For the past two days, I have been meditating on the first part of Ps. 40:5 —
Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done,
And Your thoughts toward us…
The words are penned by David and I have pondered what kinds of things he might have contemplated as he considered the works of God and even more, how God has thought of David personally and His people Israel. Undoubtedly David’s consideration would have included God’s creative acts, but it would have been far more — the protection of Israel and her fathers from the time of Abraham through Joseph, the guidance of Israel to Egypt and out of Egypt, the miracles that led them to be released by Pharaoh and the leadership by cloud and fire through the wilderness years, the provision of a monarchy for Israel and God’s protection of Israel against many foreign enemies and invaders.
And then there were the thoughts God had for David and Israel: why did the Lord choose Israel, the least among the nations (Dt. 7:7-8), to be His covenant people? And why did the Lord choose David, the least among his brothers, to be king over this beloved people of God?
As David considered God’s actions and provisions, he rightly concluded,
There is none to compare with You.
If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.
Meditation — the filling of his mind with thoughts of God — led David to deep and compelling worship of God.
We similarly do well to contemplate the activities of God — what has He done? — and the “thoughts” of God — how has He cared for us, His unworthy servants?
In his work, The Mystery of Providence, John Flavel exhorts his readers to meditate on the works and providential actions of God in their lives:
Labour to get as full and thorough a recognition as you are able of the providences of God concerning you from first to last.
O fill your hearts with the thoughts of Him and His ways. If a single act of Providence is so ravishing and transporting, what would many such be, if they were presented together to the view of the soul! If one star is so beautiful to behold, what is a constellation! Let your reflections therefore upon the acts and workings of Providence for you be full, extensively and intensively.
How might we meditate on God’s work in our personal history? Flavel has numerous suggestions, which Joel Beeke and Terry Slachter have synthesized into a series of questions:
- Go back to your earliest memories of life, asking questions such as How was God is providence evident in the circumstances of my birth and upbringing? When did God first work in my heart in an evident way? What has God meant to me and done for me across the years?
- Focus on the timeliness of God’s mercies, and the loving kindness He showed in them. Ask questions such as How do such mercies fulfill the promises of God made to me in my baptism? How do they confirm the truth of His Word? What do they reveal about the character and heart of God?
- Consider the human instruments God used to accomplish His purpose. Ask questions such as Whom did God use to bring me comfort in my time of need? How has God worked in my life through family friends, neighbors, strangers, or even enemies?
- Meditate on the design and scope of God’s actions. Ask yourself How can God use this trial for His purposes? How has God glorified His name through other such events? How has God caused all things, even the bitterest ones, to work for my salvation?
- Observe how the providential acts of God are connected to prayers offered to Him. Flavel said: “Prayer honours providence and providence honours prayer.” Reflect upon these questions, asking How did God answer your prayers in the past? How did He answer the prayers of others on your behalf? What does that teach you about what role prayer should play in your life?
Mediate on the works of the Lord in your life. What has God done in your life both through times of so-called blessing and suffering? How has He demonstrated that He thinks favorably (graciously) toward you?
What God has done in history — our history — is a reminder of His supremacy and greatness and we do well to regularly remind ourselves of that greatness.