Most of you reading this understand that it is vital to read the Bible regularly and drink in deeply of its great Truth. But there is more to it than that. To really profit from Bible reading, or even from diligent Bible study, we must deeply understand how to apply the Bible’s words to ourselves personally, in our own lives. We must make it part of us. We can only truly do this by harnessing the power of meditation.
We have been taught to examine ourselves before the Passover, to be sure that we are “in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). But what does it mean to examine ourselves? What does it mean to reflect with true depth on the teachings in God’s word? Many of us only think very superficially about these matters, and do not understand meditation’s great benefits. That is one reason why many of us lack depth and stability in our Christian lives.
Societal demands today restrict us from giving deep thought to God, His purpose, and what this means in our own lives. Television, for instance, is always there, waiting and tempting, with programming that can be absolutely damnable—murder, violence, implicit (and sometimes explicit) fornication, filth and rottenness of every possible description. Most people cannot or do not control it. It runs our minds and it ruins our minds. Of course, movies can do the same thing, as can video games and the Internet.
Even the telephone, a seemingly harmless apparatus, seems to ring every time we are about to do something important. It rings so much at our home that I remember praying one time with my family around the dinner table. I had been so distracted all day that as I bowed my head I said, “Hello.”
In spite of these modern distractions, we need greater concentration and spiritual depth in order to be like King David, whom God called a man after His own heart. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful,” David said. “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1–2).
David took time to meditate on the law of the Great God. He thought about it deeply, in great detail, over and over. Under the stars at night as a shepherd, on the royal balcony as a king, or out on the battlefield as a soldier—and at many other times—David thought on God’s law.
“O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens! Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger [showing how God uses those who, of themselves, might be weak]. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man…?” (Psalm 8:1–4).
I have sat quietly at the top of Mt. Whitney, which rises 14,496 feet from its base—the tallest mountain in the continental United States. From there I could see way out across the Sierras, clear to Death Valley. Up there, with no one else around, you feel kind of small. It is easier to realize, in that vast expanse of mountains and valleys and canyons and whistling winds, just how tiny we are.
“What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (vv. 4–6).
Eventually, the entire universe could be placed in our power. If our attitudes are right—if we are meditating on God’s law, asking Him sincerely from our heart to fashion us and mold us and work with us and make us like He is—we will have that power. God wants it that way.
Why is it so important to meditate on God’s laws? David again gives us the answer: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:7–9).
David knew that God’s judgments were more desirable than fine gold. We need to fix our minds on those laws in order to really become zealous in serving and obeying the Great God. To understand those laws as David did, and as Jesus did, we need to learn the art of real meditation.
Godly vs. Ungodly Meditation
This world under the influence of Satan has many childish concepts about meditation. “Transcendental Meditation” and other Eastern-type meditation techniques, simply letting the mind go blank or conjuring up a certain feeling or mood where Satan or a demon can grab the mind, are not godly meditation at all. That kind of meditation is dangerous.
The right kind of meditation is described in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
Can we appreciate what this means? Think on these things! Turn them over and over in your mind. Examine their various facets. Paul continued: “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (v. 9).
Some people like a definition, so here it is: Meditation is the private devotion to deep, continuous, purposeful reflection of the mind on a single theme. In other words, when we meditate, our minds become focused on one theme or problem, examining and analyzing its causes and effects. Why was this good? Why was that part of it bad? How can it be better next time?
Through Moses, God spoke about meditation to ancient Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:4–7). Yes, we should continually talk about the words of God.
Most of you reading this realize that in the previous chapter (Deuteronomy 5), we also find the Deuteronomy version of the Ten Commandments. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:8–9). Why? To help and encourage the Israelites to think about and meditate on God’s laws.
Meditate on God
We should constantly meditate on God, His laws and His ways. When people watch television or play a video game, their minds begin to pick up the attitude being displayed—often saucy, sassy carnality and rebellion, sexual lust, hate and violence. One who is absorbed in this then begins to meditate on those things. Television, movies, and video games are a kind of visual meditation, pouring their images and attitudes into the mind and the heart. And much, if not most, of what they pour is bad.
Paul wrote: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!” (1 Corinthians 6:15). And yet, as you know if you watch many of today’s television shows or movies, or play the latest video games, they try very hard to make illicit sex seem humorous and fun. It is a horrible thing.
“Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh’” (v. 16). God intended sex and marriage to picture the very relationship of love between Christ and the Church. He was willing to give His very life for the Church, and the Church is to give herself in total submission to Him. But, brethren, if you drag anything through a sewer, it is going to stink. And the vile display of sexual immorality splashed all over this world’s entertainment is a stench in the nostrils of God.
God says: “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (v. 18). One who commits sexual sin is sinning against his own body in that he is using his body, his emotions and his nervous reactions in a way for which they were not designed, as a vital instrument in sin.
“For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit…” (v. 20)—in the spirit in man and the very attitude and thoughts of your mind.
