Vol. 3, No. 8
In our fast-paced, gotta-be-there-in-a-hurry, should-have-been-done-yesterday world, few take time to think deeply about spiritual things. Life goes by in a blur and we just try to hold on without getting run over. It makes for shallow, superficial lives. The Bible commands us to meditate upon the Word (1 Timothy 4:15).
What is meditation? In Eastern mysticism, Yoga and Transcendental Meditation, meditation refers to a passive state of "emptying the mind." In the Bible, meditation is active. It involves concentration, alertness and energy. The Old Testament word muse is a synonym for "meditate." It literally means to "mutter" as when working on a problem (cf. Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:12-16). The word meditate is used only twice in the New Testament (here; Luke 21:14). The verb (meletao1) means, "to attend to" (A-S) or "imagine" (Strong). A more vivid definition is "to revolve in the mind" (like a display in a jewelry store). In 4:14, Paul says to Timothy, "Don't be careless about the gift2 you received." In 4:15 he says, "Be constantly careful about these things." The English word meditation literally means, "to be in the midst of something" (just the opposite of mystic withdrawal). The second clause of 4:15, "Give thyself wholly to them," literally reads, "Be in these things" (Acts 6:4; 1 Corinthians 16:15; 2 Corinthians 8:5; Titus 2:14), and could be paraphrased "be absorbed in them."
Upon what should Christians meditate? Our thoughts will be filled with something (cf. sports, boy/girlfriend, spouse, making money, grandchildren). What are my free-time (daydreaming) thoughts about during an average day? Do spiritual things find their way into my heart and speech constantly, occasionally or rarely (read Luke 6:45)?
Christians should meditate upon the … loving-kindness of God (Psalm 63:3, 6-7). "Under his wings" is a reference to the Temple's Most Holy Place that housed the Ark of the Covenant. Overshadowing the ark were two cherubim with outspread wings. This was the place of God's presence. Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place, and that only once a year. But David said that God's faithful child could enter the "Most Holy Place" of God's presence at any time and stay as long as he wanted. We live under the "shadow of his wings."
… labor of God (Psalm 77:11-12). We can look up at God's handiwork and see God's hand (Psalm 19:13). Our meditation comes from a thirst for God (Psalm 143:5-6). Christians should remember that they have been delivered from bondage (cf. Deuteronomy 5:15; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32).
… Law of God (Joshua 1:84; Psalm 1:2; 119:15, 23, 4, 78, 97-99). This is both constructive and preventive.
… lovely things of life (Philippians 4:8). The word think (logizomia) means, "to make a reckoning as on a ledger" or to "by all means consider." We grow like our thoughts; we cannot entertain impure thoughts without being corrupt, and we cannot think good thoughts without being better. Meditation precedes; works follow. Honest (semnos) means "reverend, venerable, grave or serious." Lovely (prosphiles, only here in the New Testament) means "pleasing" or "agreeable." Of good report (euphemos, also only here in New Testament) literally means, "to say well." Virtue (arete) is found nowhere else in Paul's letters and in only two other New Testament references (1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 1:3).
What affect will meditating have upon our spiritual lives? It will … set our souls on fire (Psalm 39:3; Jeremiah 20:9; Luke 24:32). Meditation upon a wrong done will set a soul on fire with revenge (Romans 12:19-20). Meditation upon the possessions and talents of others may set a soul on fire with jealousy (Proverbs 27:4). Meditate on filth and the soul will burn with lust (1 Peter 2:11). Meditate upon the truth, and the fires of love and zeal will be kindled (Titus 2:14). The fires that build us up or destroy us are lit in the soul, fanned by meditation. The flame matches the musing involved. Hearts on fire are made bold. Paul's heart was "stirred within him" when he meditated upon the idolatry of Athens (Acts 17:16). Stirred5 means "provoked," "aroused" or "greatly distressed." In the next chapter, Paul is pressed (synecho) (18:5) in the spirit which means "held together." The whole phrase could be translated "constrained by the Word" (cf. Acts 4:20; 1 Corinthians 9:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:13-15).
… make us glad (Psalm 104:33-34).
… strengthen our souls (Acts 20:32). A bee's simply touching a flower doesn't put honey on our tables; it must go deeply inside to draw out sweet nectar. Likewise, it is not necessarily the one who reads the Bible the most, but the one who prays and meditates upon divine truths the most that will be the strongest Christian. Meditation makes Christianity real; it takes it out of the realm of the theory into the realm of practicality. The subconscious mind is a fire-less cooker where ideas simmer while we "loaf." Newton was loafing when he saw an apple fall and "discovered" gravity. While finding peace for his soul, Galileo watched a lamp swing and got the idea of the pendulum swinging as a means of measuring time's passage. While relaxing in the kitchen, Watt saw steam lift a teakettle lid and conceived the steam engine. We, too, may get more out of two hours of meditation than fourteen sermons. (We still need the sermons!)
… make our "profiting appear to all" (4:15; cf. 4:6; Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15-16). Profit (prokope6) means "a cutting forward; an advance." It could be translated "progress." When we spend time meditating upon the Word, others will notice our "advancing."
"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, by strength, and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).
1 From Melete, "care"; the stem of the verb is melo, "to care for." In 4:14 "neglect" is the verb amelo. Thus here is a play on words in the Greek which is lost in English.
2 Perhaps the "gift" (Greek, charisma) of prophecy, or prophetic preaching.
3 Declare (caphar) means "to score with a mark as a tally or record, by implication to inscribe"; showeth (nagad) means "to front, i.e. stand boldly out opposite; to announce."
4 Depart (muwsh) means to "recede."
5 Paraxyno, only here and 1 Corinthians 13:5.
6 Aside from this passage it occurs only in Philippians 1:12, 25, where it is rendered "furtherance."