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Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Oprah Winfrey disclosed in a sound bite on the news that she had recently come close to a nervous breakdown. She has such a full plate, and every day there was one crucial decision immediately following another. It's very understandable. But in this sound bite she said she used meditation as therapy, among other things.

 But my mind locked on the word "meditation". Now there are many kinds of meditation. Some involve emptying the mind of all thought. Others seek to alter consciousness. There is Transcendental Meditation of the Yogi to detach the mind from anxiety and find self realization.   And there is Buddhist meditation which attains nirvana bliss through mental gymnastics.

 So how does the Christian practice meditation?  Is this commonly known, or do too few of us spend quality time in meditation?

In Psalm 1, we celebrate the happy, or "blessed" man.  He shuns liaisons with scornful sinners.  And on the positive side we learn that he meditates on the law of God, day and night.  The law, or "Torah" of God is not a narrow concept.  He doesn't just think about the 10 commandments all day long.  In the Hebrew context (as Psalms certainly is found in this context), the idea of "Torah" is more like the instruction book of life.  It's a place where we learn about the pitfalls without having to personally fall into each one before we learn.  Law, then, should not be thought of as strict rules that inhibit freedom and stifle all spontaneity.  Instead Torah informs us how life works.

That's the character of the bible.  That is what we need to learn and over learn in order to find pleasant living here and now.  The bible teaches us how to be forgiven by God and how to enjoy the presence of Christ in our daily lives.

So my question is this: How do you go about meditating on this law of God?  What does Christian meditation actually look like?

The Hebrew word translated "meditate" means to mumble or move the lips.  Of course not everyone who moves his lips is meditating, but it gives us a clue.  When we are thinking about a verse or thought from the bible, if we are reciting it to ourselves, our lips may indeed move.  Like misunderstood Hannah, praying in the temple, our lips may often move when we are talking to God, even if little or no sound is coming forth.  The same is so when we are repeating scripture to ourselves.  This is one clue as to what meditation looks like.

When we are reciting the 23rd Psalm to ourselves, we may find blessing by emphasising each word of the first sentence separately.  "The" Lord is my shepherd.  He is not just a tribal deity or local superstition.  This is THE Lord who is with me.  The "Lord" is my shepherd.  He may send angels, He may use the church and Christian friends to help me, but these never supersede his personal presence.  It is the LORD who is my shepherd.  And as we so talk to ourselves, we find we are meditating on the word of God.

Something very interesting is found by comparing the first Psalm with the second.  In the Hebrew text we are told that the godly man meditates on the law of God.  In Psalm 2 we read "why do...the people imagine a vain thing".  The same verb root is found in both places.  It seems that while the content of the believer's meditation is contrasted with that of the unbeliever in a most dramatic way.  In fact much practice of meditation is supposed to be done with an empty mind.

The man who fills his mind with words from the bible, and then mulls over them, chewing them like cud, is the man who learns to think God's thoughts after Him.