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The word meditate is can be one that makes Christians uncomfortable. We get this idea of someone sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, and saying “Oohmmm.” We tend to shy away from this idea of “meditating” because we connect it with eastern religions, and don’t think it’s something Christians should be doing.
However, when we remove that image and settle in to what it means to meditate on something, it can actually be a useful tool in connecting with God and growing our faith.
To meditate, by definition means to think long or dwell on.
It’s a word that is used often in the Psalms. In fact, the book of Psalms opens talking about meditation:
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.
Meditating on God’s law, his word, is the mark of one who delights in God, who is devoted to knowing him.
In the opening chapter of the book of Joshua, this idea of meditating is given as a command. The Lord is addressing Joshua, preparing him to lead the people of Israel into the promised land and he has a few things he wants Joshua to remember:
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
The Book of the Law is referring to the Law God gave to Moses and Israel at Sinai, and is the central focus of the later half of the book of Exodus. It outlines God’s desire for how the people should live, worship, and resolve issues in their community.
The Law was their guide, and God was asking Joshua to remember, and not just remember, but to meditate on it day and night. To stew over it, think on it, dwell on those words the Lord had given them.
Why was God asking Joshua to meditate on the Law?
“So that you may be careful to do according to all that is written.”
On first or even second read this may sound like a command to perform. These words can sound like bondage rather than the freedom God meant them to give us.
I think that’s why so many of us struggle with reading the books of the Law in Scripture. They don’t feel applicable to us anymore because this is a different time, but they also feel a little oppressive even though we don’t have to keep to the letter of the law anymore. That’s a lot of stuff Israel had to keep straight and be obedient too, and it seems kind of unfair. There’s no way they could do everything perfectly.
But here’s what is often missed with the Law. God isn’t a rule-monger out to make our lives difficult. He is Father and Creator. He knows exactly what we need to live abundantly. Those words and commands in the Law were not meant for destruction or to catch people not measuring up. They were meant to constantly point Israel back to their need for God.
It’s when we rest in God’s word and draw near to him through it that we get to know him better.
God’s command to Joshua wasn’t mean to bind him up in fear, but to remind him that the things God was going to ask Joshua to do would require a close and consistent relationship between him and God. Joshua would need to remember what God had said as he moved forward. He would need to remember the truth of who God was and what he has commanded.
The same is true for us. We have an entire Bible full of God’s words and it’s important to know them, to meditate on them, because when we get to know God’s word, we get to know God’s heart.
How to meditate on God’s word
So how do we actually go about meditating on Scripture?
If meditating simply means thinking long or dwelling on something, this can be done in several different ways:
Journal God’s word. My favorite way to meditate on Scripture is to write about it. I find I am more focused and better able to think and talk with God about Scripture when there is a pen in my hand. When I come across something in my Bible reading I want to stew over, I’ll pull out a normal lined journal. Sometimes I’ll also use a Write the Word Journal* from Cultivate What Matters. This simple journal gives you a short passage to read and plenty of space for reflection and written meditation.
Draw God’s word. If you are more artistically minded, drawing, sketching, painting or creating a piece of art focused around a verse or passage is a great way to meditate on Scripture. This is also a good use of a journaling Bible. I will pull out my interleaved journaling Bible* when I come across an especially meaningful verse, then decorate a page with that verse in mind. You don’t have to get really fancy with this. It can be as simple as a pen and paper, but the act of creating a piece of art will help you think longer as you go about making it.
Listen to God’s word. Meditating on God’s word doesn’t just have to be visual. Listening to a particular passage can help you think long and deep too. Listening on the YouVersion or another Bible app, or a listening to an audio bible* may help draw attention to something you might not catch reading it. Another way to do this is to simply be your own audio Bible. When you come across a verse or passage you want to meditate on (or God asks you to pay close attention to) reading it out loud multiple times will help you gain a deeper understanding and could help you memorize it too.
Talk about God’s word. I find it super helpful to understand Scripture on a deeper level when I talk it out with someone. I like to share what God is teaching me and enter into conversation about that. It’s in that conversation that I find other connections are made between that particular verse or passage and another one somewhere else in Scripture, or I find a deeper understanding of how those verses connect to my life. When you’ve been stewing over something on your own, it can be nice to invite someone else into your thought processes and hear their thoughts too.
Rest in God’s word. Resting in God’s word simply means being aware of it. After journaling, this is the second most common way I tend to meditate on Scripture. It’s like my brain will highlight the passage and set it in the back of my mind. Throughout the rest of the day or week or sometimes longer, I’ll keep circling back around to that verse, mentally turning it over for a few minutes then leaving alone to come back to a little later. Mentally filing a verse in your brain and intentionally thinking about it throughout the day is a no-frills way of meditating and a great way to keep conversation open with God.
Ask God about his words. One main thing that is super important in meditating on Scripture is entering into conversation about it with God. This is his story, after all. He knows what it means and how it applies to our lives. He’s the one who caused that particular passage to stand out and drew our attention to it. While we can stew over a verse and try to discern it’s meaning on our own, it is important to ask God what it means, to inquire of Holy Spirit and ask him for wisdom and understanding.
Put it all into practice
If you’ve never practiced meditating on God’s word, I’ve created a meditation guide to get you started. Fourteen days and fourteen verses about love. Simply download the image below, keep it handy, and each day take some time to read the passage and meditate on it. Give yourself five minutes. Try out the different ways of meditation. Maybe you journal about the verse one day, and the other you pull out some craft supplies and make a visual version of what you read. Maybe you lay out on the floor and listen to the passage read aloud a few times, or sit down and have a conversation about it with a friend or family member.
The idea here is simply to dwell on God’s word this month, to dwell on his love.
Community question: What are some ways you like to dwell on Scripture? Do you have any questions about the practice of meditating on God’s word?
Live in his love!