Proverbs 6:32 in the New King James Version is as follows: “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding.” But what it really says in the original Hebrew is that the adulterer lacks mind. Because of a lack of the right kind of meditation, a man who commits adultery does not understand that his partner was not intended as just a sex object, but was intended to be a wife and the mother of a man’s children—a sweetheart and companion to share a man’s plans, hopes and dreams—with their bond in this physical life a representation of the relationship between Christ and His Church.
It is vital that we meditate on right and good and clean things. This will “clean up” our minds, and prepare us for when a problem may arise. When it does, we will have already thought through in advance what we are going to do, and it will not be some strange situation that will catch us off guard.
A Right Example
Let me give you a right example of meditation. Back in the early 1950s, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong began to say to us: “Fellows, I’ve begun to realize how the Creator God is and how God says that everything reproduces after its kind. And the physical was created as a type of the spiritual. We all reproduce after our kind, so wouldn’t God reproduce after His kind? And, if my sons are human like I’m human, why wouldn’t God’s sons be God like God is God?
“But,” he said, “I don’t know. This concept comes into my mind. It’s almost like God put it there. But I’m sort of afraid of it because it sounds blasphemous. We’ve never believed that man is to become God. Let’s keep thinking about it and discussing it from time to time.”
So, that is how we came to understand that doctrine. Through a process of meditation, Mr. Armstrong simply fastened his mind on the subject, devoting himself to deep, private, continual, purposeful reflection on this single theme.
Meditating on God’s character, purpose and plan is a fantastic experience, considering all the ramifications of what it means to become God. It is something you could spend the rest of your life on—and, in one sense you probably should, because the whole topic is concerned with our goal as Christians and our future in the Kingdom of God.
When To Meditate
One can meditate almost anytime. But there are times when it will be more beneficial and productive, such as while studying. For instance, as you are reading the story of Abraham, you might picture yourself and what you would do if God said to you: “Get up and get out of your home and your land, away from your family and all you’ve ever known, and go out into a strange distant place.” Live the story in your mind and your heart. Visualize it and think about it. Turn it over in your mind, and then apply it to your life today.
Prayer is another time for meditation. Ask God to help you to think things through as you are there on your knees, and talk over with Him all the phases and facets of a particular situation.
Another time to meditate could be walking in the woods or out under the stars at night.
One other valuable time is in the “night watches”—to use a biblical phrase—when you wake up and cannot go back to sleep. Notice how King David did this: “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water [a world cut off from the knowledge of our Creator]. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You… When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches” (Psalm 63:1–6). Like King David, we should learn to meditate at various times throughout the day.
Notice: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice [instruction] is not heard. Their line [rule or direction] has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1–4).
David meditated on all those matters. He took time to think calmly and deeply about God, His power and His laws.
I also suggest setting aside a particular time each weekend for meditation—preferably on God’s Sabbath day, because this is part of its purpose—so that it becomes a habit. Spend some time, on Friday evening or Sabbath morning, thinking through the events of the past week. Ask yourself: How far have I come this week? How have I grown? Have I prayed and studied as I should? What mistakes have I made? Where did I fall short? How can I do better next week? The Sabbath is a wonderful day to conduct a weekly reexamination and reorientation.
Make meditation a major, vital part of your life—as you prepare for the Passover, and throughout the rest of the year. And pray to God always, as David did: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
Five Ways to Meditate
“Examine yourselves [that is, meditate] as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
- Think through all the applications of God’s law and teachings as they apply to your life and to today’s society. Remember Deuteronomy 6:6–7: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
- When things go wrong, ponder on what laws or principles of God were violated by you or by others, but start with yourself. We know that whatever we ask of Him we receive of Him because we keep His commandments and do those things or follow those ways that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22; 5:14)—not just the Ten Commandments, but all the ways of God, involving the kind of food we eat, the way we dance, the kind of music we listen to, the way we present ourselves to others and the kind of companionship we seek. In all those areas we ought to meditate on God’s ways and on how to practice them.
- As you read of Abraham’s obedience to God’s command to sacrifice his son Isaac, or to leave Ur of the Chaldees, or of Israel’s going out into a desert place not knowing what they were going to eat and how God was going to take care of them, or as you read of David’s loyalty to Saul, even under difficult circumstances, think through how you can learn from these lessons and apply them to your life. Think about what you would do, and then what you ought to do through the mind of Christ. As you meditate, literally plan steps right then to improve your future performance.
- When a big decision looms or long-range planning is needed in your life, meditate. Younger people especially need this in planning for their future—career, marriage and everything. Carefully think through the spiritual pros and cons, in the light of the instruction of the Bible. Do not act without sufficient reason, just on the basis of an untried thought or idea, or on impulse.
- Weekly—perhaps, best of all, on the weekly Sabbath—take spiritual inventory of the growth that you have experienced. How have you used your time? What problems have you experienced? Why did you have the problems? How can you overcome the problems? How can you do better next week?