What is Biblical Meditation?
Most of the time, when we hear about meditation today, we think of eastern forms of meditation–that meditation that is practiced by Hinduism, Buddhism and other eastern religions. In those religions, the practitioner is called upon to empty the mind, to find a sense of what they often call “mindfulness.”
We do not have the time to address this dangerous and unbiblical practice, but let me just say that this is not what the Bible is talking about when it speaks of meditation.
The words in Hebrew and Greek which are used in the Bible speak of a lingering thoughtfulness which turns the thoughts of God’s Word over and over again. It can be likened to a cow’s chewing of her cud, seeking to extract as many nutrients from the grass as she can.
In his excellent book, God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation, David Saxton gives us a good starting definition of biblical meditation in contrast to unbiblical meditation:
“…Biblical meditation does not seek to empty one’s thoughts. Rather, it seeks to fill one’s thoughts with Scripture, fastening them to the objective truths of God’s Word. Rather than seeking to arrive at a plane of self-actualization, biblical meditation seeks to think God’s thoughts after Him. It seeks to grow in appreciation that all of life is lived before a great and mighty God. Biblical meditation realizes that thoughts reveal beliefs. Whether we wish to admit it or not, our thoughts define our religion.”
That last sentence is important. Here it is again, “Whether we wish to admit it or not, our thoughts define our religion.” You see, in a sense, we don’t need to learn to meditate because everyone already does. We meditate all the time. Saxton goes on to write:“As the heart is, so will be the thoughts. An unconverted person—a natural person—will also have reflections, but these are consistent with his nature.” Everyone meditates on something, whether it is right, wrong, or neutral.” 
What do we meditate upon is the real question! Says Saxton, “There is a meditation that is sinful and wicked, and that is when we meditate upon things that are wicked (Pss. 7:14; 36:4; Prov. 12:2)…. There is a meditation that is holy and godly, and that is when we meditate upon things that are holy and heavenly.”
What are some of the benefits of Christian Meditation?
Psalm 119:97-98 give us two benefits. Those verses say, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.” (Psalm 119:97–98, ESV)
It Provides an Increased Love for the Word (v. 97)
“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97, ESV)
The Word of God is a cool drink to the thirsty soul. Better yet, it is like milk to a newborn baby. First Peter 2:2-3 says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2–3, ESV)
We are commanded here to long for the Word like a newborn baby longs for milk. But nobody teaches a baby to long for milk. They might need help in other things, but a newborn is born with a longing for milk. And Peter here is clearly stating that those who do not long for the Word have not tasted and seen that the Lord is good (v. 2)!
We should never outgrow a love for the Word. At first as babes in Christ, our love may be ravenous, but it isn’t usually too deep. Over time, it should grow deeper, and our souls should begin to require more nutrients—meat!
In Hebrews 5:12-13, the writer rebukes those Christians who had not become dissatisfied with simply milk. He says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” (Hebrews 5:12–13, ESV)
You see, we need to grow in our love for the Word, and this growth includes more than reading it, it must include meditating on it deeply–thinking about its application to our lives and what God would have us think or be or do because of his Word. We meditate upon those things which we feel most deeply about. For the psalmist, it is the law of God, because within it he comes to know God himself.
Have you ever done this? I remember that several times, someone in our family has
started talking about donuts—especially the hot donuts at Krispy Kreme. It’s probably beginning right now—you are meditating on those hot glazed donuts. The way they melt in your mouth. With some cold milk or hot coffee to perfectly compliment that sugary treat. Before long, we are on our way, sometimes late at night, to Krispy Kreme.
We meditate upon those things that we feel most deeply about. A baby longs for milk. A Christian longs for the Word of God. He longs to pore over it, to think about it, to study it, to fulfill its commands. You can’t keep a true Christian from his Bible. That has been proven by those who have been willing to die in order to have a copy.
It isn’t really about the book though. Our love for the Word is produced by a love of our God and a desire to know him more fully. Our love for God drives our love for the Word. Show me a person who doesn’t love the Bible, and I don’t care what they say, they don’t really love God.
