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Meditate on the Word of God
The passages below are taken from Charles Stanley’s book, “Walking Wisely,” published in 2002.
How many times have you found yourself saying at the end of a day, “When I got up this morning, I certainly didn’t think I was going to have to face that today”? Our daily lives tend to be a mixture of negative and positive surprises. Rarely can we anticipate all that will happen to us.
We need to have a fresh encounter with God’s Word as we prepare ourselves to walk into each new day. And then, all through a day, we need to turn our minds back to what we have read not only in the morning, but also in days past.
Joshua found himself at an interesting point in his life one morning. Moses had died, and Joshua had been among those who mourned his death for thirty days. Joshua had been Moses’ top administrator all the years the Israelites had wandered in the wilderness—--he had served as Moses’ personal assistant as well as the commander of the Israelite army. But God had never told Joshua the full extent of His plan for his personal life,
Then the morning came when God said to Joshua, “Arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—--the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you” (Josh. 1:2—3).
What an awesome challenge! Talk about a life-altering day and an unexpected word from God.
The Lord then gave this promise to Joshua, “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days, of your life; as I was with
Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you”
Along with God’s awesome command came God’s awesome words of comfort and assurance. God said to Joshua, in essence,
“Here’s your part.” He said,
Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe 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 1:7—8)
Joshua was commanded to meditate on the law day and night—--continually. He was to talk about the law—--to recite aloud the law to his own heart and mind, and to make certain that all he said to others was in full accordance with the truth of God’s Word. He was to do the law--—-to apply God’s principles to his life without wavering, compromise, or hesitation. He was to meditate on God’s law to the point that his automatic instinct would be to do what the law said.
To meditate on God’s Word requires first that we read it. You can’t think all day about something you haven’t read!
To meditate means to dig into the deeper meaning of what God is saying in His Word. We aren’t just to skim the Bible’s pages, limit ourselves to our favorite verses or passages, or read at the surface level. We are to read the whole of God’s Word so we can avail ourselves the whole of God’s truth. We are to read slowly, intently, looking for new insights. We are to dig for the deeper meaning of God’s Word by asking questions such as:
You may say, “But I don’t always understand the Bible.” The best way to begin to understand the Bible is to read more of it. Start with the four Gospels—--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Focus on the words of Jesus. You’ll understand enough of what Jesus says to bring about changes in your life. And the more you read, the more you will understand.
Not understanding all you read is no excuse for failing to read your Bible. Rather, it should be the very reason you commit yourself to reading the Bible more frequently and studying it more deeply.
Anytime we face an issue that we know is truly important, we need to go to the Word of God to find out what God says on the matter. God has not left out any topic—--He has left no void regarding those things that are most important in life. The Bible is God’s viewpoint; it is His opinion, His counsel, and His advice.
We only need to look at our own lives, or the lives of others close to us, to recognize that the vast majority of problems and troubles that we human beings experience are the result of our not following God’s commandments. Either we have not known God’s commandments or principles, and therefore have not kept them, or we have wilfully violated God’s commandments. Either way, we suffer the consequences for not keeping God’s commands.
Suppose you go to work tomorrow morning and the moment you walk in, one of your colleagues rips into you. He unleashes anger and frustration at you in a way that almost feels like an assault. From your viewpoint, there is no cause for this verbal attack—--it’s nine o’clock in the morning and you haven’t even poured yourself a cup of coffee, much less had a chance to converse with this person. How do you respond?
The world’s normal response would be for you to say to yourself, Hmm—--that was uncalled for. I’m going to get back at that person. The normal fleshly response would be retaliation of some kind. And the godly response? “Is there anything else you want to tell me? I appreciate your letting me know how you feel. I’ll consider what you’ve said” (Luke 6:29 and Romans 12:19).
One way leads to an argument, division, confusion, unrest, and an escalation of anger, bitterness, frustration, and estrangement. The other way—--God’s way—--leads to peace, understanding, resolution, reconciliation, and potential growth in a relationship.
God’s commandments, statutes, precepts, and principles cover all of life’s situations. We need to ponder God’s Word—--read it, study it, memorize it, think about it, and consider it. In doing so, we discover the wise way to handle life and to respond to the difficult situations we all face.
RESULTS FROM MEDITATING ON GOD’S WORD
Here is what happens to us as we meditate on God’s Word:
Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word,
I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. (Ps. 119:97—105)
Let me call your attention to important principles in this passage:
The first principle is “A Grid of Truth.” Notice that God’s
Word has made David wiser than his enemies, his teachers, and the “ancients” in his court—--the elderly scribes and sages of his day. David may not have known more facts than those around him, but he knew more truth. God’s Word is the wisdom of wisdom, the truth of truth, and David had steeped himself in God’s truth “all the day.”
