Do you talk to yourself about what you read in the Bible? Do you walk around muttering and murmuring internally? This is not trick question. As hesitant as we all may be to acknowledge such seemingly demented behavior, the answer should be “Yes.”
Old Testament writers used two words for meditate:
One, haw-gaw: to murmur in pleasure or anger, by implication, to ponder, imagine, meditate.
Two, siyach: to ponder, to converse with oneself.
These two ideas give me a fresh picture of what it is to MEDITATE. Meditation is an internal conversation about the things of God, His Person, His Word, and how to live in harmony with Him and His intentions.
I read Joshua 1:8.
“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 shall make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
“ This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth.” My internal conversation begins. I remember a question a woman asked in our verse analysis Bible study group. “I thought we were supposed to speak out the Word. Why does it say that it shouldn’t depart from our mouths?”
Good question. I return to the Hebrew definition of meditate: “to murmur, ponder, converse with oneself.” Is it that we need to preach it to ourselves first? Is God asking us to roll it around inside ourselves, coming at it from different directions, bombarding it with atoms, dissecting it with glistening scalpel, kneading it like bread, sucking out the sweetness and laying aside the bones of things we don’t yet understand—before we speak it to others?
I turn my attention to the next phrase: “but you shall meditate on it day and night.” What does it look like to meditate day and night? How do I keep the mental conversation alive? What is my current experience and practice? I imagine the indwelling Holy Spirit waiting to enter the conversation as I encounter various circumstances throughout the day. Ready to process the Truths of God with me.
I read Joshua 1:8 again and I notice that meditation is entwined with the Word of God. The psalmist isn’t just talking to himself; he is talking to himself based on the content of the Scripture. This meditation is rooted in Truth. Like the meditating man in Psalm 1, “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water…”
I put Psalm 1 beside Joshua 1:8 and continue my interior murmuring. I see the word “delight” connected to meditation in Psalm 1. A warm chuckle of recognition bubbles up in me. He was haw-gawing: to murmur in pleasure. His meditation fed his delight and his delight fed his meditation.
When I consider Joshua 1:8 this time I notice the link between meditate and obey. This idea starts my juices. The murmuring inside my head purrs away. I chew on God’s Word to fully engage it, to enter into the depths of it, that I might DO it. This takes meditation out of a hazy-mist-spirituality or a mind-puffing-academic realm. Meditation is about talking God’s Word through my mind to shape my understanding and values that my everyday life might express it.
The final sentence of Joshua 1:8 promises success and prosperity. Meditate to prosper. Lord, how do You want me to think about this? What is the success and prosperity You give to the obedient meditator? What evidence of this prosperity do I see in my life?
I find that the internal murmuring slips easily into prayer. Prayer questions. Prayer insights. Prayer wonder and exaltation. Communion. Is this something of the success and prosperity He promises?
Keep muttering. Live the mystery.