This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
In the last post, I said we should meditate on the scriptures, so today, I’d like to go into more detail and explain what the Bible means when it says to meditate on the Word. For this, we’ll be looking at Joshua 1:8, a famous passage where God encourages Joshua by telling him how to succeed in his new position as leader of Israel. In the prior verses, God tells Joshua that He will be with him as He was with Moses and confirms that His promise that Israel will enter the Promised Land is still in effect. He does this by reminding Joshua that no one will be able to stand against him because God will not fail or forsake him. But there are still a few things that Joshua will need to do to have this success. The promise of success wasn’t unconditional, Joshua had to follow God’s three instructions: Be strong and courageous, follow the Law, and meditate on the Word. The last of the three being the focus of today’s post. With the background context covered, let’s move into Joshua 1:8.
This book of the law…
First let’s talk about the Law. (tôrâh in Hebrew) When we think about law we normally think of a strict set of impersonal guidelines set by the government to keep order. While this may be part of what the Law is, the Law means much more. In Hebrew, Law comes from the word yârâh which carries the idea of pointing/leading with the hand. When we think of the Law, we think of discipline, but when the Hebrews thought about the Law they thought of Leading from God’s hand. Instruction from the hand of God? That sounds much more exciting and loving than the common (and incorrect) legalistic understanding!
…shall not depart out of thy mouth..
Next, God told Joshua the law should not depart out of his mouth. At first glance, it can look like God is telling Joshua, Don’t talk about the Law, just meditate on it exclusively. But that is exactly the opposite of what it means! God is saying that Joshua should always have the Law in his mouth. He should continually talk about it, it should be the first thing he thinks when he gets up and the last thing he thinks about when he lays down to sleep. Man oh man is this something we struggle with as Christians. Personally, this is something I know I still need to work on. It’s so easy to get caught up in the temporal and put the Instruction from God’s hand to the wayside. So we can’t stop here, we need to continue on so we can learn how to fix it!
…but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein…
Here we get to meditation. (We made it everyone!) So let’s look at this fascinating, often foreign-sounding word. The word meditate comes from the Hebrew word hagah which means to… moan, growl, or mutter. Okay, what is going on here? Isn’t meditation something you do quietly in a place all by yourself, maybe even with a few ohmmms or something? Why is there growling, moaning, and muttering? Well, there’s a reason! For an illustration, let’s go back in time to when you had to solve a difficult problem. Maybe it was in a classroom, on a worksite, or just at home where you were trying to figure out which way to put your furniture. I’m going to stick with the classroom illustration for this post though.
So let’s go back to a high school math class where we are trying to solve a difficult problem. We need to remember to carry the one, keep both sides of the equation balanced, and show all of our work. We tried, but we’ve just hit a wall. Our equation became unbalanced. Somewhere in the process, we messed up. So let’s go back and try to fix it. How do we do that? We read it through it and mutter it back to ourselves. Okay, so I multiplied 5 by 12. I wrote 60. Good, that’s right. Hmmmm… what about over here where I divided both sides by 2? Okay, that’s right, too! Ugh! What is it!? The division by x it’s fine! Grrrrr! … What could it be- Oh, I just pushed a wrong button on the calculator… Now I have the right answer! Okay, Back to modern day. Did you catch what we did there? So what we just did was illustrate biblical meditation. If you go through and read it again you’ll notice the attributes of the Hebrew word for meditate. First, we muttered. We talked to ourselves and reconsidered the process of solving the problem so we could more clearly understand the problem as a whole. This is similar to how we are to ponder the word of God. We are to reconsider the passages that we have studied throughout the day so we can make sure we didn’t miss out on any practical application. Secondly, we growled and moaned. As we pondered the problem, it was only natural to outwardly show this pondering with a hmmm… or when frustrated a Grrrr! or Ughh!
So this is what God is telling Joshua, Joshua, I want you to take my Law, the Instruction by my Hand, and every day and night mutter it to yourself, pondering how it can be greater understood and applied to your life. I want you to have some Hmmm moments so you dig into my Word more looking for answers. Maybe there will be some things that upset your sin nature and make you go Grrr! or maybe something will be hard for you to understand and make you go Ughh! but in the end, you will have a greater understanding of my Word and be able to appropriately apply it to your life. My child, this is how you will have success
…for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
Discovering the deeper meaning of the word meditate really encouraged me and helped me grow in my Christian walk. It helped me better realize what I was supposed to do to grow myself as a Christian. Meditation on the Word wasn’t only something I did in my devotion spot, it was to be my way of life. I was to study in private, to mutter and ponder it’s applications to myself throughout the day, and to have it in my mouth ready to share with someone else at a moment’s notice; so that both he and I can benefit from the instruction of God’s Hand. This is biblical meditation. Not a solitary quiet time, but a continuous consideration of scripture and a desire to share your daily discoveries with others.
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