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The Importance of Meditation
Meditation is often neglected by Christians. We pray, we praise. We speak to God and we may sometimes even listen for his words. We read the Bible and we talk with others about its meaning. But how often do we simply meditate on God, his goodness, and his word? How often do we spend a quiet time alone in Godís presence with no purpose in mind - simply to ponder and reflect? Perhaps the reason Christians have neglected meditation is because of the recent secularization of meditation among New Agers and other versions of eastern meditation. Meditation is an important biblical concept preceding by centuries the eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. It is specifically mentioned in Genesis 24:13 concerning Isaac who lived about 1900 years before Christ. Psalm 77 gives us good instruction on how to meditate on God. We will examine these verses and see how we can apply them to our own life.
Meditation is often neglected by Christians. We pray, we praise. We speak to God and we may sometimes even listen for his words. We read the Bible and we talk with others about its meaning. But how often do we simply meditate on God, his goodness, and his word? How often do we spend a quiet time alone in Godís presence with no purpose in mind - simply to ponder and reflect?
Perhaps the reason Christians have neglected meditation is because of the recent secularization of meditation among New Agers and other versions of eastern meditation. Meditation is an important biblical concept preceding by centuries the eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. It is specifically mentioned in Genesis 24:13 concerning Isaac who lived about 1900 years before Christ.
Psalm 77 gives us good instruction on how to meditate on God. We will examine these verses and see how we can apply them to our own life.
I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.
Have you ever felt like the psalmist? You cry to God but your soul can not be comforted.
Barnes describes the way the psalmist felt and also the way many of us sometimes feel, "There was nothing that my own mind could suggest, there was nothing that occurred to me, that would relieve the difficulty or restore peace to my soul. These sad and gloomy thoughts filled all my soul, and left no room for thoughts of consolation and peace."
Whenever you feel that way, it is a good time to try meditating on God. As we shall see from the next verse, that is what the psalmist chose to do even though he probably didnít feel like doing it. The writer of this psalm was Asaph who was one of three chief musicians in the temple worship during Davidís reign. Even important religious leaders sometimes feel overwhelmed. So donít be surprised when you do too.
I think of God, and I moan; I meditate, and my spirit faints. Selah
Asaph calls on himself to meditate. We know what prayer is and we know what worship is, but what really is meditation? The Hebrew word used here for meditation is<xay#&i> siyach.
According to Cohen, "The basic meaning of this verb seems to be Ďrehearse,í Ďrepent,í or Ďgo over a matter in oneís mind.í This meditation or contemplation may be done either inwardly or outwardly."
Martin Luthertranslates this verse, "When I am troubled, then I think on God." This is probably as good a definition of meditation as any.
Meditation in the Bible usually indicated a person considering something about God and quietly focusing his mind on that truth. Often, scriptures in the Bible were the focus of meditation, but anything about God - his mercy, his love, his majesty, his power, his kindness - were all causes for meditation. Christian meditation is when we quietly reflect on the things of God. It is different from prayer in that we are not communing with God but we are reflecting on his word or his attributes. It is not like eastern meditation, since we are always cognizant of our thoughts and we never enter into a trance-like state. The focus of Christian meditation is always on God, something about God, or on Godís care for us.
This verse ends with the musical notation Selah. Selah was probably used to indicate a musical interlude so that the worshippers could consider what was just sung. So as the singer speaks of meditating, the congregation is called upon to meditate about it. Perhaps we should do the same!
Thou dost hold my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
Asaph is so troubled, he does not even know what to pray. Have you ever felt that way? Have you felt overwhelmed by sorrow or troubles or dark feelings?
When my oldest son was in Kindergarten, he only went to school half a day. So I would take off from work to pick him up in the afternoon. One day, I got busy and lost track of the time. When I realized that he was still waiting for me, I raced over to the school as fast as I could go, wondering what he might have done. When I drove up in my car, it broke my heart to see him sitting on the curb faithfully at the spot at which he always waited. He was crying his eyes out. He didnít know what to do, and he was unsure if he should walk home by himself. After that time, I can tell you I was never late for him again.
