We should be consciously trying to change our lives all the time (unless we are already sinless!) We should be aiming to die to sin and live to righteousness every day; to escape the power of the lies of our past or the lies of Satan; to live in the truth, love, and freedom of God; to stop being controlled by our sinful flesh; and to see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
The means God has provided to enable this to happen is the Bible: for God’s words are powerful to change us, because they were written by God the Holy Spirit—and the same Spirit applies them to our hearts and lives today.
But this is unlikely to be effective with a ‘read, run, and forget’ approach to reading the Bible. Our lives are so full of activity, information, responsibilities, worries, information, input and people, that we quickly forget our morning Bible reading, and quickly forget our weekly sermon, even if we preach it!
That’s why God has told us not just to read or hear his words, but meditate on them. To meditate is to reflect on, to ponder, to mull over, to talk about, to re-read, to re-hear, to say to others, and to hear from the lips of others.
We learn in Psalm 1 that God blesses those who: ‘do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers’ (1:1).
Our meditations or self-talk or self-reflection often express worry, unbelief, criticism of others or ourselves, busyness, activities, complaints, or tension. We should replace worldly meditation with godly meditation. Good meditation should replace bad meditation: healthy meditation should replace unhealthy meditation. As Psalm 1 tells us, God blesses those who both delight in and meditate on God’s teaching: ‘but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night’ (1:2).
It is only delighting in and meditating on God’s teaching, which will fill our minds, hearts and lives with God’s truth, rather than the rubbish found all around us. If garbage goes into our minds, garbage will come out. If God’s words go into our minds, then God’s words will come out in our life, speech, and actions. And we will become fertile and fruitful, as Psalm 1 tells us:
They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper (1:3).
In Biblical meditation, our aim is not to empty our minds and consciousness, but to fill them with the words and works of God. For meditation on the words of God see Psalm 119:15,23,27,48,78,97,99,148; for meditation on the works of God see Psalms 77:12, 119:27, 143:5, and 145:5. And we can only meditate on the works of God as we read of them in the words of God.
And what did Biblical meditation mean in practice?
Deuteronomy tells us:
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (6:5-9).
Notice this all-day, private and public meditation, in which God’s people are to keep his words in their hearts, in their minds on their lips, in their ears, and in their eyes, 24/7! This is a long way from ‘read, run, and forget’!
How might we do Biblical meditation today? Here are some suggestions.
In your mind and heart
- Use the same passage of the Bible for your reading every day for a week. Soak yourself in it!
- Memorise a key verse from this reading, and repeat it to yourself as often as you can each day.
- Turn the words of the Bible reading and the Bible verse into a prayer. When we pray them, we own, them, and when we pray them we reinforce them in our hearts and wills.
- Reduce the amount of time each day you spend listening to or watching the news. For our daily news is sadly full of the words of the wicked, the sinners, and the scoffers. It is good to know what is happening, but not good to be overwhelmed and infiltrated with gossip, scandal, triviality, and spectacularised bad news.
In your eyes
- Put the Bible passage or verse as your screen saver.
- Print out a copies of it, and put them on the doors of your bedroom, bathroom, study, office, kitchen, fridge, sink, dining table and in your car or on your bike.
- Put a copy at the front of your calendar.
- Send yourself a daily email or text message with the verse on it.
On your lips—to yourself
- Say the Bible verse aloud to yourself as often as you think of it, so it is on your lips and in your ears as well as in your mind.
- Put the Bible verse to music, and sing it to yourself.
- Whenever you take exercise, or travel, meditate on the Bible verse. Say it out loud.
On your lips—to others
- Tell family and friends, and anyone you meet about the Bible words which you are meditating on, and encourage them with its message. There is a good chance that whatever you need to meditate on will help others, and it will be a ministry to them. [Colossians 3:16]. In this way you will have the words on your lips and in your ears. And as you say them to others and encourage them to receive them, you will reinforce them to yourself.
In your ears, from the lips of others
- Ask family and friends to remind you of the Bible truth you want to absorb [Colossians 3:16]. Have the words in your ears.
- Get a whiteboard in your kitchen, write the Bible verse on it, and talk about it with your family each meal for seven days. Do corporate Biblical meditation, just like in Deuteronomy!
And ask others to pray for you, that God would change you by these words.
Luxuriating in God’s words
So surround yourself, immerse yourself, immerse yourself, and luxuriate in God’s words. Meditate on them every way you can.
We will find the power of God’s words as we meditate on them:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes (Psalm 19:7,8).
To meditate on God’s words, you should make them a vital and constant part of your daily life. They should be in your mind, in your heart, in your eyes, in your ears, on our lips, and on the lips of others.
Read these wonderful words from Thomas Cranmer’s Homily on the Holy Scriptures and see that he bring the same message for the same reason!
These books, therefore, ought to be much in our hands, in our eyes, in our ears, in our mouths, but most of all in our hearts. The words of Holy Scripture be called words of everlasting life (John 6): for they be God’s instrument, ordained for the same purpose … They have power to turn through God’s promise, and they are effectual through God’s assistance; and being received in a faithful heart, they have a heavenly spiritual working in them… And there is nothing that so much strengthens our faith and trust in God, that so much preserves pureness of the heart and also of outward godly life and conversation, as continual reading and recording of God’s word. For that thing which, by continual reading of Holy Scripture, and diligent searching of the same, is deeply printed and graven in the heart, at length turns almost into nature….
Some Suggested Places to Start
Not sure where to start? Here is a selection of verses for meditation. Make sure that you study the verse in its context, so as to get its full meaning, impact, and power. Combine depth of study with constancy and range of meditation!
- ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: fools despise wisdom and instruction….Get wisdom!’ (Proverbs 1:7, 4:7)
- ‘Teach us to number our days that we may gain a wise heart.’ (Psalm 90)
- ‘See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are’. (1 John 3:1)
- ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort’. (2 Corinthians 1:3)
- ‘Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds’. (James 1:2)
- ‘You must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’. (Romans 6:11)
- ‘We make it our aim to please him … for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ’. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
- ‘We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal’. (2 Corinthians 4:18)
- ‘I know your works’. (Revelation 3:8)
- ‘Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer’ (Psalm 19:14)
- God’s words should be our daily food, for, ‘Humans do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).
Keeping eating, and stay alive! Let God’s words change you!