The Reading Rut: Reflecting (#5 of 6)


“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lordand on his law he meditates day and nightHe is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.” (Psalm 1:1-4) [emphasis mine]

Now I am going to be perfectly honest here – throughout this article I will mostly be talking about and referring to meditation rather than reflection,  however when I was planning this series I liked the idea of every part of it starting with the letter ‘R’, hence the title ‘Reflecting’. I do probably use the two words in slightly different contexts, using reflecting for a variety of situations, such as reflecting on conversations, scenarios, ideas and concepts, and meditation to mean more specifically the reflecting on The Bible and its meaning and application. I don’t think I have any particularly rhyme or reason for this distinction, but it simply explains how I read and approach the Bible in a way that personally makes sense. Whatever your thoughts though, I feel that both are an integral part of the process of taking what we read as head knowledge and making it true in our hearts.

When I was first taught that as a Christian I should be meditating, I envisaged sitting with my legs crossed, clearing my mind and saying ‘ohhhmmmmmm’ – but in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Meditating is chewing and mulling over what you have read, thinking deeply about its meaning, its application, feeling the emotion it provokes and being aware of the response of your heart. It is a discipline, something we need to do intentionally, and if we are to look at how the psalmist views it, we are to be doing this frequently throughout our ‘day and night’. One reason we do this is to grow in delight of God’s Word. The more we meditate on it, the more we love it and find our joy in reading it, and the more we delight in God’s Word, the easier we will find meditation. It’s a wonderful ‘vicious’ cycle! And this is precisely why this post is included in a series on being in a reading rut. So often if we are not reading our Bible, it is because we have lost our joy and delight in it – or worse still,worse still, maybe joy and delight in your Bible reading is something you’ve never experienced before. Believe it or not, you won’t find that delight as your Bible sits closed next to your bed day after day. However this also doesn’t mean that delight will just magically come from routine reading. Delight comes from a state of heart, from a life that does not walk in habits of sinfulness, but habits that reflect a love of God and his Word. This verse begins with ‘Blessed is the man…’, meaning a true, deep, fulfilling happiness. So what this is saying is that when we find our pleasure in God, in spending time in his Word, in meditating on it, rather than finding pleasure in the ways of this world or fellowship with the wicked, this is where we find true happiness.

If this wasn’t convincing enough, meditation is also an important part of the process of us developing fruit in our Christian walk, ie: living a godly life. By meditating on God’s Word, we are creating an avenue for the Holy Spirit to be at work in changing us. The psalmist also says that we will be like a tree whose ‘leaf does not wither’. This reminds me of the verse in Jeremiah 17:7-8 which says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the LordHe is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
What a picture! Despite the heat and drought, we can be durable and stay strong, because our roots are deep. Our life comes not from our external situation, but a secure unchanging source, God and his Word.

You may be thinking, that is all very well and good, but how do I actually do this?’Meditation’ in Hebrew means to speak or mutter. And this is what we are doing to our heart, we are speaking God’s Word to our heart. In another psalm, which talks a lot about God’s Word, we read,  “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” (Psalm 119:15-16)
Here we once again see the close connection between meditating on God’s word and finding delight in it. But we also see the phrase ‘ I will not forget your word’. This is what I have found has been one of the most helpful additions to my Bible reading and meditation, Bible memorization. I know – it sounds hard and time consuming, and the last time you memorized a Bible verse was in Sunday School, but bear with me. You see, if we don’t know God’s Word, if we don’t have it memorized, secured in our minds, we are going to struggle to speak it and speak about it to our hearts. Put simply, if meditating is deeply reflecting upon God’s word, sitting with it, pulling it apart, it means we actually need to know and remember what we have read.

I don’t know about you but I have in the past – with the best intentions- chosen to read just one verse saying ‘I will just look at this verse in depth rather than reading a whole big passage.’ So I read it, sit and think about it for a minute, pray and then I’m done, without thinking about it again. This is mainly because I quickly forget what I read in the first place; I not only failed to get the verse in the context of the passage it is in, (so its application and meaning is not thought about), but as my day goes by I have so much else going on I simply forget the single sentence I read. This is why Bible memorization is so crucial. It means we have God’s Word with us, stored in our mind, and by meditation, also stored in our hearts. Not only this but I have found the process of memorization itself to be really useful at prompting the meditation, so once I am in the habit of using spare minutes here and there to memorize a chosen verse, that time also naturally becomes a prompt for meditation. Now this does not mean you have to memorize the entirety of the Bible, or that you cannot just memorize single verses (in fact I encourage you to start there) – but do so in the context of what you are reading, so that in memorizing, you can reflect on God’s word in greater depth.

The final reason why you should memorize Scripture is just how useful it is for life. It is such a blessing when praying for people to be able to pray scripture over them, to have our words line up with God’s, it also means you can be prepared when asked about your faith to include truth from the Bible in your response, and when talking with Christian brothers and sisters, you can encourage and rebuke not with your own opinion but with the Word of God itself.

I acknowledge this has been a bit of a long and dense post, so in summary, here are the key take-aways:

1. We are blessed when we delight in God’s Word and Meditate on it
2. By meditating we:
a) Increase our delight in God and His Word
b) Produce fruit in season, we allow an avenue for the Holy Spirit’s transforming work
c) Grow deep roots which sustain us in times of heat and drought
3. Bible memorization is integral for meditation

Some questions to ask yourself (and to reflect on)

  • Do I delight in God’s Word. Why/Why not?
  • What worldly things am I delighting in instead of God and His Word?
  • What barriers are present (or do I put up) against Bible memorization?
  • How could my increased delight and mediation of God’s Word be loving and serving of those around me?
  • What is the single most prominent or important thing that I need to commit to prayer and accountability of others in order to begin the process of getting out of a ‘Reading Rut’ or to go deeper in my Bible reading?

In my next (and final!) post for this series, I am going to be looking at some resources to help with Bible reading and overcoming a ‘Reading Rut’ and in that I will include a couple of tools for Bible memorization.