We hear a lot about meditation these days. People try eagerly to sit in just the right position—toes curled up over their thighs, hands at rest with palms up, shoulders relaxed. They breathe deeply, pull in their abdomens, exhale in the proper rhythm. Some learn to slow down their heartbeat. Others help along the arrival of the meditative state by taking some sort of powdered chemical substance into the stomach. Yet others smoke, with what they feel is correct puffing, various plant substances, and with clouded eyes and minds wait for the great meditation to commence. Mystical, cloudy, and floating, separated from logical thought, from understanding, and from verbalized explanations, modern meditation drifts with no defining framework. A student in an American seminary writes a friend, “Don’t mention the word ‘prayer’ to me anymore. We don’t pray. We meditate. Often we find it is necessary to smoke pot to meditate properly.” A pastor in Sweden selects certain nights of the month to teach the bodily positions for Transcendental Meditation. A church in an eastern American city opens its doors for serious lectures on this subject.

What should “meditation” mean to us who have come into communication with the living God through the one way he has opened up into his presence? What does the Bible teach about meditation?

The meditation spoken of in Psalm 119:97—“O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day”—requires no special bodily position; it is taking place all the day.” Here is no empty mind, no slowed down pulse, but a mind filled with the content of God’s law. What is “thy law”? Not the Ten Commandments in stark outline but the full richness of Scripture’s explanation of the commands of God. Never do I come to the end of the possibility of meditating upon that. Sentence by sentence, phrase by phrase, idea by idea, the seeds of God’s law, God’s teaching, dropped into the tilled ground of my mind, burst and send forth shoots of green understanding that I can put into words of my own. All the day long, as I walk in fields or city streets, as I sit at a typewriter or make a bed with fresh sheets, as I converse with professors or with three-year-olds whose questions are endless, as I work in a lab or scrub a floor, all day long in office or factory, I can meditate upon the law, the Word of God, which my eyes have read or my ears have heard or my fingers have felt in Braille. This meditation has a base, a changeless base that is as meaningful as it was centuries ago, and as true.

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Then on to verse 99: “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.” How can I have more understanding as a child, as a primary school or high school pupil, or a university student? By meditating upon the testimonies of God! The Bible is the place where we can have enough content to give us understanding that is complete in being true. We do not “understand” with vague feelings that change with the weather. Meditating upon the content of God’s Word is not an airy fairy thing, nor a practice to be reserved for later, more brilliant or leisurely times of life. Listen to the admonition to Timothy (2 Tim. 3:14–16): “Continue in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.… From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures … All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable … for instruction in righteousness.” Yes, meditation with the content of the Bible in one’s mind is possible from childhood to old age, and can give understanding of what really is true in oneself and in the universe.

All the day, throughout the days of my life, I am to meditate, even in the wee hours when others are sleeping. “Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.” Here in Psalm 119:148 we are given the picture of this one being unable to sleep, and using that time to meditate in the Word of God. In a comfortable bed with the bedside light on, in the hospital ward with pain or fears making sleep impossible, in long times of waiting for news when sleep will not come, in prison where cold floor and hideous odors drive sleep away, I can and must meditate in the Word of God, which gives me what I need to know for comfort and direction. God is communicating to us as we think for periods of time upon what he has given in written form. It is in this way our help comes from him time after time.

In Psalm 63:6 and 7 David makes this more vivid to our understanding: “I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.” In our times of worry about violent death, rise and fall of governments, taxes larger than our incomes, we meditate rather than worry. Meditate upon God. We have his Word telling us who he is. We read of his creation and power, of all he has done in centuries gone by. We meditate upon him and the help he has been through the ages, and upon the help he has been to us individually, and the reality of being in the protective shadow of his wings becomes so real that before the time is over a real rejoicing comes.

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In Joshua 1:8 God speaks to Joshua and also to us as we read frightening news in the paper. Just before this God has said, “Be strong and of a good courage.” Joshua is faced with leadership in a very difficult moment. He is weak, with human limitations. What is the practical admonition and advice given before the direct guidance is unfolded? “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” Joshua and you and I are told as clearly as can be that we are to read and know the content of the Bible and then constantly meditate upon it, so that as we speak the truth will come out in words others will hear and understand. How can Joshua or any one of us do God’s will if we don’t know the base of his law, his teaching, his character, his history? We have been given sufficient information to prepare us to be ready to understand his will and then to do it. But what we do is to be based on that which has been written in human language, understandable to brains that can think and follow sentence after sentence during times of meditation.

Is there danger in trying out the wrong kind of meditation? Yes. Satan’s traps are sharp steel, and they tear the flesh of those who pull away. Both kinds of meditation cannot take place in one portion of time. One kind drives out the other! Which meditation will we have? How serious it is to waste minutes, hours, days, when God has clearly commanded us to do that which is a solution to our deepest needs. Meditate day and night that you can know, do, rejoice, and have success spiritually and in God’s plan for you.

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