In principle, we agree with the psalmist when he writes, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the ungodly." But we also know the power of sin in our lives. We do those things we do not want to do. We do not do the things we want to do. We know futility and wretchedness by experience. How do we quit the way of sin when it seems impossible?
The answer is Psalm 1:2, to delight in the law of the Lord, and to meditate in it day and night. Meditation in the law of God brings delight and prepares a person to do the law of God, which results in blessing now and eternally.
"Delight" parallels "meditate."
Hebrew poetry deals, not with the sounds of words, but with the rhyming or contrast of ideas. A line will state an idea, and the next line can repeat the same idea in different words, or it can contrast ideas. This approach is called parallelism.
These two lines are saying the same thing with different words. Notice in the passage that "delight" is paralleling "meditate." They are the two verbs being used in dealing with the law of the Lord.
Here are two things you can and should do with the law of the Lord: delight in it and meditate in it.
Meditating is preparation for doing.
Meditating is for the mind what digestion is for the body: It is the way to inwardly receive what one needs to live.
When you eat, you chew your food and enjoy the flavour. Then you swallow it. Your stomach adds enzymes and acids to further break down the food into its constituent elements: amino acids, fats, glucose (simplest sugar), minerals, vitamins. Then in the intestines, these elements are absorbed into the body and utilized as needed. In particular, the glucose is circulated through the body via the blood system and is absorbed into the cells. Finally, the body secretes a hormone, a chemical message that tells the cells in the body to open up and take in the glucose.
There is a disorder in which the body loses the cells that secrete the hormone. When that happens, the cells do not take in the glucose. Instead, the blood sugar rises to a level that endangers the system. Thus the system reacts by flushing out the unused blood sugar through the kidneys and urinating it out of the body. A person with this condition eats and digests adequately, but because the cells never properly receive the needed glucose, the person eventually starves to death. It is as though he has not eaten at all. This disorder is called type-1 diabetes.
Similarly, you can read scripture and study it, but still not receive any benefit, because the last step of inwardly receiving the scripture doesn't happen. It is as though you have not read at all. When you meditate on the scriptures, you are internally receiving those words into the deepest part of your heart. Just as your food becomes part of you, that Word becomes part of your heart. The will of God is no longer coming from outside but lives in you. You do the will of God from the heart.
Meditation is preparation for doing. We see this in Joshua 1:6-8:
"Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success."
Notice first what God told Joshua to do: Joshua was to bring the people of Israel into the Promised Land to possess it. It was a formidable and intimidating assignment. Not even Moses, with his glowing face, accomplished that.
Next, God told Joshua how to do what was commanded: Obey the law of Moses without fail.
And then God told Joshua how to obey the law of Moses: He was not to allow that book to depart from his mouth but to meditate on it day and night. He was to receive God's law continually, inwardly. God confirmed that if he did this, He would make Joshua's way prosperous, and he would succeed in doing the will of God.
The law of the Lord is delightful?
Somebody might say: "I thought the law was all a bunch of dos and don'ts. Where's the delight there?" That would echo the counsel of the ungodly: How could obeying God's law possibly be fun?
But we are talking about something beyond mere fun or entertainment. We are talking about blessing, which leads to eternal life. Anything less than eternal life is a stay of execution.
The psalmist spoke about the delights of the law of the Lord in Psalm 119:97-104:
"O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, For they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way."
Never Gets Old
Notice how the psalmist can meditate on the law of the Lord all day long and not get tired of it. You can get tired of music, movies, games, books. But here is something that delights all day long. That's because the word of God is eternal. When you meditate, you are putting something eternal into your innermost being.
You Become More
In the next three verses, the psalmist says he is more than his enemies, his teachers and even the aged with all their experience. The law of the Lord gives us the wisdom, insight and understanding of God Himself, who is above and beyond any human or angel. The psalmist had enemies who were more powerful and more numerous, who wanted to kill him, yet the law of the Lord enabled him to have insight that nullified all their superiority. You are not supposed to be greater than your teachers, yet the law of the Lord surpasses human knowledge. And the aged may have the experience, but experience alone is not superior. That experience can be a mistake after mistake. You don't have to learn in the school of hard knocks. The law of the Lord enables a person to avoid bad decisions and experience the goodness of God.
Verses 101-102 show how meditating on the law of the Lord enables a person to avoid deception and sin. Through meditation, God Himself teaches a person to continue in doing what is right. You will not fall away. That results in security now and forever.
