During my Christian life, I’ve tried lots of Bible reading plans. When I had rigorous reading plans, I found that I often had an element missing from my quiet time that prevented me from benefiting from my reading as I could. I’ve found that this element is missing from the quiet times of others too, though many don’t realize it. Is this important element missing from your quiet time?
Meditation is a key to a meaningful quiet time
You’ve chosen a Bible reading plan, and you’re working through it, but it all seems rushed and your quiet times become a burden rather than a source of strength. Could it be that you’ve squeezed out time to think about what you’ve read and apply it? We call this careful thinking about what we read meditation, and it’s often missing from our quiet times.
Is meditation in the Bible?
When I was a new Christian, what came to mind when I thought about meditation was transcendental meditation. This form of meditation comes from eastern religion and is often characterized by sitting in a lotus position with legs crossed and eyes closed. The goal is to empty your mind, possibly by chanting some phrase. But when the Bible talks about meditation, it doesn’t have this in mind.
Meditation has a rich tradition in the Bible. We find it in Joshua 1:8, where God commands Joshua to “meditate day and night” on the “book of the Law.” We also find it in Psalm 1 when the author contrasts the wicked and the righteous. The righteous person meditates day and night on the Law of the Lord. In both these cases, we find the same Hebrew word used, and it means, literally “to mutter” or even to speak. From this comes the idea that we are to speak the word of God to ourselves, rehearsing it continually, even preaching it to ourselves. This is what the Bible means by meditation.We are to speak the word of God to ourselves, rehearsing it continually, even preaching it to ourselves. Click To Tweet
How the Bible emphasizes meditation
Joshua was commanded to meditate on “this book of the Law.” Similarly, the righteous in Psalm 1 meditates on “the Law” day and night. In both cases “the Law” refers to the first five books of Moses, commonly called the Pentateuch. We don’t need to restrict our meditation to the Pentateuch, but these two passages emphasize it for a reason.
In the Hebrew Bible, Joshua is the first book in the section called the prophets. The prophets include the major and minor prophets and books such as Joshua and 1-2 Samuel whose authors were prophets. Similarly, the Psalms are the first book of the section called the writings. These include the wisdom literature and 1-2 Chronicles and a few surprises such as Daniel. Therefore Joshua 1 and Psalm 1 form a “seam” between the different sections of the Hebrew Bible. At each seam, the divine Author points back to the importance of Moses’ writings. These seams first command, then exemplify meditation on the books of Moses. He does this to show that these five books of Moses are foundational to the rest of the Bible, and should be foundational to our thought life.
So we are to commanded to meditate on the Law specifically. But the value of meditating on the word of God and the acts of God found in His word are also demonstrated throughout the Bible (see Ps 63:7 and 77:13). It is interesting to note that when Jesus was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11), He quoted from Moses. Jesus quoted exclusively from Deuteronomy to fend off the devil’s temptations. In so doing, Jesus adds His own New Testament example to Joshua 1 and Psalm 1.
Each of the passages cited above gives reasons why we should meditate. Joshua 1 connects meditation with being “careful to do according to all the law” Moses commanded (Josh 1:7). The same applies in verse 8, meditate “so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” The command to Joshua connects obedience to the Lord with meditation. What we learn from Joshua 1 is that the Bible commands us to meditate so that we will be careful to obey the Lord.What we learn from Joshua 1 is that the Bible commands us to meditate so that we will be careful to obey the Lord Click To Tweet
But the reason doesn’t stop there. Joshua was on a mission to conquer the promised land. Obedience wasn’t an end in itself. Meditation is a means to an end. “Then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” Joshua’s success in his mission is dependent on his obedience to the Lord, and his obedience is dependent on his meditation on the law.
In Psalm 1, we find the same thing. The righteous meditates day and night because he delights “in the law of the Lord” (Ps 1:2). The result is, like a tree planted by streams of water, the righteous will yield fruit and “in whatever he does, he prospers.” While the intermediate step of obedience is not as explicit, it is clearly implied by the idea of delight in God’s law and yielding fruit, and ultimately he prospers.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that these people will be wealthy, it means we will be successful as God intends us to be successful. For example, in Joshua’s case, this clearly meant fulfilling the purpose God had for him – leading the nation of Israel to inherit the promised land. Likewise, for us, obedience will result in the fulfillment of the Lord’s purpose for us, and our obedience depends on our meditation.Obedience will result in us fulfilling the Lord’s purpose for us, and our obedience depends on our meditation Click To Tweet
Christ’s example in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1-11 demonstrates the power of meditation. Christ had not only memorized the law (it appears he had memorized most or all of Deuteronomy), but he had meditated on it. Because He had meditated on it, it was at ready to help Him to obey the Father when it mattered the most. The result was that where Israel had failed and been disobedient (in the wilderness), Christ succeeded in obedience and resisted temptation.
When we don’t meditate
We’ve seen that there is a connection between our obedience and our meditation. Therefore, when we don’t meditate on the word of God, neither are we as careful to obey the word of God as we could be. In James 1:22-23, James makes the distinction between those who are hearers of the word of God and those who are doers. Hearers are those “who delude themselves” by thinking their reading or hearing makes them spiritual. However, it is those who abide by the law of liberty, who become “an effectual doer” (James 1:25). These “will be blessed” in what they do. The blessing of the Lord (James 1:25) is the parallel of prosperity in Psalm 1:3 and success in Joshua 1:8. Therefore, James connects blessing to “doing” the law, in the same way as in Joshua 1 and Psalm 1.
When we don’t take the time to meditate on the word of God, we won’t be careful to obey what it says. When we are not careful to obey the Lord, we will not be successful.
Successful at what exactly?
Remember that what the Lord wants of us is holiness. God predestined us to to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). The will of God for us is our sanctification (1 Thess 4:3). So the question for us is whether we want to be what God wants us to be – holy, set apart for His use. If we want what God wants for us, we need to obey Him, and a critical tool for obedience is meditating on His Word.If we want what God wants for us, we need to obey Him, and a critical tool for obedience is meditating on His Word Click To Tweet
Why do we fall into this trap?
There are two reasons why we fail to meditate. Perhaps the most common reason is that we simply haven’t been taught. But it could be that we’ve forgotten or overlooked the importance of meditation. This article is intended to help overcome this problem.
The second reason comes down to a poorly designed quiet time. As important as it is to read the word of God if our Bible reading prevents us from thinking about and applying what it says, we’ve missed the point of our reading.God's purpose for us is an outcome, holiness, not a task Click To Tweet
I discovered something was missing from my quiet time when I was going through Bible-in-a-year reading plans. I found that often I had to rush my Bible reading to get through it, so I didn’t get behind. In short, my quiet time had become task oriented, not outcome oriented. God’s purpose for us is an outcome, holiness, not a task. When our quiet time becomes a task we have to do, we lose sight of its purpose. When this happens our quiet time will lose its richness and become a chore. One way to know whether we’ve become task oriented is whether we’ve included meditation in our quiet time.