(A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.)
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.
Picture the parched, desolate Wilderness of Judea and David fleeing there either from King Saul or his son, Absalom. Yet, in such a forlorn place David says that his “soul is satisfied as with a rich feast.” How is that possible? What is David’s secret? What sustains him again and again at the extremities of life? It is meditation on God, His wonders and His ways. Thus, meditation is a constant throughout the Psalms:
Psalm 119:15 “I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways.”
Psalm 119:23 “Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.”
Psalm 119:148 “My eyes are awake before each watch of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.”
Psalm 143:5 “I remember the days of old, I think about all your deeds, I meditate on the works of your hands.”
In distinction from Eastern meditation that aims at emptying the mind, Biblical meditation aims at filling the mind: filling the mind with God, His character, His promises and His ways. A woman once told me that she did not know how to meditate. I asked her if she knew how to worry, and she assured me that she did. “If you know how to worry, then you know how to meditate,” I said. “You know how to go over and over something in your mind. That is meditation.
Biblical meditation is the delight of thinking about God, reflecting on Him, and talking with Him. Meditation is sometimes compared to a cow chewing its cud through the day, or a dog working on a bone.
As Joshua undertook the momentous task of leading Israel into the Promised Land, the Lord commanded:
“This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful” (Joshua 1:8-9).
Much like David in the Bible, the modern martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer delighted in meditation. From 1935 to 1937 Bonhoeffer headed up an illegal, underground seminary in Finkenwald, Germany. Bonhoeffer required all of his students to meditate on a short passage of Scripture for a week. He provided them some helpful guidance on meditation that you might find helpful as well:
“Whereas in our devotions together we read long consecutive passages, in our personal meditation we confine ourselves to a brief selected text”
“It is not necessary that we should get through the entire passage in one meditation. Often we shall have to stop with one sentence or even one word, because we have been gripped and arrested and cannot evade it any longer.”
“In our meditation we ponder the chosen text on the strength of the promise that it has something utterly personal to say for us for this day and for our Christian life, that it is not only God’s word for the Church, but it is God’s word for us individually. We expose ourselves to this specific word until it addresses us personally.”
You might not be hiding out in the Wilderness of Judea, or fleeing the Gestapo, but you too can experience the delights of meditating on God, His Ways, and His wonders. Why not choose a short Bible verse, or even a phrase, and take it with you into your day and meditate on it as you stand in the line at the bank, cruise down the highway, or lie awake in your bed? You like David might find your soul refreshed as with a rich feast!
Grace and peace,