Sweetness and satisfaction
The word of God is sweet like honey, says the psalmist, and we think: "How could that be?" Because these two commandments express the entirety of God's law: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself. A life lived in the love of God is sweet and satisfying. Nobody was ever satisfied with a life of sin and rebellion against God. Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive. It is truth woven into the fabric of the universe: If you genuinely want to be blessed, then give to someone. Make someone else's life better. Live in love.
The only catch is that you have to be connected to a source of love that doesn't run dry. Otherwise, you will run dry, and that's no fun. The good thing is that when you meditate, you are connected. There's more about that in this psalm that we will look at next time.
If you don't meditate, you won't "do."
The biblical order of obedience is: Meditate on the word of God, receive it inwardly, then you will do it from the heart. If you are not doing the will of God, don't beat yourself up. You're likely behind on your think time. Check to see if you are consistently meditating on that will of God that you are failing to do. Meditating prepares your heart for doing. You do what you meditate on.
This principle also works the other way. That's why there are books, music, videos and movies that all present rebellious, sinful ideas. Murder, adultery, jealousy, revenge, hatred, self-centeredness, lust, it's all present in our entertainment. "Entertain," by the way, means to maintain, keep, hold in the mind. The devil wants to actively keep sinful ideas in your mind so that you will eventually do them. If you meditate on sinful things, don't be surprised if you do those sinful things.
But you can decide what you think about. You are not a victim; you are a volunteer. What are you volunteering for? What do you set your mind on?
"For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things" (Philippians 3:18-19).
Can you imagine believers in Jesus who are actually working against their own salvation? People who are not going to make it to heaven? Paul knew them personally. It was a grief to him that they were unreasonable, stubborn, refusing to consider their ways and change what they thought about.
Here's a challenge. If you believe in Jesus, and you want to experience His goodness, then delight in His word for the next 30 days.
While you do this, it might be a good time for a media blackout. The reason is to get your taste buds for the word of God recalibrated.
When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they complained about the manna God gave them to eat (Numbers 11:4-9). Manna tasted like wafers made with oil. It had a good taste, but evidently, it didn't register on Israel's taste buds. They were used to more zip, bang, pow in their food, with garlic, leeks and fish. The effect might be similar to always having your food with Sriracha and Tabasco sauce. Israel was discontent because they couldn't taste God's bread from heaven.
Is the Bible tasteless to you? That might be because you have been conditioned to want zip, bang and pow in your media. Advertisers, writers, marketers and video producers are all aiming to stimulate your body's dopamine production. They want to make you addicted to a media-saturated lifestyle.
In a world filled with things that scream for your attention, the Bible is not one of them. God will not lunge at you and compete with marketers for your attention. Did you notice that when He spoke to Elijah (1 Kings 19:11), He wasn't in the raging wind, nor the earthquake, nor the blazing fire? He speaks in a still, small voice. To some people who are accustomed to incessant media exposure, it is silent and tasteless.
I often suggest to people wanting to hear from God to get desperate. Do the media fast for 30 days. Cut out all the stuff that you allow into your life that you know has nothing to do with Jesus. These blogs, news sources, chat groups, forums, magazines, music, videos or whatever, may not be harmful in themselves, but what do they have in common with Jesus? For this particular time of seeking the Lord, I would even suggest cutting out Christian media. The good can be the enemy of the best. The best is you receiving from God Himself. Nothing else compares when God is speaking.
For the sake of the challenge, be brutal. Make it just you and the Bible.
Read several chapters every day. Find out what is a good, daily amount for you. Pick out pertinent verses in those chapters and think about them deeply. Write down your thoughts in a notebook: your observations, your questions, other verses as they occur to you. Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to get insight. Pray about those things that you learn.
You will probably experience some unpleasant cold-turkey withdrawal from the media you cut out. You don't have to feel bad about it. After all, we are still physical, "carnal" beings. At the same time, you will also find yourself increasingly satisfied by God. You will want more of God speaking to your heart. You will find yourself delighting in the law of the Lord.
Do you think it will take 30 days for God to start speaking to you? I sincerely doubt it. I think it will be a fabulous time of communion with God.
And then what?
What you do after the fast is over is totally up to you. But consider the long run. What do you think would happen if your top priority was to meditate in the Bible for the rest of your life?
The answer is some seriously transcendent, wonderful, glorious things. We will discuss them in my next article.