Meditating on the Word
...but his delight is in the law of the LORD,and on his law he meditates day and night."(Ps. 1:2)
Don Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, is a helpful resource for growing in Christ. In chapter 3, he describes a number of ways for us to meditate on Scripture.
But of course, spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible study, singing, etc.) are simply means to an end. The purpose of these discplines is to know Christ better, to rejoice in the gospel more earnestly, and to become more and more like Jesus (Rom. 8:29; 1 Tim. 4:7b–8). As Whitney puts it, the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life "are...derived from the gospel, not divorced from the gospel" (p. 8, emphasis original).
For this reason, it does little good for us to meditate on the word unless the Word first dwells in us! When we meditate on Scripture, we do it to encounter a Person, not merely to understand a set of principles. We study the Bible not primarily to understand what God wants us to do, but most essentially to learn what he has already done for his people in Christ Jesus. All of our spiritual growth is rooted in Jesus the Messiah (Col. 2:6–7). We never move past the gospel.
With that said, below is a summary of some of Whitney's suggestions for Bible meditation. These are the ones that I (Pastor Josh) find particularly helpful for my own meditation on God's word, and so I thought I'd share them with you all.
1. Emphasize different words in the text
This method helps us slow down and savor each word. For example,
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23)
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"
" for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"
2. Rewrite the text in your own words (paraphrase it)
Use your own words, but stay true to the biblical meaning.
3. Summarize the passage. What does it teach? What's the main idea? (What does it teach you about God? About man? About God's plan?)
Try to give the passage a title. What's it about? (Try to ignore your English translation's heading, if it has one.)
4. Think of an illustration of the text—what picture/life experience helps you understand it?
"He makes his sun rise on the evil and the good..." (Matt. 5:45). The next time you're enjoying a sunny day at the park, look around and let this passage sink in.
5. Think about an applicaiton of the text to your own life.
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). See also Luke 23:34. Go.
6. Ask, "How does this passage point to Jesus?"
Read the gospels often, taking notes on the life and teachings of Jesus. Note Luke 24:27. For an example, read Psalm 23 and John 10:10–18
7. Pray through the text.
See the examples in Daniel 9 and Acts 4:24–30. One reason that God spoke his word to us is so that we would have words to speak to him.
8. Memorize the text.
A challenge to do, but so worth it! Start small. Practice often. For incentive, see Psalm 119:11 and Colossians 3:16.
9. Create an artistic expression of the text.
I used to do this with my Christian school students. Each day for homeroom, we would read a chapter of the Proverbs, and they would draw a picture of one of the verses. It was a fun and helpful exercise. Often, my sermon notes (the ones I take in the pew if I happen to have the privilege of sitting and listening to a sermon) are in the form of diagrams and flowcharts. I like to use at least 3 colors of highlighters. Do what works for you.
10. Make observations of the text.
This should be listed first here, because you can't say what something means until you've determined what is says. For example, how many wise men visited baby Jesus at the manger (Hint: that is a trick question). For an exercise, try to make 10 obersations of Romans 3:23. Here's a start. (1) Romans 3:23 is given as a reason of what came before it, since it starts with the word "for." (2) "All" means everyone—both Jew and Gentile. (3) "All have sinned." (4) "All...have fallen short." (5) There is a relationship between sinning and falling short. (6) God has glory ...
11. Read an entire book of the Bible, and trace the line of thought/argument.
This is an especially good method for meditating on New Testament epistles. You might like to try Galatians or Ephesians first. As you go along, be asking, how does one part lead to the next? How does the next part add to the first? Try to make an outline of the book's major sections.
Every blessing to you in Christ as you seek to know him better by meditating on his word. May you be "like a tree..." (Psalm 1:3).