How do You Take in the Word of God?
How do you Take in the Word of God?
Have you ever participated in a play? I was a drama major in high school and was in several plays at my church over the years. My first roles were very small, with just one short line. It put me on the stage for only a minute or two, but it felt like being part of something big.
Eventually, bigger parts came along. My part in, “Our Town” started the play out with a long, five minutes or more speech.
My drama teacher endured so much stress because of me. He would tell us to memorize certain parts of the play before rehearsal. Without fail, I would show up for rehearsal with a script in my hand, trying to memorize my part last minute. I would try to hide my script because I didn’t have all my lines memorized, but he always caught me.
When memorizing a play, you not only have to remember your lines, but also the lines of those you interact with on stage, and all of your cues for coming and going.
Our Drama teacher had this habit. He would introduce the play, then he would disappear. He would hide in his office with the door locked until after the play was over. We had to rely on ourselves and each other for cues, missed lines, or failed props. He would never be there to bail us out if we were unprepared.
I hated memorizing lines but loved getting up and acting, and being part of a production. Memorizing is hard work, but I found I could memorize lines, I just didn’t like to. One interesting thing that happens when memorizing large amounts of information is the more you memorize the easier it becomes.
We live in a very noisy world. When I was in high school trying to memorize a script, it helped to get by myself, with no distractions. Soft music would drown out other noises. Even today, the world is so busy and loud. Have you ever turned on a TV or a radio just for noise? People don’t tend to like it when things are too quiet.
Carl Jung was an early Christian counselor. He is considered one of the fathers of early psychology. He talked about how we can so easily become distracted by life, and being too busy. Clear back in 1922, Jung said, “Busyness is not just FROM the Devil, it IS the Devil” You may not completely agree with that statement, but you can see his point. It is easy to get so busy that you don’t slow down and make time for your spiritual side. The spiritual discipline of silence and contemplative prayer has been practiced since the early church by early church fathers, and certain denominations. This practice has been lost to most of the churches today. The idea is to pray, and then be silent for a period of time to see what God would have you know. If you have never done this, it is simple. It involves taking time to quiet our minds, and simply ask God one thing, “Lord, what would you like me to know today?” After praying that simple prayer, quiet your mind and listen.
A couple of weeks ago, during a time of being silent, The Lord spoke so clearly to me God wants us as a church (New Hope Church, where I pastor) to begin memorizing scripture. Specifically, I heard the scripture Psalm 119:11, “Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
God may not always speak to you during your times of silence, or contemplative prayer time. When he does, it is powerful. However, if he doesn’t speak, we have God’s word, the Bible, which contains God’s love letter to us. He constantly is available to speak to us through his word.
One of the spiritual disciplines leading to spiritual formation is taking in the Word of God. This is not just Bible reading, because there are multiple ways of taking in the Bible. We can read, we can come to church and hear, we can sing scriptural songs, we can journal scripture, we can memorize, and we can meditate on God’s Word.
In the Old Testament, many scriptures were sung. As a matter of fact, the book of Psalms would have been considered a songbook. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to remember a song that we like? If we put music to the words of scripture, we can easily memorize verses from the Bible.
Psalm 1 gives a great example of taking in the Word of God.
Psalm 1 (ESV) “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
Psalm 1 has a clear message about what it means to live a righteous life. The very first word of this Psalm is “Blessed.” This word can be translated from the Hebrew as “Oh, how very happy.” So when you see this word blessed in Psalm 1, think “Oh how very happy”. So we would read, “Oh how very happy is the person who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night”
The Bible clearly lays out how to live a happy life. First don’t run around with troublemakers, and rabble-rousers who stir up trouble. Don’t make your best friends people who are going to drag you down. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” This doesn’t mean we don’t have friends and acquaintances in the world. We can’t win them to Christ if we don’t associate at all. But we should not spend all our time, or be best friends with those who will corrupt us from Christ.
There is an old saying, sin will always take you farther than you want to go. This Psalm talks about three steps that happen when you fall into the wrong crowd.
