Sixty-one percent (61%) of today’s churched young adults that are considered spiritually disengaged. This translates, according to James (the half-brother of Jesus Christ), into churches filled with people who look into mirrors and forget what their face looks like. Jesus’ half-brother writes :
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.
For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
James 1:22-25 [ESV]
People who are merely hearers, rather than doers of the Word; don’t understand and/or don’t care what the Bible says. The main reasons for this are the low levels of Biblical understanding and application present within the global Church. A major underlying factor to this systematic decline is the lack of true Biblical meditation.
WHAT IS BIBLICAL MEDITATION?
[1 Timothy 4:15; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:14-16; & James 1:23-25; ]
Meditating On God’s Word
The Bible is full of references encouraging and imploring us to meditate and fill our hearts with God’s Word. The Apostle Paul encourages Timothy to immerse (meditate) himself in the sound doctrines contained within the Scriptures (1 Timothy 4:15). Joshua is commanded by God to meditate on the Word day and night (Joshua 1:8). The Psalmist declares and promises to God, his delight in meditating on God’s Word and how he will not forget it (Psalm 119:14-16).
“14I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
16I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.”
Psalm 119:14-16 [NASB]
What does it mean to meditate on God’s Word? Meditation, in the Biblical sense, does not involve the emptying of the mind. Some popular religions ask its adherents to empty their minds and not to think while they ‘meditate’. However, christianity is accused of being comprised of non-thinkers! God does not want you to empty your mind, rather He wants you to fill it. Meditation involves the study of God’s Word, and the musing of it in the heart and out loud. Biblical meditation will always involve the study and reciting of Bible passages.
In verse 15, the Psalmist promises God that he would “regard” God’s ways and laws. The word “regard” means to consider intently with respect. To consider God’s Word intently, one has to study the Bible with the purpose of truly understanding what it says. To do so with respect, is to carefully apply and joyfully obey what the Bible says in one’s life. This makes the intention and attitude of our hearts important – before, during, and after studying the Bible. This rules out reading and memorizing of Bible verses for the sake of compliance or for sweeties. What our youth and Sunday school systems are doing results in young people eventually turning away from the Bible. This is because they are conditioned, through achieving points to receive short-sighted rewards, to approach the Scriptures with the goal of realizing their immediate gratification. This ultimately detracts from the true goal of studying Scripture, which is the deepening of their relationship with God and its resultant life change.
Why is it important for the Psalmist (in verse 16) to declare that he will not forget God’s Word? The reason is not only that we tend to be forgetful, but we are willingly forgetful. Sin is not just wrong doing – it actual involves rebellion. As sinful human beings we want to rebel against God and disobey Him. One of the ways to change our rebellious hearts into willing obedient hearts is that we make every effort to remember what God’s Word says. So that we don’t bend to our rebellious inclinations and we don’t get tricked by schemes that play on this.
The process of Biblical meditation affects the mind, heart, and then the actions of those who practice it. To truly meditate on Scripture one needs to understand its meaning, apply its principles, and retain them in one’s life. James’ point in James 1:22-25, is that you can’t be truly listening to God’s Word if you don’t do what it says. To transform from being a hearer into a being doer of the Word one needs to practice Biblical meditation that includes a good hermeneutic and Scripture memorization.
PRACTICING A GOOD HERMENEUTIC
In closing lets briefly discuss how to practice good biblical hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the science and method of interpreting the Bible. The goal of using hermeneutics to study the Scriptures is to find the author’s intended meaning and then apply that to your life. The platinum rule is that Scripture is to be studied to find the literal meaning of passages. Literal meaning means norman meaning – the ways that the words were meant to be understood in normal communication. This makes the rules of speech, styles of writing, and the passage’s context important when interpreting Scripture. The golden rule of hermeneutics is that context is king! This includes the historical, social, cultural, and political context in which the passage was written. Here are some silver rules in Biblical hermeneutics:
- Scripture interprets Scripture – use a concordance to find other passages on the same topic and/or the related verses of the passage being studied
- The Bible was not written in English – the Bible was not written in 1611 in the form of the King James Version. The Bible was written in the Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) languages from 2000 to 4000 years ago. Therefore, bear in mind that our English versions (e.g. KJV, YLT, ESV, NAS, NKJV, NIV, etc…) are translations of the Hebrew and Greek texts. So it might be helpful to look at some Bible study tools, like Logos and E-Sword, to assist in finding the true meaning of the words used. These Bible study tools have Hebrew and Greek dictionaries, concordances, lexicons, and commentaries to help you to study word meanings and context. At least read other credible English Bible versions to help you spot when you should consult your Bible study tools
- Use the Six Serving Men – There are six serving men, they will help you understand context well. Their names are What, Why, When, Where, Who, and How. This will help to understand the context of a given passage by asking questions like: Who is saying it? What is the author saying? To whom is the author saying it to? Where and when is the author saying it? Why is the author saying it? How should the intended audience react to what the author is saying? How should I apply it in my life?
Remember that as your knowledge of God increases, you will draw nearer to Him. This will transform your life by deepening your relationship with God – Who is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him:
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
Hebrews 11:6 [NASB]