To meditate means to mutter or murmur to yourself for ongoing reflection, specifically, in this instance, the truths of God’s Word (Ps. 1:2; Josh. 1:8). This is not a pagan emptying of our minds, but rather a filling of our minds, immersing our thoughts and affections in biblical truth. Whitney more specifically defines meditation as “deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer.” We memorize the Bible to meditate on the Bible. Memorizing Scripture makes meditation possible at times when we can’t be reading the Bible, and meditation is the pathway of deeper understanding. So again, while reading and study are essential, they typically will only constitute one part of our day. Memorization and meditation allow us to dwell in biblical truths throughout our days, seeing, savoring, and communing with God so as to become more like him.
Why We Should Meditate on Scripture
Two points will be made in this section, namely, that we should meditate and how we should meditate. First, that we should meditate is evidenced from various places in Scripture, but we will limit ourselves to four. In Joshua 1 we see the new leader of the nation of Israel, Joshua, exhorted by God to be strong and courageous (1:6, 7, 9). But the Lord does not leave Joshua to conjure up his own courage out of thin air; there is a source that God provides: meditating on God’s Word day and night. If Joshua—and we—will do this, God will sustain him. Mathis rightly notes,
“God means not for Joshua to be merely familiar with the Book, or that he read through sections of it quickly in the morning, or even just that he go deep in it in study, but that he be captivated by it and build his life on its truths. His spare thoughts should go there, his idle mind gravitate there. God’s words of instruction are to saturate his life, give him direction, shape his mind, form his patterns, fuel his affections, and inspire his actions.”
Psalm 1, which we commented on in the previous chapter, uses similar language to that of Joshua 1, calling God’s people to delightfully meditate on Scripture day and night so as to be fruitful and resilient (1:2–3). The one who is blessed by God will not traverse down the path of the wicked but will instead give themselves to knowing and obeying God’s Word. Again, this meditation is not occasional, but a constant, day-and-night giving of ourselves to thinking God’s thoughts after him. The latter half of Psalm 19 also beckons believers to partake of the Word. Here we see that God’s Word is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true, and desirable, and if we give ourselves to meditating on its truths, we will experience revival, wisdom, joy, enlightenment, perseverance, righteousness, satisfaction, and reward (19:7–11).
In Psalm 119 the psalmist extols the worth and beauty of Scripture. Here the psalmist proclaims that he meditates on God’s precepts (119:15, 78), statutes (119:23, 48), wondrous works (119:27), and testimonies (119:99). The psalmist erupts in praise, saying, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (119:97). These kinds of texts draw us toward meditating on Scripture, knowing that in doing so we will commune with the living God and be satisfied and transformed.
How We Should Meditate on Scripture
So, we should give ourselves to meditating on Scripture, and second, we must consider how to meditate on the Word of God. If we are faithfully reading and studying Scripture, as outlined above, then we prepare well to be able to engage in meditation. Read your passage for the day or study the text you are seeking to better understand, and be sure that you leave time to dwell on a particular verse or passage. This could simply be something that is impactful in terms of a textual insight, a truth that fires your affections for God or conviction over sin, or a renewed call to walk in the ways of God and live for his glory. Take time right then and there to think about and pray over that truth. But it doesn’t stop there. Write it down on a card, put it on your phone, or memorize that verse or passage. Keep it with you throughout the day. Look at it and mull it over in your mind in quiet moments commuting to work or waiting in line. Let the default of your quiet moments become Scripture, not other distractions. Immerse yourself in them, see God in all of his splendor, and be changed little by little in your character.
Meditating on the Word of God shapes our souls and shows us God’s glory, if we have eyes to see. Piper observes, “A godly life is lived out of a heart that is just astonished at grace. . . . So we go to the Bible to be astonished. We go to the Bible to be amazed at God and amazed at Christ and amazed at the cross and amazed at grace and amazed at the gospel.” So, we go to the Bible and mull over the truths contained there; we think about them and say them to ourselves and others throughout the day with the aim that we would be staggered by God and his glory, and that we would become more and more like what we are meditating on and beholding.
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 Mathis, Habits of Grace, 57.
 John Piper, “Must Bible Reading Always End with Application?” Ask Pastor
John, episode 26, February 13, 2013, https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/must-bible-reading-always-end-with-application.
This post is adapted from Behold and Become. This title was released on June 20, 2023. If you are interested in adopting this book for a college or seminary course, please request a faculty examination copy. We will also consider requests for your blog or media outlets.
The Bible is not merely for information but for being saved by God and changed through his words
Believers know the Bible is powerful–but how so? And how does God save people and transform lives through Scripture? Author and theology professor Jeremy M. Kimble integrates an evangelical doctrine of Scripture with a robust, coherent practice of engaging with Scripture.
Behold and Become contends that the Bible, which is God’s self-revelation, coupled with the Spirit, works to produce salvation and growth in godliness. Believers will see how sound beliefs about Scripture correspond with practices that allow for God’s transforming work, such as:
- How the Bible’s inerrancy demands our careful attention to the biblical authors as theologians
- How the Bible’s efficacy operates within the doctrines of the triune God and the church
- How the Bible’s authority directs our focus toward who God is and how he acts in the world
We become like what we behold. Rather than passively assume the animating power of the Bible, Behold and Become guides readers to make Scripture’s vitality an overt part of their theology of Scripture and practice of Christian life.