Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Meditation on Meditation

"that I may meditate on Your word"
Psalm 119:148

A funny thing happened on the way to the blog.... Today I was prepared to write about meditating on Scripture.   I was talking with a friend of mine recently about the different ways we each meditate on a verse ~ sort of focusing on an idea or a phrase or a word in Scripture, in order to get everything out of it.

But as I researched this concept, I realized there was more to it than I thought.  Perhaps I meditated a little too much?  So I decided to do a part one and a part two.  So today is "What it means to meditate" and tomorrow will be "Different ways to meditate".

Ready?  Begin.

Scripture instructs us to meditate, but interestingly, the word itself has many different meanings.  And that's really what took me in so many directions.  I'm a sucker for words and their meanings, so I dug deep!

I found six different words for meditate in Scripture, each with their own revelation.  I found these in the New King James version, and they all said "meditate" in English, but when I looked at the original language, they had different meanings. *

{ * I haven't studied Hebrew or Greek, 
so these definitions are my best understanding
 of the meaning of the words, 
and how they are used in these particular verses. }


The first is the Hebrew word "hagah".   This word means to utter or mutter.  (I know we often think "mutter" has to be grumbling, but it doesn't.)  This translation points out an important aspect of meditating on Scripture, or on God, that we might not immediately think of ~ doing it out loud.  How much would He be on your mind all day, if you muttered Scripture to yourself as you drove to work or did household tasks!  You might get a few sideways glances, but you wouldn't even notice!

This word is used in a few places, like Joshua 1:8, when Joshua was told to "meditate in the Book of the Law day and night, that you may observe to do all that is written in it."  Joshua was a largely obedient fellow, so I have no trouble believing that he did, indeed, spend his days muttering and uttering what he knew to be the truth of God's law. 

This word is also used in Psalm 1:2, in the wonderful passage that describes the man (or woman) who will be blessed by being focused on the Word of God.  We are to "walk not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand with sinners, but delight in the law of the Lord, and meditate in it day and night."  So Joshua was about history; this passage is an instruction ~ and a promise ~ for us


The next version of the word "meditate" is the Hebrew word "amar".  This word means "to say in one's heart".  So again, the idea of recitation, or repetition, but not necessarily out loud.  This is a great one, because this one comes in a warning.  It's Psalm 4:4 ~ "Be angry, and do not sin.  Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still."

To me, one of the greatest sentences in Scripture is "be angry and do not sin".  We are given permission to be angry!  I just love that acknowledgement that it's an honest emotion, that we are not necessarily responsible for.  Nursing our anger, yes, that's all us.  But feeling anger is okay.  Sin is not.  So before you take all that anger and go out and do something sinful, lie and your bed, and meditate on His Word.  Recite it and mumble it in your heart and let Him guide your actions.  Meditating in this way sounds so calming and peaceful.  And who doesn't need that when they're angry?


Our next contestant is the word "siyach".  This one is pretty close to my understanding of the word "meditate" (at least before I delved so deeply into this word!)  The definition of this word said "to muse, ponder or sing".  Don't you love that?  Maybe I've been doing more meditating than I ever thought, just by singing worship songs!  Love it!

We see this word several times in Psalm 119, in the context of His precepts, His statutes, His wonderful works, and His word.  And we see it in Psalm 145:5 ~ "I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works".  What better thing to muse on, than His wondrous works.  What better thing to sing about, than His glorious splendor!


The next word for "meditate" is in the book of Malachi.  The Hebrew word is "chashab" and it means "to think, plan, or imagine".  Malachi uses it this way, in 3:16 ~ "Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them;  So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name."

The thing I love most about this translation is that it is about meditating on His name, and that it comes after "fear the Lord".  Fearing Him is sometimes misunderstood.  We think it means to be frightened, but really it's just an awareness of who He is; having due respect for Him.  Someone once said:  Fear of the Lord means to look up in awe, and look out for judgement.   So the use of "meditate" in this verse reminds me to respect His name, appreciate and visualize all that it means.


Next is Philippians 4:8, one of my favorite verses.  The original is the Greek word "logizomai" and it means to reckon or count on.  And there's this usage note:  "This word deals with reality.  If I reckon that my bank book has $25 in it, it has $25 in it.  Otherwise I am deceiving myself.  This word refers more to fact than supposition or opinion."  For me, it totally changes the meaning of Philippians 4:8 ~ "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things."

Now, the reason I love this verse, is that it follows verses 6-7.  (Imagine that!)  I have shared before how much I love the promise we receive when we understand these verses together.  But learning the deeper meaning of "meditation" in this verse gives it a new angle.  It means we can count on these things - that which is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy.  We can rely on these things, to give us the peace promised in Philippians 4:6-7. 


And the last way way to understand "meditate" is the Greek word "meletao".  This word means to care for, attend to carefully, or ponder, and we see it in 1 Timothy 4:15 ~ Paul said to Timothy (and to us) "... be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity... give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine... Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them..."

Those things that Paul listed:  love, spirit, purity, etc.  These are things we are to attend to carefully in our lives, nurture them, grow them in Him. 


So there you go ~ the first part of our meditation on meditating.  I'm excited to have a better idea of all that it means, and I'm reveling in all the ways to abide in Him!

~ "Your words were found, and I ate them,
and Your Word was to me the joy 
and rejoicing of my heart" ~
Jeremiah 15:16

Answers to yesterday's quiz:
1.  Priscilla (Acts 18:2)
2.  Adonibezek (Judges 1:7)
3.  Raven (Genesis 8:7)
4.  Wrath (Proverbs 15:1)
5.  Boaz (Ruth 4:9-13)
6.  His two daughters (Genesis 19:15)
7.  Four (Corinthians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Peter)
8.  David (see the Book of Psalms)
9.  Unknown (Matthew 2:1)
10. God (Exodus 6:3)

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