2. It Provides Wise Counsel Against Enemies (v. 98)
“Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.” (Psalm 119:98, ESV)
At first, it might seem like verse 98 is a bit boastful because they claim that the psalmist is wiser than others because of his knowledge and meditation on the Word. But the boast isn’t in his own wisdom, but rather in the wisdom acquired from God’s Word.
Listen to what Paul wrote about the wisdom of God in Romans 11:33-34, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”” (Romans 11:33–34, ESV)
So, the question he asks is “who has known the mind of the Lord?” What does 1Corinthians 2:16 say? ““For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16, ESV)
That is a staggering thought. It doesn’t mean that in our own minds we have obtained all the thinking and thoughts of God. What it does refer to is the fact that in the Scriptures, through the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit of God, we can think God’s thoughts after him as revealed in the Scriptures.
The very next verse in 1 Corinthians begins chapter 3, which is a rebuke of those Christians in Corinth who had not taken advantage of the Word and were like spiritual children, they are “mental midgets.” In other words, you can’t call upon the wisdom of God if you haven’t first put it into your head, and then it needs to be meditated upon.
Meditation upon the Word leads to wisdom. Simple knowledge without reflection will profit less than knowledge which has been illustrated and applied. The enemies, which the psalmist says he is wiser than, either do not know the Scriptures, or they know and do not practice what it says. Either way, the power of the Word of God is not available to them.
Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18, ESV). David had learned this, probably from the Word as well as by experience. He may have taught it to Solomon, his son, who put it in the book of Proverbs. One example of the downfall of pride can be seen in a time of great turmoil in the life of Israel when David’s son Absalom had overthrown his father’s government and David chose to flee instead of fighting.
When David’s wise counselors Hushai and Ahithophel were sought for the next step, Hushai, who was secretly still serving David, played on Absalom’s massive pride and gave him bad counsel. You can read the whole account in 2 Samuel 16:15-17:23.
Absalom was putty in Hushai’s hands. Why? Not because Absalom wasn’t cunning or a great war strategist as his father David, he was both of these things. Hushai was wiser than his shrewd enemy Absalom because he knew what the Word of God says about the proud, and he used this truth to his advantage. But that took deep thinking about his situation and how the Word of God applied to it.
Psalm 1:1-2 speaks about the two types of counsel that are available in this world—either wicked or righteous. We need to understand that it is the counsel of the Scriptures which gives us the help we need form our enemies. And since the attacks of our enemies come at a time when there is usually not time to have a Bible study, we need to be gathering a supply of wisdom in our arsenal for the day when the enemy attacks.
In Ps 119:98, the psalmist says that the commandment “is ever with me.” That is what we would expect of a weapon, isn’t it? What good is a weapon of war back in the safe confines of the home? A sword needs to be strapped to the thigh to be ready for battle. So too we must be ready.
Psalm 119:11 reminds us, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11, ESV)
The storage of the Word of God is good for self, but it is also good for counsel to protect us from our enemies both internal and external enemies.
So, what can we do to begin getting these blessings? We must begin with prayer. At the beginning of this post I told you that we didn’t need to learn you how to meditate because we already meditate upon many things all on our own. And that is true.
But we are not in glorified bodies, and we do not have glorified minds yet. And so, we must battle our own flesh so that we may have the strength and focus we need to meditate on the glories of Scripture. Our spirits may be willing, but our flesh is weak!
William Bridge explained, “If you would meditate on God, and the things of God, go then to God for this skill of meditation. Friends, there is an art, and a divine skill of meditation, which none can teach but God alone. Would you have it, go then to God, and beg of God these things.”
Saxton, David W.. God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation (Kindle Locations 2705-2707). Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.
Ibid. (Kindle Locations 452-454).
Ibid., (Kindle Locations 373-375). Quote is from Wilhelmus à Brakel, “Spiritual Meditation,” in The Christian’s Reasonable Service, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 1995), 4:26.
Ibid., (Kindle Locations 380-382). Quote is from Calamy, Divine Meditation, 2–3.