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Mindfulness App
I got an updated Apple Watch for Christmas this year and there is a feature that I can’t decide if I want to turn off or start using.
It is the mindfulness app.
Mindfulness has become a very trendy concept in the last few years and on face value I can recognize some of the value in it.
A time to stop, calm down, and just breath for a period of time and being in the moment, can be a good opportunity to essentially come to deal with the things we have going on in our head.
Meditation Trope
For most of us, when we think of mindfulness or meditation, we think of a very esoteric activity.
I realize that this is not really the reality but we think of the trope of sitting somewhere in the lotus position, chanting ohm, and preferably in a zen garden or some other peaceful place.
The trope often includes some instructor telling us to “clear our minds” and so on.
If I am to be honest, I think the act of clearing my mind would require the use of a bulldozer and several other pieces of heavy equipment.
Biblical Meditation
The connection to eastern practices has made the subject of meditation something that Christians have either rejected or at least neglected and that is a shame since meditation is a very christian concept.
If you have your Bible, please turn over to Psalm Chapter 1.
The book of Psalms tends to be the most reflective book and it is noteworthy that the very first verses of the very first chapter is concerned with this subject of meditation.
Look with me as we read verses 1-6
Our message this morning is entitled Meditation on the Word
Let’s Pray
What is Meditation?
What is meditation?
If we are to look at just the definition of the word, the first definition is the one we are concerned with today
med•i•tate \ˈme-də-ˌtāt\ verb
1: to engage in contemplation or reflection
But it’s more important to know what this word meant to the readers of the psalms, Jewish people as far back as the ninth century BC.
The word is הגה (hgh).
This is a compound word, the first word means ‘to be occupied with’ and the second we find a couple of times in the book of Isaiah.
In 31:4 and again in 38:14.
and 38:14
This word is the roaring of the lion over it’s prey, not the load roar you would think of with a lion defending it’s territory, but more the idea of low growling.
And the second example is the chattering or chirping of a bird.
I think we have to ask the question, what does that have to do with meditation?
Well, you have to remember that Hebrew has a pretty small vocabulary compared to English.
And the picture we are given is that of a continual low murmur.
Silence is not golden
So what does this have to do with meditation?
Well, there is a thing that you and I take for granted and that is our ability to silently read.
Reading silently is very much related to the invention of the printing press.
Before books were printed they weren't nearly as available as they are today, so in order for someone to read they were often phonetically sounding things out, out loud.
Augustine in the 4th century wrote of his surprise over the Bishop Ambrose of Milan’s reading.
He wrote this:
When he read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still.
Anyone could approach him freely and guests were not commonly announced, so that often, when we came to visit him, we found him reading like this in silence, for he never read aloud.
So, meditating on the law would most naturally include the reading of the law, out loud.
That isn't to say that meditating on the word can't be something that is done quietly and internally.
It absolutely can, but it doesn’t have to fit the the image in our head of meditation being silently contemplative either.
To say that we are meditating on the law or meditating on the word simply means that we are spending time in contemplation of Gods conversation with mankind.
On The Law?
Taken for Granted
We have to appreciate that the instruction given for meditation isn't just meditation for meditation sake.
We are given a very specific link between meditation and what we are to be meditating on — God's law.
I specifically are we given God's law to meditate on?
Why the law, meaning God’s instructions, and not the prophecies?
Why the law and not the history?
— Verse 2 seems to take this to a place that seems almost excessive from our cultural perspective: The blessed man in verse 2 does what?
Delight’s in the law?
It's not often that I would say that I delight in the law.
I don't think of the legislation of my country or my state is something to delight in but that's probably because I have been blessed to live in a society that by and large holds to and values the rule of law.
I take it for granted.
In my naivety as a teenager I had this T-shirt with a big red anarchy sign across the front of it.
I thought with all of the wisdom of a freshman in high school that a world that wasn't ruled by law were people could do as they please represented a great form of freedom.
Shirley Padmore Mensah grew up in Liberia, and in 1980, when she was 10, the government was overthrown.
The president and his cabinet were rounded up by the military and executed.
Shirley’s grandfather who was a member of the legislator was taken in to custody where he died.
What she recalled was a — time of lawlessness — and her family fled to America.
She said “I started to appreciate the importance of a legal and political structure that allowed space for people to have a voice,” The young girl whose family fled lawlessness grew up to be a lawyer and eventually a judge.
She loved the law.
She loved the law because she understood the consequences of lawlessness
Love of the Law of God
The law of God is something to love.
Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, echo’s Psalm 1 and expands upon it.
Psalm 119:97 says
v113 continues
and finally in v165
And that, really is the reason to love the law.
The law of God, the instruction of God heeded and obeyed without constraint produces the fruit of Great Peace.
And consider the result of daily meditation on God’s word that we read in our passage this morning, Psalm 1 v3
Psalm 1:3 (KJV 1900)
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, That bringeth forth his fruit in his season; His leaf also shall not wither; And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Now this is where I could see us likely getting some pushback.
How can we say that whatsoever someone does it will prosper?
This starts to feel a little bit like the name it and claim it theology of the charismatic movement.
And unfortunately conservative Christians tend to get a little antsy around the promises of God towards faithful believers.
Maybe we should consider that the reason we don't see Christians that would fit the observation that whatsoever he do with shell prosper is because we also aren't seeing Christians who are meditating on God's law day and night.
And maybe those things that fail in a Christians life are things that failed because they are endeavors not informed by careful consideration of God’s law.
I would warn that we need to be careful not to claim promises that are two specific people or specific nations as our own but the Bible is full of promises for the faithful believer.
And we shouldn't write those promises offer over look those promises those promises are things that should give you hope they are things that you should delight in and they are things that offset the trials and difficulties that are inherent to being a Christian.
We tend to think of salvation is only something that happens after our death but salvation is very much present in the life of the believer while they yet live and the grace of God abounds upon the faithful.
What Does Meditation Look Like?
It is no secret that I am not a big fan of Bible reading plans that are designed to get you through the Bible in some set interval of time.
I was visiting another church a couple of years ago and I remember two guys in the aisle in front of us talking about their reading plan.
That they were going to read the entire Bible in one year.
I think that is a pretty noble goal, and I am sure that their hearts were in the right place, but I have said it before: That is just over 3 chapters a day, every single day, for the entire entire year.
That is definitely doable, and like I said, it’s a noble goal.
But if you are going to set aside time to read 3 chapters then you really need to spend the time not just reading but understanding.
In one of my favorite quotes, Charles Spurgeon says:
I would rather my soul lay a-soak in a single verse of scripture than rinse my hands in a couple of chapters everyday
-Charles Spurgeon
What this means is going to be a little different for everyone, but I can give an example of what it might look like.
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