Chapter 4 – The Meaning of Biblical Meditation

[Please note – this is the first portion of this chapter.]

So, what does Scripture mean when it refers to meditation?  What was Joshua commanded to do?  What was David doing?  And what are we supposed to do?  Is it different than the current trendy topic?  If so, how?

The idea of meditation has been a universal human activity for many centuries.  But it got a fresh boost in the late 60’s when the Beatles made a trip to India and met a guru.  I am not an expert on Eastern meditation, but my limited understanding is that its goal is to empty the mind of all thoughts and focus on as little as possible.  A friend of mine who was saved out of the hippie movement jokingly described his experience with Eastern meditation as an invitation to “become one with nothing.”

Though there are some similarities between this and Biblical meditation – such as slowing down and being intentional – I suggest that Biblical meditation is very different from either Eastern meditation or Transcendental Meditation.  Biblical meditation can and should take place not only at a certain place at a certain time, but all throughout the day.  And it is much more about filling our mind rather than emptying our mind.  It is filling our mind with God’s truth.  It is pondering what He says and its implications for our lives.

 Let’s Understand the Words

There are two “families” of words from the Old Testament (originally written in Hebrew) which, at times, are translated into some form of our English word meditation.  Using the numbering system of Strong’s Concordance, group one is related to words 1897, 1899, 1900, 1901, and 1902.  Group two is related to words 7878, 7879, and 7881.  These two groups are surprisingly interchangeable.

Together these words appear about 70 times in the Old Testament.  Over half of these occurrences are found in the Book of Psalms.  Why would this be so?  Because this book, more than any other, flows out of the meditations of the authors.

The basic meaning of these two groups of words is no surprise.  They have to do with pondering, considering, contemplating, reflecting, repeating, etc.  So this is the basic meaning of meditation: to think slowly and deeply about a topic.

Joshua was commanded by God to think often, slowly, thoroughly, repeatedly, and deeply about God’s law.  David said that because God’s law was his delight, he would ponder, reflect, contemplate, consider, chew on, soak in, have an inner dialogue about, and swallow what it said.

 Let’s Slow it Down

You can’t hurry meditation.  It takes time.  You can’t meditate with a microwave.  You meditate with a crock pot.  You don’t meditate at a drive through window of a fast food place.  You meditate at a multi-course dinner at a fine eatery.

You can’t meditate with a microwave.  You meditate with a crock pot.

In one sense, you can’t meditate while you are multitasking.  But in another sense, you should multitask while you meditate.  That is, it is right to take specific time to meditate.  It is right to set other things aside and ponder this one, particular word, phrase, or thought.  And it is also right to meditate while you are doing many other things.  While you are driving, ironing, walking, even watching TV or reading a book, this one, particular word, phrase, or thought keeps running through your mind.

But these same Hebrew words are also translated with many different English words.  Here is where some interesting surprises show up.  In various English translations of Scripture these words are translated with words like speak, tell, utter, talk, whisper, pray, rumble, musing, imagine, plot, think, moan, commune, and even complain.

 Let’s Complain About It

Do you find it curious that one of the translations of these words is complain?  In our desire to understand and practice Biblical meditation, let’s look more closely at this.

In one sense, this gives us great hope.  Since we all know how to complain – don’t be so pious! – we all know something about meditation!  Here is the key.  Meditation uses the same process as complaining, but with different content.

Meditation uses the same process as complaining, but with different content.

When we complain, we mull the situation or topic over and over in our minds.  We have imaginary conversations with people who aren’t there and can’t hear us.  We look at it from nearly every imaginable angle.  Like a football coach, we run and re-run the video situation over in our mind, stopping it at key points to get a better view and analyze each frame.  This becomes our default setting.  Whenever we are not thinking about something else, our mind defaults back to this topic.  We think about it day and night.  Each time we view this footage we see more and more of its implications upon us.  Then, every chance we get, we talk about it, share it with others, etc.

In a similar way, meditation is making use of the same process.  But instead of using content that was in some way offensive to us, let’s “mark that as a block and delete it” and insert Biblical content in its place.  So, instead of developing a complaint about something that happened to us, use the same process of mulling it over, but use completely different content.  Insert some truth from God’s Word.  Have the imaginary conversation.  Run and re-run the video.  Analyze it.  View it from every angle, consider its implications upon your life.  Then talk about it with anyone who will listen.  Rehearse it every chance you get.  And then talk about it some more.  Do this day and night.  That’s Biblical meditation.

 Let’s Chew on It

Some of these Hebrew words are also related to a cow chewing its cud: rumination…….

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