Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
What comes to your mind when I say the word “meditation”? Really. I am curious to know. “Om”? Sitting cross legged on a mat, hands palm up on knees? Or did you think of murmuring your favorite bible promises under your breath as you go about your work? Or pouring out your complaint to God in prayer?
Meditation has become a common means of calming the mind and “centering” the self. It has become very popular in Western culture in recent years and seems to have become a substitute for prayer even among Christians. But is this a proper understanding of meditation as spoken of in the Word of God?
Godly meditation is the polar opposite of the meditation that is practiced and promoted today.
There are many scriptures in God’s Word that tell us to meditate. We are told to meditate on the Word. It is to be in our mouths and in our minds. Godly meditation is active. The mind is fully engaged on something — the words of the Almighty. Most of what is called meditation today involves clearing the mind. Concentrating on your breath. Relaxing your body. Repeating a mantra. Etc.
To understand what God means when He tells us to meditate, let’s take a look at the Hebrew word(s) that are translated as meditate or meditation.
Hagah (Strong’s H1897) occurs 25 times in the Old Testament. It is defined thus:
- to moan, growl, utter, muse, mutter, meditate, devise, plot, speak
- to roar, growl, groan
- to utter, speak
- to meditate, devise, muse, imagine
- (Poal) to utter
- (Hiphil) to mutter
As you can see from the definitions above, this word involves action. To hagah, one’s mind must be actively thinking about something and the tongue and voice are also actively involved. A look at a few of the scriptures that employ this word show that what is being “hagah-ed” is God’s words, especially, the Torah (Instructions or Law).
The word hagah first appears in Scripture in the first chapter of Joshua. This verse clearly shows the purpose of having the words of the Torah in Joshua’s mouth and in his mind — so that he would remember and do what it says, which would result in success.
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.
The following three Hebrew words are from the same root word Hagah and are often translated “meditation.”
Haguwth (Strong’s H1900) occurs once. Meaning: meditation, utterance, musing.
Hagiyg (Strong’s H1901) occurs twice and means whisper, musing, murmuring.
Higgaion (Strong’s H1902) is the word translated “meditation” in Psalm 19:14 (see above). It is defined as meditation, resounding music, musing.
David uses two different words that carry similar meaning in Psalm 77 and 143. Meditate (Hagah) and talk/muse (Siyach).
I will meditate (Hagah) also of all thy work, and talk (Siyach) of thy doings.
I remember the days of old; I meditate (Hagah) on all thy works; I muse (Siyach) on the work of thy hands.
Siyach (Strong’s H7878) occurs 20 times in the Old Testament and is translated meditate five times in the Psalms. It is defined as follows:
- to put forth, meditate, muse, commune, speak, complain, ponder, sing
- to complain
- to muse, meditate upon, study, ponder
- to talk, sing, speak
- (Polel) to meditate, consider, put forth thoughts
See also Strong’s H7879 and H7881–variations of H7878 with very similar meanings. All three of these Hebrew words carry the meaning of meditation, prayer, talking, complaining.
All of these Hebrew words are closely related in their meanings and sense. They all involve an active mind and active mouth. Speech is the outflow of the musings and meditations of the mind.
My point in all of this Hebrew word study is to draw a contrast between the biblical definition and usage of meditation with the types of meditation popularly practiced and promoted today. It is seen in secular applications and, sadly, in some Christian churches.
When I was in high school Transcendental Meditation was being discussed and practiced. I did not know much about it, except that it came from Eastern religious practice and it was taboo for Christians. It and many other types of meditation have become accepted today and appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike.
According to Psychology Today, meditation is a mental exercise which is used to train attention and awareness. The purpose of this exercise is to curb our reactivity to the fleeting negative thoughts and feelings which disturb and upset us and hijack our attention from moment to moment.
Meditation is used to decrease distractibility and promote focus on/enjoyment of the present moment. The practitioner focuses their attention on a single point of reference (e.g., the breath, sensations in the body, a mantra).
Definitions of meditation and styles of meditation are many and varied. Most of what is commonly practiced in the West has been taken and adapted from Eastern methods, many of which are rooted in Eastern religions and mysticism (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, Sikhism). There are other forms of meditation that come out of Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) and even Catholicism/Christianity. There are neo-pagan, occult, and new age practices; even medical, psychological, and business applications.
Within these genres, there are many, many types of meditation. I will list just a few that I found in a quick Google search. Mindfulness, Body Scanning, Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Gazing, Qigong, Chakra, Kundalini, Zazen, Third Eye, Nada Yoga, Tantra, Self-Inquiry, Taoist Emptiness, Transcendental, Vipassana, Mantra, and Guided meditation. Others include: Visualization practices, Tai Chi, Forgiveness meditation. Add to this the “Christian” types: Rosary, Contemplative prayer, Sozo (Freedom) prayer.
Let me be clear. My purpose in this article is not to promote any of the above meditation types or genres. I merely present them here to contrast our biblically mandated meditation with what popular Western culture has embraced and what Eastern culture has been practicing for millennia.
My belief is that there is only one type of meditation that is of true benefit for believers in the LORD (Yehovah) and in His Son, Jesus (Yeshua). The meditation that He prescribes for us is to think on and speak His words to us that He has revealed to us in the Bible. When we read and speak and ponder the wonderful things He has done and on His character and righteousness, it will bear fruit in our lives and give us success and freedom in life. All of the other meditative practices are just counterfeits that can draw us away from knowing God in the way He desires.
Remember, our enemy, the devil, who disguises himself as an angel of light, will provide “answers” to our problems that appear to be godly. (Look! God says to meditate. Here — pick whatever type suits you! There is a style for every problem and personality. Don’t limit yourself to what the Bible says!)
Jesus said in John 8:32, “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.”
It is the truth we know, that will set us free. God’s word is truth. Therefore, we have to know His word to distinguish between truth and lies — between what is real and what is merely a counterfeit. Meditating on God’s words to us will accomplish this.
Because God has told us to meditate on His word, study the scriptures on this subject to learn how to practice it in the way that is beneficial and pleases Him.
If you are involved in some of the forms of meditation that are mentioned above, determine to leave those practices and embrace biblical meditation.
Remember, God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts. Meditate on Isaiah 55:8-11.
Make Psalm 19:14 the cry of your heart!
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