Thinking is very nearly a lost art in most of the world. And Americans in general are not very good at it. Taking time to reflect and think is quite likely to get one accused of wasting time, if not of being lazy. We enjoy producing something tangible with our time—all the dishes washed and put in the cupboard, the garden weeded, several new inches of knitting finished, a new app downloaded. If we see someone sitting motionless, we suspect he must be ill. Our Puritan heritage teaches us to scorn or fear idleness (after all, idle hands are the devil’s workshop).
Pure idleness, when not the expression of well-needed rest, is, of course, to be impugned. But a believer whose life is devoid of reflection and meditation will eventually manifest a superficial understanding of God’s Word and a shallow appreciation for God’s nature and work. Yes, we should pray; yes, we should read and study God’s Word, but a critical aspect of that study involves sitting back and turning over in our minds the truths we’ve been reading and studying. We must allow the Spirit of God, who is our ultimate teacher, the opportunity to weigh in, so to speak, on the truths God has preserved for us.
Time after time, that venerable book of inspired and inspiring instruction, The Psalms, leads us to leave the hustle and bustle that clutters our life with activity and noise for a quiet time of meditation—deliberate, conscious thinking about the meaning and implication of some concept, doctrine, command, or promise in the Word, some consideration of just who God is, what He has done, and what He is doing. Speaking of the blessed man, the author of the first psalm writes that “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (v. 2). That’s quite a standard. Can you honestly say that you’ve come anywhere near meeting it? If someone were to ask you to make a list of your chief delights, would the Word of God head the list? Be in the top ten? Even make the list? And what occupies your meditations? When you have moments of idle thoughts, where do those thoughts go, day or night? Fun, fantasies, foolishness? Family, friends, fame, fortune? Projects, hobbies, ambitions? Work? Goals?
David was able to marvel. “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psa. 8:3, 4). Meditation on the handiwork of God puts us and our lives in the proper perspective. It is our nature to think that we are at the center of the universe and that everything revolves around us. But a few moments of true consideration of God’s creation will produce a dollop of humility in us, which, in turn, will season our lives with thankfulness and praise to God for taking thought of us and for providing us salvation through the offering of His Son.
Asaph, appointed by David to be the chief musician for worship, found time in his important and busy schedule to meditate on the things of God. “I shall remember,” he wrote, “the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds” (Psa. 77:11, 12). In a fine example of Hebrew poetic parallelism, Asaph promises to remember, meditate on, and muse on the deeds, wonders, and works of the Lord—those recorded by inspiration in holy writ and those he had both experienced and observed personally in his fellowship with David. “I shall . . . I will . . . I will,” he affirms. Even for one with a poetic and reflective bent, proper reflection required the conscious action of the will. We never accidentally stumble into profitable meditation. Profitable reflection results from a conscious choice to seek God and to honor Him with our thoughts.
“Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them,” wrote an anonymous poet (Psa. 111:2). And in so doing, he gave us a standard by which to measure what we delight in. What we “study,” what we devote our time and attention to, what occupies our idle thoughts is what we delight in. That thought takes us back to the first psalm. Now, will you and I meditate on the works, the word, and the nature of God?
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