Sometimes we feel the same as my son felt - overwhelmed with sorrow. We donít know what to do and all we want to do is cry. This is the way Asaph felt, but he had committed to meditate on God, so he was determined to keep that pledge to himself.
I consider the days of old, I remember the years long ago.
Asaph meditates on those times in the past when God has been with him. As we think of all the times God has blessed us and delivered us in the past, it is amazing how this ministers to our soul. Suddenly the pain and sorrow in our heart is replaced by faith. This is not a conscious thing where we make up our mind to have faith and not feel despair. It just happens as we consider God and all that heís done for us.
I commune with my heart in the night; I meditate and search my spirit.
Meditation involves our heart and our spirit. Actually,<ytinfygin; hrfk;@z;)e> ezkírah nígiynatiy really means "I remember my song" in the night. As Asaph meditated and searched his spirit, the song returned to his heart. When we spend time alone, pondering God can soothe our pain, calm our fears, and heal our spirit.
Unger explains, "Meditation is a duty that ought to be attended to by all who wish well to their spiritual interests. It should be deliberate, close, and continuous. The subjects that ought more especially to engage the Christian mind are: the works of creation; the perfections of God; the character, office, and work of Christ; the office and operations of the Holy Spirit; the dispensations of Providence; the precepts and promises of God's words; the value, powers, and immortality of the soul; the depravity of our nature, and the grace of God in our salvation."
"Will the Lord spurn for ever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love for ever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?" Selah
As Asaph meditates on Godís past blessings, he realizes that Godís blessings will not cease. He asks himself some rhetorical questions. He realizes that Godís love can never stop and that his promises never end. God hasnít suddenly changed and forgotten to be gracious or decided never again to look down with favor. As he meditates upon God, he realizes that his feelings of despair are unwarranted. God wonít leave him, no matter how alone or abandoned he might feel for the moment.
Again, the choir master has added the word Selah at the end of verse 9. Each Selah is exactly 6 verses apart. It appears in verses 3, 9, and 15. He wants us to consider the meaning of this psalm. Let us ponder what Asaph has written. Let us also view God from our intellect and from the perspective of faith, instead of viewing him from our despair and our feelings.
Here is a poem about Meditation which explains the dilemma that all of us face from time to time.
And I say, "It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed." I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; yea, I will remember thy wonders of old.
The psalmist understands that what has changed is his attitude. So he will force himself to remember all of Godís past blessings. Meditation is called a spiritual discipline. There are times when we must discipline ourselves to meditate upon God. Asaph admits it is his own grief that has produced the despair in his heart. He has been practicing wrong thinking patterns. So he calls upon himself to meditate on the deeds of the Lord and Godís wonders of old. He understands that as he meditates on these things, those awful feelings will diminish. So he disciplines himself to meditate.
There are times when we must force ourselves to do things that we know are good for us. We can usually find time to read the Bible and to spend time in prayer each day. But do we make time to meditate on God? Let us be willing, as Asaph was, to discipline ourselves.
I will meditate on all thy work, and muse on thy mighty deeds.
The psalmist determines to meditate on Godís works - in all creation, in his own life, and in Godís word. As we ponder upon things, it is amazing how it affects our mind, our heart, and our spirit.
A Primer on Meditation shows how simply pondering something affects our thinking process. "M. A. Rosanoff, long associated with Thomas Edison, had worked futilely for over a year to soften the wax of phonograph cylinders by altering their chemical constitution. The results were negative. Rosanoff relates how he mused night after night trying to Ďmentally cough upí every theoretical and practical solution. ĎThen it came like a flash of lightning. I could not shut waxes out of my mind, even in my sleep. Suddenly, through headache and daze, I saw the solution. The first thing the next morning, I was at my desk; and half an hour later I had a record in the softened wax cylinder...This was the solution! I learned to think waxes...waxes...waxes, and the answer came without effort, although months of thought had gone into the mental mill.í "
So it is with spiritual meditation. As we ponder God, his attributes, his blessings, and his word, we canít help but feed our spirit. Transformation is taking place in us that we donít understand. So let us be willing to spend time alone in meditation.