Each of us has a mental grid---all that we have been taught has been placed on that grid, and this grid functions as ,a filter for evaluating new information. All new information is processed according to what we have been taught in the past and the perspective, opinions, and attitudes we have developed.
Some of us have faulty grids. We have been taught incorrectly in the past. Anytime you find something in the Word of God that doesn’t match your mental grid, it is time to change your grid. The Bible is our sourcebook for truth. It holds out to us the mental grid we all should have been taught.
Our mental grid is strongly influenced by repetition. The more we hear information, the more frequently we encounter concepts, the more deeply that input is etched into our minds. That’s why it is so important to read the Bible daily and repeatedly. We learn through repetition.
We can learn something about this from television commercial makers. Commercials are placed at high points in dramatic stories on television so viewer is primed for new input. And then, those commercials are repeated and repeated . . . day in and day out, week in and week out. The commercials are also couched in terms of sensory experience—--the taste, the smell, the feel, the sound, and the exhilaration. We begin to want what we see advertised because we want to feel and experience what the people in the commercials seem to feel and experience.
In like manner, we need to prime our minds for receiving the truth of God’s Word-—-going to the Bible with a heart that is open and a mind that is looking for personal application. We need to be fully alert, fully focused, and ready to hear from God as we read.
We also need to read the stories of the Bible in Technicolor, imagining how the people in the stories felt as they heard Jesus teach His parables or how those who experienced Jesus’ miracles experienced a change in their lives. And we need to ask at all times, “What would I have felt? How would I have responded?
Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so how is it that Jesus wants to deal with me today?” We need to personalize and to apply the Bible to our lives, and not only once but repeatedly, day in and day out. We need to search out ways in which God’s Word changes our way of thinking, responding, and believing so that our hearts and minds more clearly reflect God’s heart and mind.
Allow the Word of God to persuade you. Allow the Word of God to influence your thinking. Allow the Word of God to alert your perspective and change your behaviour.
No matter what any human being may say to us, if any part of that message does not line up with the Word of God, it needs to be dismissed. The Word of God is the standard by which all instruction should be evaluated.
Another important principle we can learn from this passage is “Right from Wrong.” Notice that David said his repeated and constant meditation on the Word of God is what kept him from evil and taught him right from wrong. David grew to hate every false way. He knew what was wrong, and he rejected what was wrong.
One last principle we can learn from the passage is “A Lamp to His Faith.” Notice that because David knew God’s Word thoroughly and was quick to respond to it, the Word had become a lamp to his feet, a light to his path. God’s Word clearly revealed to him the way in which he should walk-—--or in other words, the decisions and choices he should make at any given time. God’s Word showed him which alternative to take, which option to pursue, which strategy to employ. He knew when, how, and where to apply God’s Word in times of trouble.
Now isn’t that what we all want? Don’t we all want to know the wise choice, the wise decision, and the wise method quickly and decisively?
David had many counselors—--brilliant and courageous “mighty men” who surrounded him with advice. But David relied first and foremost on God’s Word to be his counselor. He turned first to what God had to say anytime he faced bad news or difficult circumstances. He found not only comfort but also joy in what he read and studied—--he found confidence that God was with him. We read in Psalm 119:
Princes also sit and speak against me,
But Your servant meditates on Your statutes.
Your testimonies also are my delight
And my counselors. (vv. 23—24)
Certainly not all choices or decisions are ones that can be made instantly. But we can trust God’s wisdom to be revealed to us so that we make wise choices and decisions in a timely and effective manner. We can trust God’s wisdom to be imparted to us so that we turn from those things that are false, harmful, or sinful, and turn toward what is right in God’s eyes. We can trust God’s wisdom to give us direction and guidance on a daily basis—--from hour to hour if need be.
REMEMBERING WHAT WE READ
Note what the psalmist had to say about meditating on God’s
I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.
I will delight in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word. (Psalms 119:15—16)
King David spent a lot of time reading, studying, and thinking about God’s Word. He delighted in his study and reflection on God’s principles. He not only committed God’s Word to his memory, but he frequently recalled God’s Word and steeped his thinking in God’s law. He did not forget God’s Word when it came time for him to speak, to act, or to compose songs. Rather, what he had been thinking about became his speech, his lyrics, and his motivation for behavior. He reflected God’s Word in the judgments he made.
God’s Word was “sweet” to David—--in fact, he said it was sweeter than honey—--because the end result of applying God’s
Word was pleasant, beneficial, and good. A sweet experience is
always one in which we find ourselves being helped or blessed.
