What are some tips to help me meditate on God's Word?After Moses died, Joshua was to become the new leader for the Israelites, so God instructed Joshua on his new responsibilities. He said, in part, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success" (Joshua 1:8). Meditating on God's Word (the Book of the Law) is certainly a biblical concept, and even a command from God (cf. Psalm 1:1–6; 1 Timothy 4:13, 16; 2 Timothy 3:16–17; 2 Peter 1:19–21; Hebrews 4:12; Philippians 4:8). In Deuteronomy 6:6, God tells all the Israelites, "These words that I command you today shall be on your heart." He then goes on to detail ways to keep His words on their hearts. Deuteronomy 6:6–9 is a good template to follow when looking for ways to meditate on God's Word.
Deuteronomy 6:7 says, "You shall teach them diligently to your children." This calls to mind a familiar Latin proverb—Docendo discimus, which means, "By teaching, we learn." Anyone who has taught knows that we learn much more about a subject if we must understand it well enough to explain it to someone else. In instructing His people to teach His Word to their children, God was not only ensuring that the next generation would know His Word, but also ensuring that the people would study and learn His Word for themselves. One practical way to help you meditate on God's Word is to agree to teach what you are learning from it to someone else.
Deuteronomy 6:7 goes on to say, ". . . and shall talk of them when you sit in your house." Discussing God's Word with others in the comfort of our own homes is a great way to keep His Word in the forefront of our minds. It can be done over a meal, while washing dishes, or while folding laundry together. God's Word should be a regular topic of discussion inside our homes.
Deuteronomy 6:7 continues, ". . . and when you walk by the way." God's Word is not to be confined only to discussions within our homes, but also while we are out and about. We can talk about His Word with anyone we meet, and we can even meditate on God's Word while we travel. Listening to Bible verses set to music while in the car or listening to a dramatic reading of the Bible while working out are other ways to meditate on God's Word while "on the way."
Deuteronomy 6:7 ends by saying, ". . . and when you lie down, and when you rise," which echoes God's command to Joshua to "meditate on it day and night." This example of spending time both in the morning and at night communing with God and studying His Word is seen elsewhere in Scripture, too. Ezra read the Law to the people "from early morning until midday" (Nehemiah 8:3). The psalmist in Psalm 119:147–148 says, "I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise." Jesus Himself rose "very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed" (Mark 1:35). And Paul, when teaching the gospel in Troas, "prolonged his speech until midnight" (Acts 20:7). Setting aside time at the beginning and end of each day to read, think about, discuss, or meditate on God's Word is an important practice.
Deuteronomy 6:8 says, "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes." God asked His people to have physical markers reminding them of His Word. For us today, that might be a piece of jewelry that reminds us of Scripture or something that brings His Word to mind any time we see it.
God's instructions to the Israelites end with, "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 6:9). Displaying Scripture in our houses is a great way to keep God's Word on our minds. Sticky notes posted on the bathroom mirror, above the kitchen sink, or on the dashboard of the car are easy ways to be reminded of different verses. Some people choose more permanent, artistic displays of Scripture to place in their homes, perhaps above the fireplace or in the dining room. Either way, having God's Word printed and displayed before our eyes will help us to meditate on it.
Later in Deuteronomy, God gave instructions for the men who would rule over Israel. He said, "[The king] shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law . . . And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them" (Deuteronomy 17:18–19). Another way to help us meditate on God's Word is to handwrite passages of Scripture, copying them directly from the Bible. Because we have to slow down to copy a passage, we're more likely to notice details from Scripture we would otherwise miss by simply reading the text. Writing by hand has also been proven to boost our ability to comprehend new ideas and retain the information.
This passage not only mentions copying Scripture, but also reading "in it all the days of his life." Regularly reading Scripture is another important practice. When we read Scripture we should be good observers, asking the questions "who?", "what?", "when?", "where?", and "how?". Making a chart to answer these questions can help us slow down and really understand what is in a particular passage of Scripture. Looking for repeated words or phrases helps us know what ideas are being emphasized. And noticing key words like "therefore" or "so that" can reveal the reasons or explanations of why Scripture says what it says.
Another way to meditate on God's Word and engage with it while reading is to place emphasis on each different word in the verse. For instance, Psalm 23:1 begins, "The LORD is my shepherd." Emphasizing "THE LORD is my shepherd" would draw our mind to think on the singularity of who God is. Then emphasizing "The LORD is my shepherd" might draw our minds to think about submitting to God as our Lord and Master or to remember how He revealed Himself as the self-existent, personal LORD Yahweh to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Emphasizing "The LORD IS my shepherd" might remind us that God is, has been, and always will be present in our lives. Emphasizing "The LORD is MY shepherd" might lead us to ask if we really have allowed God to be in intimate relationship with us personally. And finally, emphasizing "The LORD is my SHEPHERD" could lead us to study what shepherds did in biblical times, how they cared for their sheep, and what that says about how God cares for us.
A similar practice called lectio divina has you read aloud or listen to Scripture being read aloud three times. The first time, you simply listen to get a feel for what the passage says. The second time, you listen for a word or phrase that stands out to you. And the third time, you ask God to reveal what He wants you to understand about the word or phrase that stood out to you. Basically, any practice that slows our reading of Scripture, asks questions of the text, and engages our minds with the Word of God is a practice that would help us meditate on God's Word.
We can follow God's instructions in Deuteronomy 6 for ways to keep His words in our hearts and His instructions in Deuteronomy 17 to learn and know His Word. By using these practices, we can say with the psalmist, "I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word" (Psalm 119:15–16).
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