Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chewing the Cud

I imagine many Christians might think of different things when they hear someone say that they meditate.  Perhaps they think of someone trying to reach a “higher” state of consciousness or someone trying to visualize some object or goal believing that if they meditate on it hard enough it will come to pass.  But the Bible has much to say about meditation and it isn’t nearly as mystical as we might tend to think.
For instance, we read in Psalm 19:14  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.  And in Psalm 119:97  Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.  And Psalm 119:99  I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.  It is pretty clear that David, who had only a fraction of God’s Word to meditate on and did not have the measure of the Holy Spirit that we do today, did a lot of meditating.  One thing is obvious and that is that he meditated on God’s Word; not on objects he desired and not mindlessly chanting words with no meaning and certainly not to clear his mind of all thoughts, but actually just the opposite.
Christian meditation has one primary goal.  We contemplate the meaning of scripture and how to think and live according to its truth.  J. I. Packer put it like this, “Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes of God.”  I think this is what is involved when Paul tells us to put on the mind of Christ.  We must come to think like Jesus thinks and that is a tall order.
When we become Christians, our spiritual I. Q. doesn’t immediately move to genius.  In fact, it might not move much at all.  This is what spiritual growth does.  Peter exhorts us to grow in the Knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Meditation takes information and does something with it.  It is assimilating truth into our minds so that we can assimilate it into our character.  It is an operation we do through the power of the Holy Spirit, but do it we must.
We have all probably heard one preacher or another use the illustration of a cow chewing its cud to illustrate meditation and I think that does a good job.  If a cow eats its hay in one gulp and doesn’t bring it back up to chew on it later, it will pass through and do no good; it certainly won’t produce the fruit it is supposed to, milk.  In fact, I have no doubt that this is just one more example of how our Lord created the natural world to illustrate spiritual truths.  (Think of how many times Jesus uses nature to illustrate something)
My point here is that we must be careful in thinking because we have done our duty and attended church this week and managed to stay awake; that somehow the Holy Spirit must bless our “effort” and make us more spiritually minded; more consumed with Christ.  If we don’t take the time to think (meditate) about the message or God’s Word until the next time it is kind of like by-passing our stomachs when we eat.  Meditating takes God’s Word seriously.  The one who meditates understands that God has a purpose in each text of scripture and so is not content until he learns what it is and what he is to do with that information.  This means we will meditate on much of the Bible all of our lives, but the rewards are worth it. 
Just as with eating, when we learn to use the Word to be the light that we live by, we are given the strength to do the work of the Lord.  No wonder Jesus called himself the Bread from Heaven.  Feeding on him is where our strength lies.  He said that his food was to do the will of the Father.  I bet he did a lot of meditating.  If one spends all night in prayer as he did, you will learn to think deeply on the Word of God.  Hearing from the Father was what satisfied his soul.  Let’s be diligent in our duty to meditate and see he satisfies our souls as well.  Hopefully we won’t be like the Disciples in John 4 where Jesus tells them that he had food that they didn’t know anything about.  Have we learned to properly feed on his Word?

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