Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Psalm 119 is an unusual Psalm in many ways. The first that we normally notice is that it’s an acrostic feat of engineering, with a stanza for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order. Within each stanza there’s a rigorous structure as well.
What’s more important than the length or arrangement is that the Psalm centers around the importance of God’s Word. How do we receive the Word of God? What do we do with it?
I’d like to focus on verse 15, which I think is often misunderstood in American Christianity. Here’s the problem. We seem to confuse the way the Bible speaks about meditating with the practices that are common in the eastern religions.
While eastern meditation has a focus on emptying oneself, the meditation the Bible speaks about is more one of filling. It’s the idea of taking an idea in, considering it from every angle, asking questions about it, trying to answer those questions, and trying the idea out in comparison with many others.
Psalm 119:15 says that the Psalmist, wanting to be righteous, will meditate of God’s precepts. In the parallel line immediately following, he says he will think about God’s ways.
One of the common themes I hear from Christian teachers is that the Bible doesn’t seem to speak to particular issues or situations. Over the last thirty years or so I’ve become convinced those teachers are wrong. They simply aren’t considering God’s precepts adequately. They aren’t meditating on God’s Word.
What is necessary, though, is a move from the very specific words the Bible uses to the concept the Bible speaks about. As an example, and grantedly, a hit-button example, the Bible never says whether it’s all right for people to be enslaved or not. It speaks of situations where people are enslaved, but never clearly says you should enslave them or that you should release them. What does the Bible speak about? Several concepts which are relevant. It says that we are not to bring pain and suffering on others, with the exception being legitimate acts of war waged by a government. It says we are to consider others’ needs as more important than our own. It says we are to love one another as Christ loved us and gave his life for us. While the issue of slavery is not addressed, certainly the issue of care and respect for other humans is addressed. We learn how to treat others for their good.
When we meditate on God’s precepts, we fill our minds with his ideas. We fill our hearts with his compassion. We end up making a difference for good in this world. It’s a worthy occupation. May we all be busy thinking about God’s ways.
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