I have heard about meditation on the word of God for most of my life. I have generally understood this to mean that one looks up a passage (that either comforts or challenges) and reads it, then sits and thinks about it for a while. Hopefully, the Holy Spirit brings enlightenment to the person who is earnestly seeking to hide the word in his or her heart. The word then is more likely to take root and become an actual part of us than if we just passively read it, check off our devotional requirement for the day, and call it good.
Recently I set out with a more patient, methodical way of meditation on the scriptures in which I approach a passage one phrase at a time, as if to memorize it, but with a deeper purpose. As each phrase is repeated a few times, I prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to cause the truth of the passage to sink in deeply. The results are more profound. Please hear me out on this and especially what I have to say about context and interpretation in closing.
I began with Colossians 3. It is a great chapter about newness of life in Christ, focusing on the things above, forgetting about the things of this earth, letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, forgiving others as we have been forgiven, and living in gratitude. Sounds like standard fare for Paul, right? So familiar that one might easily glide over it barely affected by it, especially if you have been hearing this stuff in churches for a long time. But as I meditated on each phrase, the overarching question in my spirit seemed to be—What would be different if I really believed this with every fiber of my mind, emotions, soul and spirit? What if every part of me was in harmony, moving in concert in the same direction as the Spirit of God as revealed in this particular phrase I am hearing right here, right now?
A particular phrase demanded my attention: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (vs. 15).” Over the course of about 3 weeks, during my quiet time, this became more personal, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart.” Finally, it became a choice I owned, “I am letting the peace of Christ rule in my heart.” Still sounds very simple. Yet what was going on during the pauses between the phrases was profound. The Spirit was bringing to mind other things that I was allowing to rule in my heart: envy, fear, anger, material desires, the desire for approval, circumstantial happiness, the list went on and on. There were then conscious choices to trade each of these counterfeits for the peace that comes from Christ. As I have done so, I have found a deeper peace than I have known in quite some time. I expect this to be an ongoing process, but it is one the Spirit has brought to my awareness through the meditation of the passage. What the practice did was jump start my progress in this area. What might have taken years of normal living progress was realized in the course of a few weeks. This is not a way of feeling special about oneself, but a means of sanctification, a stripping away of self.
Again, I cannot emphasize enough that no method is to be worshipped. Peace comes through relationship with Christ. Christ is revealed in his Word, by his Spirit as we prayerfully approach him. (The Bible itself can become an idol if we let it obscure the One it is meant to reveal). This process of meditation works for me, and I am eager to utilize ways to take the Word of Christ ever deeper into my being, so that it can dwell there ever more richly. I am motivated to share with you anything and everything that might build you up and draw you closer to him and to one another.
Here is what I want to say about context and understanding. If we just pick a passage or a verse and begin to meditate on it, without understanding the passage in its original context (who wrote it to whom with what purposes in mind) then we are open to misunderstandings, misinterpretations and misapplications. God gave us a mind as well as emotions, and he expects us to use them in pursuit and worship of Him (Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind…). Therefore, what I am insisting on is a preliminary, prayerful study of the passage you are meditating on. You do not have to be a scholar these days to do so. There are a number of decent Study Bibles on the market, and your local Christian book store will be happy to walk you through them. Most even come in affordable paperback versions. Two that come to mind are the NIV Study Bible and the Life Application Study Bible.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Colossians 3:16
“I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your ways and I will not neglect your word.” Psalm 119:15, 16