By Caleb Bobrycki
Meditation and the Word of God
Ever felt the warmth of the sun’s rays poke through the trees and land of your face in the morning? That's how it is with what the church has often referred to as the means of grace. Divine light shines through God’s appointed means into the soul, and the soul feels warmth. The means (some call them “disciplines”) of grace do not redeem sinners, but communicate the benefits of redemption to those who trust in Christ. In other words, these means are not meritorious. The Word of God, prayer, and the sacraments are like channels through which the soul, by faith, is reminded of the redemption that is in Christ, and is empowered to please God. In this second part in a series of articles, I hope to show how the practice of meditation and the Word are meant to go together.
Why We Should Meditate on the Word of God
The question then stands, concerning these few means of grace: where does meditation fall in their midst? Joel Beeke and Mark Jones hint that, for the Puritans at least, this practice usually centered around Scriptures (Jones and Beeke, 897). In his second section on Bible intake, Whitney writes his longest and, in my opinion, most helpful aspect of the subject. He takes it a step further and links the Word of God and prayer by the practice of meditation (Whitney, 46-47). He suggests that meditation is best understood as a way to soak in God’s Word, and not a separate discipline. The real means of grace to the soul from God is Bible intake; a proven way to take in the Scriptures effectively is through meditating upon them.
Whitney goes on to describe the practice of meditating on the Scriptures:
“A simple analogy would be a cup of tea. In this analogy your mind is the cup of hot water and the tea bag represents your intake of Scripture. Hearing God’s Word is like one dip of the tea bag into the cup. Some of the tea’s flavor is absorbed by the water, but not as much as would occur with a more thorough soaking of the bag. Reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word are like additional plunges of the tea bag into the cup… Mediation, however, is like immersing the bag completely and letting it steep until all the rich tea flavor has been extracted and the hot water is thoroughly tinctured reddish brown. When we meditate on Scripture it colors our thinking about God, about God’s ways, about his world, and about ourselves” (Whitney, 47).
The Word is the tea bag, our brain is the water, and meditation is letting the truth brew. Many Christians, even those familiar with Whitney’s book, suffer from not approaching the means of grace in the Word of God this way. We read the Bible, close it, murmur some prayers, and go on about our day. Meditation makes us stop and “soak” in the truth. This also applies to sermons, which is the Word of God explained and proclaimed to God’s people. Puritan James Ussher said, “Every sermon is but a preparation for meditation” (Ussher, 49). Ways of meditating would be murmuring the passage out loud after reading, rewriting the passage in your own words, memorizing the passage, or even praying through the passage. These methods and more will explained in a future article, but suffice it to say that when divine revelation is given, those in Christ should meditate on the Scriptures long for real prayer, praise, and life change.
The glory of God in Christ is a wonder to behold in the Word of God. So few Christians, however, miss the radiance of this glory because they treat the Bible as merely a scholastic discipline rather than a channel through which divine life may channel into the soul. Next, we will consider multiple methods for meditation, and connect them to prayer.
May we reform this area of our lives and interact with the living Word of God.
Beeke, Joel R., and Mark Jones. A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life. Grand Rapids, MI, Reformation Heritage Books, 2012.
Ussher, James. A Method for Meditation: Or, a Manuall of Divine Duties Fit for Every Christians Practice. London, 1657.