Meditation (the Biblical Sort): What is it?

Meditation is all the rage these days. Mindfulness classes and apps are bringing pop-Buddhism to the masses. But it’s not only unwitting Buddhists who meditate. Christians meditate too (just not in the same way!). The blessed life of the righteous is, Psalm 1 tells us, a life of delighting in the Word of the LORD and meditating upon it day and night (Ps 1:2).

As the Psalm tells us, meditation and delight go together! Meditation isn’t some burdensome duty imposed on the few, but rather a response of love and delight in the LORD and in His Word, which He gives as a gracious gift to all His people. As the early Christians recognised, ‘meditation is a labour of joy’ (Barnabas 10:11).

The longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, is an extended meditation on the Word of the Lord. In the second section of the Psalm, ‘beth’ (Ps 119:9-16), the Psalmist reflects on the joy and benefit of meditation. As we hide God’s Word in our hearts, His Word keeps us from sin (Ps 119:11). And as we rejoice in God’s Word, that leads us to meditate upon it and contemplate it, which in turn brings us to even greater delight in the Word (Ps 119:14-16). Meditation and delight go together.

But just what is meditation? Mary helps us understand. When the shepherds came to visit Jesus as a baby in the manger, we’re told that ‘Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart’ (Lk 2:19). But what did she keep in her heart and ponder? Well, what the shepherds had said (Lk 2:18). And what the shepherds said, was what they had heard (Lk 2:17), which was the good news of Christ, announced to them by the angels (Lk 2:10-14).

So, Mary heard the wonderful Word of God about Jesus. And this was a Word which brought her great delight, and so she hid it in her heart and pondered it. That’s biblical meditation!

Biblical meditation differs vastly from the ‘meditation’ that’s so popular in the world around us at the moment. For biblical meditation is not about emptying the mind, but filling the heart.

Biblical meditation means delighting in God’s Word in such a way that we hide it in our hearts and ponder it so that the Word will do its life-giving and transforming work in us.

(Next time we’ll think about why we’re to meditate.)

Update: Here are the links to the rest of the series following on from this post (so far!):-