“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.” (Joshua 1:8)
“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)
“O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97)
“My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.” (Psalm 119:148)
With such Scriptures as the ones above staring us in the face we know biblical meditation must be important. But what was it really? The Bible speaks frequently about meditating on the Scriptures, but phrases like “It is my meditation all the day” can be pretty intimidating. The idea of thinking about something all day long seems impossible. It makes you wonder if regular people can learn to meditate on God’s Word or does that only belong to the realm of great thinkers and spiritual giants?
What does it mean to meditate on the Scriptures?
Biblical meditation involves thinking. Most of us comprehend that much of biblical meditation, but a good understanding of it can remain pretty elusive. For some reason, whenever I think of meditation I get a mental picture of Gollum from “Lord of the Rings” with the ring, his “Precious.” Gollum is definitely not my favorite character, but the way he prizes that ring provides a good illustration of what it means to meditate upon the Scriptures. Gollum gazed at that ring from every angle; no detail about it escaped his notice. Every facet of it was studied and delighted in. That’s biblical meditation. It’s mentally examining some Scripture from every angle so that no part of it is left undiscovered.
Meditation actually reveals how much we value the Scriptures. The simple act of looking at and thinking on God’s Word prizing God’s Word tells us, tells others, and most importantly, tells God, “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97)
Meditation, at its most basic level, is simply thinking on a specific verse or section of Scripture, yet it can also include thinking on aspects of God’s character, a specific doctrine, even the works of God. It’s also worth noting that meditation is not studying, though you can meditate upon what you are studying—and it’s wise to do so! Study and memorizing Scripture lead to meditation, yet it’s what meditation leads to that is the real jewel here.
The benefits of meditating on the Scriptures.
Meditating helps us overcome sin and the temptation to sin. Psalm 119:11 plainly says that this is so, “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” There’s a clear connection between loving God’s Word and overcoming sin. Don’t you think that’s because when we love someone there’s no way we want to grieve or ruin our loved one? Sin hurts our relationship with the Lord and grieves His Holy Spirit—all the more reason to meditate upon God’s Word.
I think Psalm 4:4 gives us a workable plan in combatting sin in our lives, whether it’s one specific sin we’re targeting or sinfulness in general. It says, “Tremble, and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still (Psalm 4:4).” Tremble and do not sin reveals our heart response to sin. This is a holy fear and an abhorrence to sin again, as well as a commitment to not sin further. Then we’re told meditate in your heart upon your bed. We’re told to find a quiet place and think on the Scriptures, on the Lord, on His ways, His character; we’re not to meditate on our sin. We often have this backward and end up obsessing over our sin and never getting to the place of thinking on the Word itself. Then Psalm 4:4 tells us be still. As you pray through the Scriptures and focus your heart on the One who can help you overcome your sin, be still. Trust the Lord to “complete the work He began in you” (Philippians 1:6).
We have the example of godly greats who meditated on the Scriptures. David and Asaph both talk about meditating on the Scriptures (Psalm 27:4; 63:6; 119:15). The Apostle Paul doesn’t specifically use the word “meditate” but he does describe the practice in 1 Timothy 4:15 when he tells Timothy to be “absorbed” in the Scriptures. When he tells us to dwell upon the Word in Philippians 4:8 and Colossians 3:16 he is telling us to meditate on God’s Word. The author of Hebrews tells us to “consider” Jesus in Hebrews 3:1 and 12:3. In both places we’re told to dwell on and think on Jesus’ example.
It’s a way to show love to the Lord and also increase our love for Him and His Word. Aren’t you always looking for tangible ways to show your love for the Lord? I know I am! I also want to know that the ways I’m showing love to the Lord are actually pleasing to Him, rather than just being pleasing to me. Psalm 19:14 gives us encouragement that our very thoughts can please the Lord. Amazing! “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” God loves it when His children have tender hearts toward Him (Deuteronomy 5:29).
Meditating helps us memorize Scripture. The simple act of meditating on God’s Word helps us memorize it. This is true of everyone—no matter how young or old or how foggy our brain—eventually the things we’re thinking about will stick in our brains. Memorizing veers off from meditating when we begin to review what we’ve committed to memory and then seek to recite the Scriptures faithfully. Meditating isn’t necessarily trying to do that, but meditating and memorizing are certainly kissing cousins, and where one is you’ll soon find the other.
Meditating helps us pray biblically. If you spend any time at all dwelling on God’s Word, you know that soon you find yourself praying over those very Scriptures. This is absolutely my favorite way to pray. Praying through Bible passages emboldens my prayers, keeps my mind engaged and full of faith. The Lord remains foremost in my thoughts when I’m pleading His Word back to Him. Moving between meditation and prayer naturally invigorates our prayer time.
Meditating helps us grow in our knowledge of the Scriptures and of the Lord Himself. If you’ve ever prayed that you would “know the Lord, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, desiring to be conformed to His death” as Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10, then meditating on the Scriptures is the means to get there. The Scriptures reveal God to us; the Word describes His character and His ways; the Bible retraces His steps and helps us trust Him as we walk toward heaven. The Word moves us past our imaginations or feelings into the realm of truth and fact.
That’s why the author of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 3:1-3, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house.” When we consider Jesus, according to this text, we think about His roles of Apostle and High Priest; His faithfulness and the degree that He carried that out, and we consider how worthy He is of glory, and more!
Two easy ways to meditate on the Scriptures
The most natural way to meditate upon the Scriptures comes through memorization. There’s nothing like reviewing a section of scripture over and over again to get you thinking about every aspect of it. The mental slowing down that takes place in memorization is crucial in meditation. Sometimes our poor brains are a bit lazy and not used to thinking, but if you persevere in this, asking the Lord for His help, you will make progress.
Another very easy way for me to meditate on the Scriptures comes when I pray through a specific passage or verse. As I look at portions of the verse and pray through it, my mind is engaged rather than wandering. Praying through the Scriptures is a tremendous way to lift your prayer time out of the mundane. Praying through the prayers of the Bible is a great place to start, but that doesn’t have to be the only place you go in the Bible to pray. Any passage, understood properly in its context, can be the kneeling bench for your prayer time. I particularly love to pray through passages where God’s character is on display. Those passages may lead me to praise and thanks or may prompt me to plead that He would minister to His children according to His character (i.e. His goodness, faithfulness, righteousness). When we pray like this we can say like the psalmist, “I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds (Psalm 77:12).”
“Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; as for me, I shall be glad in the LORD (Psalm 104:34).”