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Biblical Meditation

     Meditation, in the biblical sense, is an intentional filling of the mind with divine viewpoint; specifically, God’s Word. The purpose is to saturate our thinking with Scripture so that it will permeate all aspects of our reasonings and guide us in God’s will. This stands in stark contrast to the eastern view of meditation, which instructs adherents to empty the mind and to think nothing at all.

     The word meditate, in the Bible, translates the Hebrew verb הָגָה hagah, which means “to growl…to utter a sound…to moan…to read in an undertone…to mutter while meditating”[1] The word is used of a moaning dove (Isa 38:14), and a growling lion which hovers over its prey (Isa 31:4). Meditation, when applied to God’s people, connotes the student reads the biblical text no faster than her/his mouth can utter the words, which implies slowness, and perhaps greater comprehension, because one is hearing it as well as seeing it. And, it is the biblical text itself which is contemplated, first for understanding, and then for application. One can see this clearly in the command God gave to Joshua, saying, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Jos 1:8). Here is the principle that we cannot live what we do not know, that knowledge of God’s Word necessarily precedes living His will.

     Meditating on Scripture refers not only to the regular reading of Scripture, but the reflection of it throughout the day, in all aspects of life. David writes of the righteous person who delights “in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psa 1:2). Elsewhere it is written, “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts” (Psa 119:97-100).

Regardless of the time of day or the context, the godly respond to life in accordance with God’s word. Even where the word is not explicit, the godly person has trained his heart to speak and act with wisdom (Prov 1:1–7). According to Proverbs 3:1–6, the wise man receives instruction (tôrāh), writes it on his heart, and wholeheartedly trusts in the Lord with all his heart in all his daily activities.[2]

Dr. Steven R. Cook

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[1] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 237.

[2] Willem A. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), 55.

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