Thy way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?
He meditates on Godís holiness. As we consider God and who he really is, it causes our faith and confidence to grow. God will not break a promise, God will not abandon his children, God will always be steadfast and true. It is because of who God is that we can trust in him. As we meditate on Godís holiness, we will find our spirit being fed and our worries and anxieties fading into the background.
Spurgeon wrote, "Thou precious Jesus! what can be a sweeter theme for my meditation than to think of thine exalted being, - to conceive of thee as the Son of God, who, with the golden compasses, struck out a circle from space, and fashioned this round world? To think of thee as the God who holds this mighty orb upon thy shoulders, and art, at the same time, the King of glory, before whom angels bow in lowliest homage...."
Thou art the God who workest wonders, who hast manifested thy might among the peoples. Thou didst with thy arm redeem thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
He meditates on Godís blessing upon Israel. We can meditate on Godís dealings with Israel and the early church by reading the Bible. As we meditate upon the Bible, we see Godís faithfulness, Godís mercy, Godís forgiveness. We realize how God has protected believers of the past - even some of questionable character. God loved them all and helped them all. In the same way God will help us.
Thinking about Godís word is an important part of our time of meditation. There are promises, there are instructions, and there are warnings. As we consider all that God teaches us through the Bible, we will grow in our faith. I like to begin my time of meditation by reading a portion of scripture. Then as I reflect upon what Iíve read, the Holy Spirit is able to minister to me.
When the waters saw thee, O God, when the waters saw thee, they were afraid, yea, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; thy arrows flashed on every side. The crash of thy thunder was in the whirlwind; thy lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
He meditates on Godís power. Asaph considers how all the elements of nature are under Godís control - the oceans, the rain clouds, the thunder, the lightning. As we take the time to consider Godís creation, we will be made aware of Godís power. Everywhere we look, we see evidences of Godís control over this world.
In order for our food to be digested properly, we must spend time chewing it. Meditation is simply spiritual chewing. As we spend time pondering Godís power, we are being fed spiritually, even though we may not realize it.
Thy way was through the sea, thy path through the great waters; yet thy footprints were unseen. Thou didst lead thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Asaph meditates on Godís guidance. He acknowledges Godís unseen footprints in even his own life. As you look back over your own life, donít you see times when God was there for you? Looking back, canít you see the footprints of God guiding and directing you?
A Moment with Him
As you learn to spend time in meditation, you too will begin to see Godís guidance in your life. The more we learn to trust in God, the easier it becomes to believe his promises. This week, begin to spend time in meditation.
Meditate upon God - who he is, his attributes and his power. Ponder on the many blessings which God has bestowed on your life. Reflect on Christ - the redemption and forgiveness we have received. Think about scripture - all of Godís promises, all of the teachings, and all of the lessons God wants us to learn.
As you learn to spend time every week in meditation, you will discover that troubles donít seem quite as big, that despair no longer feels overwhelming, and anxiety fades into the background. Make time for meditation. It will be time well spent!
This study on Psalm 77 © 1999 by David Humpal, all rights reserved.
Barnesí Notes on the Old Testament, Psalms, vol. 2, pg. 284, Baker Book House
Cohen: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. II, pg. 875 © 1980, Moody Press
Luther: quoted in Barnesí Notes on the Old Testament, Psalms, vol. 2, pg. 284, Baker Book House
New Ungerís Bible Dictionary, electronic version © 1988, Moody Press
Meditation © 1999 by David Humpal.
Primer on Meditation from Our Daily Bread, July 14
Spurgeonís Encyclopedia of Sermons, The Pleasures of Piety, electronic version © 1997, Biblesoft
A Moment with Him from The Complete Speakerís Sourcebook pg. 160 © 1996, Zondervan Publishing House