Just A Closer Walk With Thee
Part 1: Biblical Meditation
The late U.S. President George H. W. Bush famously hated broccoli. Some claim he mentioned the fact at least 70 times while in public office. He even banned it from Air Force One’s kitchen, telling reporters, “My mother made me eat it. And I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!”
We’ve all been told to eat healthy in order to grow healthy. In some sense, the same is true of spiritual growth. God expects us to put off the old and put on new life in Christ (Col. 3:10), grow in our ability to love others (Jn. 13:35), press on to know Jesus intimately (Phil. 3:12), and be transformed into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). He expects us to change and become more like Him.
Unfortunately, for many Christians, developing healthy spiritual habits can feel like being forced to eat broccoli. Yet Hebrews 11:6 says God is a “rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” King David repeatedly claimed God (more than water or comfort) satisfied those who earnestly sought Him (Ps. 63:1). And Jesus made it clear that seeking God and His righteousness is the essence of what it means to trust the Almighty (Mt. 6:33).
So, developing habits that help us seek an intimate, personal relationship with God is not “broccoli for the soul” but how we actually live in communion with the Lord on a daily basis. Developing spiritual disciplines teaches us to enjoy the intimacy of seeking His face and being in His presence as He reshapes our thoughts and affections.
Of course, it’s important to remember that working to change ourselves does not save us from sin or make us more lovable to God. Healthy spiritual habits do not make us Christians. We are saved by God’s grace through our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ who gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sin and arose from the grave.
Change comes after salvation, and it involves the methodical work of daily following God. It is the discipline involved in submitting to the Spirit’s work in us to transform us.
Certain biblical practices deepen our walks with God and are essential to our growing love for Him. Regular commitment to prayer, fasting, worship, the community of believers, and memorizing Scripture helps us seek and enjoy God more day by day.
What Is Biblical Meditation?
Biblical meditation is the practice of thoughtfully, repetitively, and responsively reflecting on a truth or passage of Scripture. The Bible teaches that meditation is a vital part of growing in our love of the Lord.
The Jewish patriarch Isaac habitually meditated in the fields around sunset (Gen. 24:63). Moses mentored Joshua to keep the Law by meditating on it, and God agreed (Josh. 1:6–8). David meditated by sitting before the Lord prior to prayer (2 Sam. 7:18), and in Psalm 63:6 he wrote about spending nights meditating on his bed about God’s character. Psalm 1 claims a person who meditates on God’s Word will be blessed.
Today, meditation may bring to mind images of yoga, mantras, and eastern mysticism. But those pagan practices, which attempt to empty your mind, are exactly the opposite of biblical meditation. Rather than emptying your mind, God wants to fill it with truth about Him! Biblical meditation is one way to do that.
What we think about affects our perspectives and behaviors. When we think a lot about food, we eat more. When we think too much about something we’d like to own, we usually buy it. This is why the Bible teaches us to fill our minds with Scripture: It changes us.
How to Meditate
Psalm 119:97–104 is particularly helpful in teaching us how to meditate on God and His Word, which should be done thoughtfully, repetitively, and responsively:
Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Thoughtfully. Four times the passage says meditating gives us understanding. The psalmist was not talking about listening to a sermon or even personal study. He was talking about thinking about God and His Word and considering the implications.
Of course, we must spend time studying in order to reflect. But thoughtfully doesn’t mean trying to determine “What does this passage mean to me?” as much as “What does this passage mean in its context?” We want to know what Scripture says about God and His character, which might require picking up a commentary to learn more about a passage.
Meditation is the next step in taking the truth we’re reflecting on and reviewing it in God’s presence. As we do so, God can grant us insight. Meditation is not the same as reading your Bible 15 minutes each day, which is more like fast food. Meditation is more like feasting.
The great 19th-century English missionary George Müller put it this way: “What is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God—not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe. No, we must consider what we read, ponder over it, and apply it to our hearts.”1
If the thoughtful work of meditating on God’s Word is food for the soul, how often do we starve ourselves or settle for spiritual fast food?
Repetitively. Biblical meditation is also repetitive. First, what we actually say in meditation can be repetitive. The Hebrew word translated as “meditation” in verse 97 carries the idea of repetition, murmuring quietly again and again—not like a mantra but, rather, like a conversation that explores all aspects of a topic.
Have you ever read a passage of Scripture 20 times in a row or written it out or prayed through each phrase? These are wonderful exercises. They teach us how to emphasize different words and phrases and give us an understanding of how the clauses and ideas fit together.
Though this technique can lead to memorization, memorization is not the goal. Rather, the goal is to get to know the passage intimately as God illuminates it. Most of us have a tendency to move quickly past verses we think we know. Biblical meditation calls us to know God by taking time to dwell, repetitively, in a truth He has revealed through His Word.
Second, biblical meditation can be repetitive because it should become a habit of sorts, part of our routine. Whether daily or weekly, spending focused time in God’s presence reflecting on the implications of His words can only deepen our relationships with our almighty Creator.
Responsively. Psalm 119:97–104 lists the many benefits of meditating: It makes us wise, fosters a passion for the sweetness of God’s words, changes our behavior, keeps us from evil, and causes us to hate sin. In other words, meditating gives us spiritual reflexes so that we begin to respond to Scripture automatically. We put it into practice like a reflex action. This is what we call application.
Biblical meditation forces us to consider what God is calling us to do with what He is showing us. When Scripture penetrates deeply into our hearts and minds, the Holy Spirit lights a fire in us to live out the truths we’re learning. Like a reflex, we use those truths, rather than merely know them; and we grow in the faith.
So, let Scripture sink deeply into your heart. Linger over God’s promises. I guarantee His words will taste all the sweeter to those who put in the work to develop this healthy habit (v. 103). Much, much better than broccoli!
- Cited on goodreads.com, George Müller, The Autobiography of George Müller (tinyurl.com/GRMuller-1).