Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
The Biblical Definition of Meditation
Three launchpads for meditation. The first focuses on what is meant by meditation. The idea of meditation today is in vogue as people through the thrill of the breath try to intertwine mind and body, to empty themselves of negative thoughts, and to achieve greater mindfulness. But the idea of meditation developed in Scripture is very different. It is not the emptying of one’s mind, but rather the filling of it. And the filling of the mind not just with anything, not just with one’s own thoughts, but with Scripture itself.
This biblical definition of meditation comes from understanding the Hebrew word translated as meditate. It’s the word hagah, and it can mean to moan, growl, utter, mutter, or murmur. Conjuring up the idea of a primal, low guttural sound, indeed, it is used most often to describe what animals do. A dove. A lion. A bear. For example, in Isaiah 31:4 the word hagah is used to describe what a lion does over its prey. As the lion chews its prey, there is a smacking of lips. The lion is not rushed, it is savoring its prey, enjoying its feast.
So to do to Scripture what the lion does to its prey is to slowly read and chew on Scripture. And as you ponder over it, perhaps quietly out loud, what you are internally processing through may find outward expressions. Vocalized pauses of reflection and savoring: hmm, ahh, mmm. So just as the lion feeds its face with food, this blog and podcast is an invitation to feed your soul with Scripture. Its an invitation to join me as we slowly read Scripture, meditating on it, and ultimately savoring it.
Why Meditating on Scripture is Important
The second launchpad for meditation is about the context of this verse. Moses has just died, and Joshua is the new leader of Israel. It’s a transition period, and it’s focused on Joshua, Israel’s new leader. And indeed, meditating on Scripture can be beneficial for leaders and for transition periods in life as the words and ideas of Scripture help one to process through life when situations arise. The stories of Scripture ultimately shaping our stories and our lives. And this is very helpful for leaders, and it is very helpful during times of transitions. Yes, it can lead to success in life.
But meditating on Scripture is not just for leaders, and it is not just for transition periods in life. It is for all of God’s people during all phases of life. Consider a parallel passage in Psalm chapter 1. The start of the psalms, describing the ideal Bible reader. It’s someone who is blessed because they are delighting in the law of the LORD, and they are meditating on it day and night. And the psalms of course are not address to a particular leader like Joshua, and the psalms are not just about a transition period, it is to all of God’s people in all phases of life.
Meditate Day and Night
This brings us to the third launchpad for meditation- day and night. Meditation on Scripture is not once and done, it is day and night over an entire lifetime. Because indeed the Bible is meditation literature. It is very different than other books that you read once, maybe twice. The Bible is meant to be read and processed slowly, to be meditated on over the course of an entire lifetime. It’s inexhaustible- the connections are infinite. Zooming in and out on Scripture, we can think about the grand themes traced throughout the Bible, like the gospel of the kingdom, heaven and earth, and God’s holiness. And at the other end of the spectrum, we can zoom in on a single word, such as the Hebrew word hagah. And everything in between, meditating on the Bible by chapter, verse, or literary genre.
But the meditation is not just about a single layer because these layers are all connected. For example, reflections on a single word, may point us to key ideas in a particular chapter, which may connect to the main themes of a literary genre. It’s inexhaustible. So my hope is that through this blog and podcast, we could, along with the apostle Paul in Romans 11:33, say “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”. It’s that God is infinite and He has revealed His wisdom and knowledge through Scripture, so that we could meditate on it, so that we could savor it together.