The lost art of Meditation

The book of Psalms is a collection of intimate conversations of highs and lows between the authors (mainly David) and God. David commences the compilation with an introduction of a particular style and approach to God’s word – meditation – and its resultant benefits. It is as if the psalmist wishes, right at the start, to imprint upon us his readers the importance and benefits of this, somewhat lost art. He wishes to let us know that it is not good enough to merely read or study God’s word in depth – though these have their legitimate place too. Rather, we will need to also regularly meditate, i.e. dwell on and hover over it at length allowing it to linger in, seep down and wash all over us if we are to benefit from it as designed and intended by God.

Psalms 1:1-3
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

A clear truth is established for us here – whilst uncovering the aetiology of blessedness – that it is not enough to merely stay away from the counsel of the ungodly, the path of sinners or the congregation of scoffers. It is imperative that this deliberate and calculated act of avoiding the undesired be coupled with an affection for and cleaving to the counsel of God (His revealed word) on a deeper, and, significantly more rewarding level if it is to bear the aforementioned fruit.

It is undoubtedly very important to decidedly avoid the path taken by the ungodly, the wicked or the scornful crowd. However, it is equally important to make a deliberate choice for the law of the Lord over and above any other law, any other counsel, any other way or any other reference. It is a selective choice one makes to take delight in, honour and uphold God’s word above and before everything else hence the reason for devoting endless time to it – day and night – as a result of how much value one attaches to it and the amount of personal delight one takes in it. And the returns on this investment of quality, unrushed time in and concentrated focus on the word of God is crystal clear – “he is like a tree planted by streams of water”, i.e. never lacking in freshness and vitality and going on to unfailingly produce fruit at the appointed time and reap success in all ventures undertaken, in every area of life.

We very often we take in and allow the word to affect us on a superficial level only, not a deeper one that is attained through the art of conscious and sustained meditation on it. We seem to glib over and not give it the required time and depth to work in us through the act of consciously and deliberately meditating on it. It is like a slow cooking casserole dish which will only produce the desired flavour if its not rushed but allowed to run its appointed course. In the same way, we very often do not let God’s word run its appointed course in our lives but in the rush of life cut it short by not lingering on and allowing it to it have its way in us. This is what the psalmist is, in a nutshell, not only reminding us of but at the same time warning us against the danger of being superficial and cavalier about the word of God. If we are to reap the intended, ultimate benefits of engagement with the word of God, we need to revive and regularly practise the lost art of meditation of it. Only when we allow the word to work in us by means of regular meditation will we even begin to experience true blessedness and perpetual success in all that we undertake as promised in Psalm 1 verses 1 to 3.

Meditation demands time and concentration – rare and costly commodities in a fast paced and highly (but sadly, superficially) interconnected world where both our attention and time are constantly clamoured for by a variety of numerous sources. But meditate on the Lord’s word we must if we are to reap its highest rewards and greatest personal benefits during this life.

Meditation is the act of ingesting and slowly and repeatedly (over and over again) digesting the word of God very much like ruminant herbivores with multichambered stomachs. The way these mammals digest their food requires that they regurgitate and chew again what they have already swallowed. Only then is the plant-based food adequately digested and they are able to derive all the nutrients therein. Hence the name “Ruminant” from the Latin ruminare which means “to chew again”.

Similarly, only “chewing on” God’s word over and over again, ruminating/meditating on it yields the supreme rewards of sheer blessedness (inner bliss) and comprehensive success. Meditating on God’s word is giving it the space, time and unrestricted access to every nook and cranny of our being by allowing it to sink deep and take root within us affecting (and altering for the better) our thoughts and perceptions, understandings and attitudes, which it is more than able to do. But only when allowed. When adequately dwelt and deliberated upon on a deeper level, when given the time and space to do so. Here is how potent God’s word truly is given the right environment and set of circumstances:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

It is the meditating on God’s word (as per God’s instruction to Joshua in Joshua 1:8) and the carrying out of all that is contained within it that gives rise to the unleashing of its power and efficacy leading to the promised benefits in the lives of those who honour it. Joshua 1:8 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.

Only thus dwelling on God’s written law – in depth, over and over again, and keeping closely to it – is prosperity and success guaranteed by God.

Meditation is the deepest and most rewarding form of engagement with God through His word.

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