The application of God’s Word resulted in constant rewards for
David, which no doubt made David all the more eager to meditate on God’s Word and apply its truth to his life!
ACTIVELY OBEY AND APPLY GOD’S WORD
To walk wisely, we must actively and diligently obey and apply God’s Word to our lives. It’s not enough to hear God’s Word, to read it, or to meditate on it. We must do it. We must apply God’s principles and commandments to our everyday lives. We must infuse our minds and hearts with God’s Word so that our resulting words and actions are a display of God’s commands in action. Every chore, every meeting, every conversation, every task can be a way of expressing obedience to God’s Word.
In Proverbs 2:7 we find this: “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright.” God has provided in His Word all that we need, but we are the ones who must choose to walk “upright.” To be “upright” is the result of right living; it is the product of obedience. The “upright” isn’t a class of people to whom God reveals wisdom—--as if we were to say that God reveals His wisdom to those who are tall, short, thin, fat, blond, brunette, and so forth. It is those who choose to obey God and who follow through and do what God commands who become the “upright.”
Those who are willing to obey God’s Word are going to be the ones who are most clearly and directly impacted by God’s Word. They have set their minds and hearts to know God’s Word. They read God’s Word with the thought: I’ve got to see what God wants me to do. I’m going to discover today some of the ways God wants me to live and respond and initiate action. I’m reading my Bible for guidance for my life, not just to have something good to read for my mind.
Proverbs 2 begins, “My son, if you receive my words [or sayings], and treasure my commands within you” (v. I). Meditating on God’s Word is a two-pronged process: We must read the Scriptures as if every one of them applies to us personally and we must receive the teachings of God’s Word into our hearts, souls, and minds. And then, we must value His commandments so much that we do what His Word says to do. In other words, we must know God’s commandments, and we must place high priority on keeping them.
God’s Word admonishes us:
My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands. (Proverbs 3:1)
My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.
Hear instruction and be wise,
And do not disdain it. (Proverbs 8:3 3)
“Hear” in this verse literally means “heed.” We are to act on instruction. And action is key, as in the following verse: “The wise in heart will receive commands” (Proverbs 10:8). To “receive” is active. There is nothing passive about God’s commands. They are issued in order that we might do them.
No general in an army issues commands to his troops just to hear the sound of his own voice. He gives commands because he expects his troops to take action, to follow through, to fulfil a mission. The same is true for the Captain of our souls!
I quickly discovered when I went to college that there was a big difference in the way I read my textbooks and the way I read a novel. I read a textbook with the intent that I needed to remember the information because I was likely to be tested on it later. I needed to learn what was there because I was going to have many occasions to apply what I read in the course of my life. The more I saw myself being able to one day apply the information I read, the more interested I was and the more diligent I was in studying the material.
The number one reason to read your Bible is not to say you have read it . . . it isn’t even to say you’ve learned what’s in it. The reason to read your Bible is to get your marching orders for the day and for the whole of your life. The reason to read your Bible is to grow in your relationship with the Lord and do what He tells you in His Word to do.
Our growth in understanding is cyclical—--we read, we apply, we read again, we apply again, and all along the way, we grow in our understanding. As we grow in our understanding, we also grow in our appreciation of the Scriptures and in our eagerness to read the Bible. When you see that the Bible really works in your life, in the life of your family, and in your relationships at work, in the community, and at church, you are going to want to read your Bible more and apply it in more and more ways.
WHAT ABOUT MISTAKES IN APPLICATION?
Will we make mistakes as we attempt to obey and apply God’s Word? Of course. We are imperfect people. But it is only in doing God’s Word that we learn how to better apply His Word. When you were a child, someone could have told you how to walk. You could have heard twenty lectures on the mechanics of walking. But it was only as you attempted to walk—--getting up, falling down, getting up again, taking a few steps and then more steps—--that you learned to walk. The same is true for God’s Word. It is only as we apply it—--sometimes failing, sometimes not doing everything perfectly, trying again—--that we learn how to live in accordance with God’s commands.
When a wise person sees his error, he confesses his error or sin to God, makes a change, and moves forward to correct his error and try again.
The acquisition of wisdom only comes as we live out our obedience. How can we ever truly know that God is faithful if we never trust Him? How can we ever fully know what God will do with our lives if we never step out in faith to trust God to help us do more? How can we ever know the joy of winning souls for the Lord if we never open our mouths to give witness to Jesus Christ?
In like manner . . . how can we become wise if we never apply God’s commands to our lives?
You can never know fully what God will do in your life, through your life, or all around your life unless you act on everything that God tells you to do. (77-90)
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