was even asking, I just remember what happened as he described his meditative experience.  He told how he was reading about the Holy Spirit in the New Testament and how he closed his eyes and started meditating fully on the names of God.  When he started trying to describe the Presence that came into the room and the absolutely incredible power he felt, he became overwhelmed and began sobbing uncontrollably. The ugly cry. The kind of crying that makes you have to look away because you feel you are looking into a private part of someone's soul...the raw place that is usually hidden safely out of sight...the inner core of emotion that is usually kept private from anyone you don't know intimately.

I remember people looking at him questionably. The instructor sort of stumbled through a response. 

But I joined him in his cry. And then I became a little embarrassed for my own self because I, too, was overwhelmed.

I was overwhelmed by his search and by the fact he was so desperately seeking the presence of the God of the Word he was reading. He needed it more than his desire to retain his dignity in front of a crowd of strangers. He had encountered it as he meditated on who God is. I was overwhelmed because I wasn't sure I had ever bridged that gap between the Word and my speaking back to the God of the Word with that same intensity--that same fervor--that same desperation.

I had read the Word. I had prayed. I had heard the Word expounded by anointed men and women of God.  But before that day, I had not consciously taken the Word off the page and put it in my own mouth and tasted it and practiced saying it and muttered it and moaned it and hummed it and sung it before I actually entered into the praying of it.

I, too, was overwhelmed because I had discovered yet another dimension of relationship with Him that had previously eluded me. It was right there in the pages all along. But I had skimmed lightly over the top of it while hurrying on to the next promise or next truth.

Could it be that part of the reason we don't have the Biblical revelation we seek after or the power and presence of God we so acutely desire is because we aren't approaching His presence in the fullness of His Word?  Could it be we are so busy reading His Words and then making sure we get all of our words spoken correctly back to him until we are missing the part of the process that metabolizes it into our souls and spirits?

I have observed that sometimes those who are supposed to be full of the Spirit seem to exhibit very little of the fruit of the Spirit.  Could it be because we are missing the link of Biblical meditation--the muttering, murmuring, saying the Words aloud over and over part of God-communication--and failing to solidify the Logos into our souls?

Think of these things as you begin to meditate the Bible way through the above Scriptures again and again today and open your heart and mind to a deeper level of communication with the God who spoke the Word.