“Meditate upon these things [things concerning his ministry, especially teaching and preaching],” Paul exhorts his son in the faith, Timothy (I Tim. 4:15). Scholars are divided regarding the meaning of the Greek verb translated “meditate” in the KJV. Some of the most prominent linguistic and hermeneutics experts (e.g., Robertson, Vincent, Vine, Kent, Lock, Fausset, Guthrie) debate whether the word means “to meditate upon” or “to practice.” While I am not qualified to engage in debate with such eminent scholars, their genuine questions do serve to illuminate a universal truth of Scripture, namely, that the spiritual and the practical cannot be divided and that the spiritual life of a believer is to engage his entire being.
On the one hand, the pattern Scripture sets for believers is one of continual instruction. Whether a Samuel, turned over to Eli upon being weaned; or a Moses, taken up onto Mt. Sinai to receive the Tables of the Law; or a David or another of the psalmists, repeatedly requesting instruction (e.g., Psa. 25:4, 5; 27:11; 86:11; 90:12; 119:12, 26, 33, 34, 66, 68, 108, 124, 135; 143:10); or the Twelve, schooled for some three years at the feet of the Lord Jesus Himself; or an Apollos, taught by Acquila and Priscilla even after he had been successful in his evangelistic ministry; or a Paul, instructed by the Lord for three years in the desert; or as in our text, a Timothy, probably well into his thirties and still receiving instruction by his mentor, Paul—all received “continuing education” and remained students of the truth apparently throughout their adult lives.
On the other hand, the Scriptures know nothing of cloisters and monasteries, of the exclusively recluse, of the formally withdrawn from society, of the person devoted to obtaining knowledge and understanding as a mere mental exercise. Whether mothers (like Hannah) or other women (like Deborah, Jael, and Esther), or youths (like Samuel, David, and Daniel), or husbands (like Elkanah and Zacharias), or other men (like Nehemiah and Epaphroditus)—the Word of God commends the doers of the Word.
The reality seems to be that in order to be faithful to the Lord, believers must be attentive students of the Word of God. We must hear it, we must delve into it ourselves, we must receive it into our hearts and minds until it penetrates all our being. And all the while, we must be obediently doing all that we know and understand the Word to teach us to do.
There is no work that God asks of us that is not based upon a simple faith in, yet profound understanding of, the truth of the Word. By the same token, there is no genuine understanding of the Word that does not motivate us to more and better service. The first psalm brings these two truths together. On the one hand, the blessed man is said to delight in the law of the Lord, “and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (v. 2). On the other hand, “he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season . . . and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (v. 3). Knowledge that does not motivate us to greater service is as empty as service that does not spring from a deep understanding and faith in the Word is harmful.
The world may have the luxury of categorizing people as thinkers and theoreticians or workers and doers. But God calls believers to be both. As James says: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (1:23). Just as service is no substitute for study so information is no alternate for endeavor. Believers are to know and to do.
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