I am neither a farmer nor a rancher. Yet for at least two weeks during a couple of summers in my youth, I became a “temp” farmer, working on my uncle’s dairy farm. It was a time not only for a “city-slicker” to be exposed to some life realities, but also a fun time with my cousins. Some of the lessons I learned: the day of the farmer starts early and ends late; no amount of potpourri air freshener is going to refresh a barn; before attempting to milk a cow, let her know you are there (that’s a story for another day); cows may be large, but their brains aren’t. Cows may not be particularly smart, but they do have a lesson to teach: they know how to eat.
I am told that a cow has four chambers to its stomach. When food is swallowed it goes into the first chamber, but before it passes to the second, it is regurgitated, chewed some more, and then swallowed a second time — and so the process goes, until the food passes into the intestinal tract. And in that process, we have a clear picture of biblical meditation.
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.”
(Ps. 1:2; NASB)
To meditate on the Word of God is to ruminate on it — to slowly and methodically chew, digest, chew, think on, digest, ponder, contemplate, and digest again. It is a process that is continual — when we awake in the morning, as we go through the day, as we retire to bed at night, and even in the deep parts of the night, when we briefly waken from our sleep, our minds are enraptured by the profound beauty of Scripture.
And don’t miss this: it is not merely meditation for the sake of meditation that is soul-enriching. That which feeds us and gives us sustenance is meditation on Scripture. Sitting in the lotus position and repeatedly murmuring the word “ommmm” will never lead anyone to eternal truth. Nor will it protect him from the attraction of sin. But filling our minds with Scripture so that we are continually “grazing” on it will quickly nourish our souls so that we become those who not only don’t “walk in the counsel of the wicked,” or “stand in the path of sinners,” or “sit in the seat of scoffers” (v. 1), but those things lose their ability to allure us.
Do you continue to struggle with some particular sin? Are you frustrated because you still are reading and praying every day, and still the struggle goes on? May I suggest the process of meditation? It may be that the read Word has never become the digested Word and your soul has never really been nourished. If we are impoverished spiritually it is not because God has not provided enough to sustain us. If we are spiritually gaunt it is because we have pushed away from the table of delights spread before us from disinterest or unbelief (“I don’t need this today…”).
God has not given us His Word as a protective talisman — “read three verses and you will have a protective shield around you for 24 hours…” No, the Scriptures are given to transform our minds and hearts so that we think differently about God, ourselves, and this world. So reading the Bible is not something to be quickly done, but a practice to be savored and enjoyed both in the moment and throughout the day.
One writer said it well: “Meditation is to reading the Word what digestion is to eating. Without the slow and lengthened process of digestion, food would not nourish the body; without meditation, the Word read will not nourish the soul.”