30 Days in the Bible, Day 11: Psalm 1
What does it mean to meditate on the Word of God? The psalmist uses an intriguing word here for “meditate.” It is a word that is often used to describe the growling of a wild animal such as a lion. This is not the roar of a sudden attack, but the extended sound that might be made to warn off an enemy that is approaching.
The word took on another meaning later, and it is used in the Bible of both the godly and the unrighteous. The idea is the thoughts of the heart, or the plans that are mulled over either to engage in rebellion against God or to consider His truth. Perhaps the meaning came from envisioning people muttering to themselves, or, in the case of meditating on Scripture, people reading it aloud softly to themselves.
The word implies an extended consideration of its object. If we are going to meditate on God’s Word, we can’t just read through it quickly and move on without thinking about it. We also should be moving past what occurs to us immediately to ponder the full depth of what the Bible says in a given passage.
Some passages will require more meditation than others. There are places in Scripture where I don’t believe any human being will ever fully grasp completely. Other passages relate straightforward information that can be understood with a few moments thought. We need to give the Word the full attention and time that it requires to unfold its meaning to us.
You can overthink what the Word says sometimes. I love reading the writings of early Christian authors, but some of them tried so hard to find a “spiritual” meaning for everything that they took stories and made every detail fit into some preconceived idea they thought was needed to make the Bible suitable for a sophisticated Roman audience. In the process, they made the Bible say things it didn’t intend (at least not in that place).
We must be careful that we don’t do the same kind of thing today. When we meditate on the Bible, it can be tempting to make it apply to our own situation in such a way that it looks more like wish-fulfillment than faith in what the Lord says. That’s why meditation requires deep thought, and an understanding of the rest of the Word. As we go “day and night” into the Word, and gain a broader as well as a deeper understanding of what the Spirit says through it, we will be able to apply Scripture to life in a way consistent with God’s intentions.
Reading the Bible in large chunks to gain a grasp of the full revelation of God is a valuable practice, one I engage in myself. It must be balanced, however, with time spent truly thinking about what specific passages teach us. A genuine understanding of the message of the Bible doesn’t happen overnight. It requires time, and a lifetime of study and meditation will continue to find depths of knowledge and wisdom we haven’t seen before. God speaks through His Word; we need to take the time to listen.