Biblical meditation links the temporal with the eternal.
[Picture credit: http://christianmeditationforpriests.blogspot.com/]
Meditation should concern itself with the content of thoughtful reflection as well as the methods of contemplation. Many faiths have meditative practices. Christians focus their deliberation on the text of Scripture focusing on Christ’s person and work.
Biblical Theology of Meditation
Reflection is a term that originates with Hebrew words for meditate. One word gives the impression of a “groan” (Ps. 5:1) or a “moan” (Isa. 38:14; 59:11). Psalm 19:14 captures the most famous reflective statement containing thoughts expressed in words, “Let the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord.” Silent rehearsal, turning something over in one’s mind, ends in an enthusiastic, emotion-filled confession. The believer then orchestrates God’s works to all those around (1 Chr. 16:9; Ps. 105:2). Once the silent reflection is told to others, the teaching continues to “talk” to the reflective heart: whether walking, lying down, or awake (Pro. 6:20-22). Meditation is to continue all the time (“day and night,” Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:2; 119:97, 99) and even during sleepless hours (Ps. 4:4; 63:6; 77:6). The focus of Hebraic-Christian meditation is on all God’s works and words (Ps. 77:12; 119:27; 145:5).
Meditation shows what is valuable to the believer. Selah, the repetitious word found throughout the Psalms, communicates value by its definition: to hang, weigh, or measure. The term was used in the Old Testament when people used scales to identify the cost or weight of an object (Job 28:15-16). Selah functions as an interlude to weigh a thought. One stops, pauses, ponders, considers, and thinks. The biblical implication is to take a break, take a minute, or take a breath (Ps. 3, 24, 46). Practicing biblical meditation links the temporal with the eternal.
The righteous are to deliberate over proper answers (Pro. 15:28), meditating on the implications (Ps. 1:2). “I thought to myself” and “I thought in my heart” are both a frequent and summary statements in the book (1:16; 2:1, 15; etc.). Leaving no stone unturned, life was “tested by wisdom” (Ecc. 7:23). Solomon declares, “Look, this is what I have discovered, this is what I have found” (Ecc. 6:11-12; 7:27, 29; 12:9). Solomon’s recurring meditation is that a God-centered life leads to gladness, satisfaction, and contentment (Ecc. 2:24-25; 3:12-13; 5:18-20; 7:14; 8:15; 9:9).
Biblical Philosophy of Meditation
Meditation could comprise a number of threads. Simple observations could prompt new or recurring thoughts, ideas, perspectives, or questions. The reader could identify reasons to accept, corroborate, or pursue a biblical author’s thinking. Personal musing and rumination may possibly produce ideas for the practice of any concept. The Hebraic-Christian lifeview rests on essential ideas established in Scripture and reflected upon by the believer
Believers ponder the importance of many Scriptural ideas. There is a consequence of meaning, “Why?” being the chief question in life. Making sense of reality—all inclusive of what is seen and unseen—arising from a meditation of beginnings and ends. The eternal plan of God stimulates meditation: how God sustains His creation while preparing for its culmination. The Creator’s good gifts to humanity encourage meditation while Christians commit themselves to being caretakers of everything given. Meditation provokes the responsibility to teach the next generation to remember God’s work.
Meditation should provide biblical, relational, generational learning opportunities for the believing community. Practical learning opportunities should include
(1) The Revelational—Scripture will be the foundation of all study.
(2) The Relational—dialogue will be engaged within the Christian community.
(3) The Perennial—eternal, universal, great ideas will be understood as “true Truth” dependent upon God as the source of knowledge.
(4) The Historical—a Hebraic-Christian study of history begins in eternity acknowledging the purposeful work of God through persons and nations.
(5) The Experiential—wedding truth with life is encouraged through personal introspection, meditation, and reflection by reading The Text and all other texts, through communion with The Word, The Spirit, and The Body (both in the universal and historical Church).
(6) The Creational—the physical setting of creation allows believers the enjoyment of reflective study in God’s Word engaged with God’s world.
Christian Practice of Meditation
Meditation can prompt the Christian community to recognize and discuss biblical truths and their application to personal life. Interpretation of cultural issues with The Spirit’s illumination of Scripture is an important Christian reflection. Critiquing categories of thought antithetic to Christian teaching is imperative. Proposing solutions to civic and cultural responsibilities within a biblical framework could arise out of meditation. Evaluation of personal commitments to change could keep one in step with The Spirit.
Pastoral renewal is an imperative for the practice of meditation. Workshops for Christian leaders could include teaching on and practice of meditation. Lecture-discussions for interested parties would profit meditation’s promotion. Film review should involve reflection. Reflective weekend summits, retreats, and educational dialogue may generate curriculum, position papers, articles, or reviews all because believers took time to stop, pause, consider, and think God’s thoughts after Him.
This essay, along with 16 others, will be published in the new 3 volume Christian Education Encyclopedia with Scarecrow Press (April, 2015). Dr. Eckel now teaches the concepts of catechism to his students at Capital Seminary & Graduate School.