First, the man mentioned walks in the counsel of the ungodly – when you hang around with sinners and they become your best friends, their advice will often lead you astray.
Second, he stands in the way of sinners. In other words, he becomes part of the in-crowd with his group of sinner friends. He does what they want to do, and goes where they want to go, and they accept him as part of their crowd.
Third, he sits in the seat of the scornful – what do you think of when you think of scornful people? The scornful here are referring to people who no longer even believe in God. They not only deny the existence of God, but they are antagonistic toward God and have a hatred for him. This is the progression of a person who chooses the world over God – who chooses ungodly friends as their best friends.
Psalm 1 tells us, oh how very happy is the person who does not choose to go down that path, but rather delights in God and his Word.
The next thing we see in Psalm 1 is an example of what we are to do, “but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
2 Timothy 2:15 puts this in another way. The King James version puts it this way, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Unfortunately, there are those that think you can get saved, and then live like the devil. After all, we are under Grace. It’s true, we are under the Grace of God. He does forgive us when we go to him and ask. But Galatians 5:13 tells us, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
Psalm 1 mentions the word meditation. The world often steals the things of God and tries to corrupt them. Think about how God used the rainbow as a symbol to Noah that he would never destroy the world again. How does the world use God’s rainbow today? LGBT has hijacked this symbol. The same is true of meditation. Often when we hear the word meditation, we automatically think of Buddhists, Yoga, Eastern religions, or some weird new-age thing. They take the word meditate, which appears around 40 times in our Bible, and they corrupt what it means to meditate. To these different religions, meditation is something you do to bring peace to yourself. You are supposed to clear your mind, and open yourself up – to what? I don’t think it is something of God…. Often you chant a mantra meant to connect you with the universe. After you are done, whatever problems you have are still there, but you are supposed to have found inner peace.
As human beings, we all meditate. We think deeply about different things. The Bible says we should meditate on the things of God and on the scriptures. This will not only bring us real peace but according to Psalm 1, we will be blessed for doing it.
When we meditate on scripture, we are thinking about a verse, a passage, or perhaps a story from the Bible.
It’s kind of like a cup of hot water and a tea bag. Imagine a cup of hot water is your mind and your spirit. This tea bag represents the Word of God. When you attend church and hear the Word, or you do a quick reading of some scripture, it is like dunking this tea bag one time in the Hot water. Some of the tea begins to fuse with the hot water. Over time, the water will get the tea into it, but it does take a while. When we memorize scripture, it’s like dunking the tea bag several times. It gets more tea into the water with each dunk. But if you are like me, if I’m going to drink tea, I want a strong cup of tea. I don’t like weak tea. If you want a strong tea, after you dunk the bag a few times, you want to drop the bag into the water and let it steep. In our example, this happens when you meditate on scripture. The best way to meditate on scripture is first to read a passage. When the Lord leads you to something meaningful or to something that he wants you to know, memorize this verse or verses. After you memorize scripture, you can then go over it, and meditate on it. Think about what that scripture is speaking to you. What is it that drew you to this passage?
The first time you read a passage it may not speak much to you. When you go back to it, you may see something more. When you memorize and begin to meditate on it, you see more and more. It’s kind of like the story of Elijah. Elijah declared it was not going to rain until God told him otherwise, and it didn’t rain for three years. Then God told Elijah the rain was coming. Elijah told his servant to go look out at the sky. The servant returned and said he didn’t see anything. He sent him back seven times. The last time, he saw a cloud about the size of a man’s fist. Elijah said we had better get out of here because the rain is coming. The next thing he saw the small cloud was turning into a dark sky full of clouds, then the rain came. It was a downpour, or what we used to call a “gully washer.” It’s the same when we meditate on the Word. The more we meditate on it the more we will see.
So what does Psalm 1 say happens to the person who meditates and takes delight in the scriptures? “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”
I recently heard someone talking about prayer. They said there is no such thing as answered prayer because God doesn’t answer prayers. If something happened you prayed for, it’s all just a coincidence. Well, if that’s the case, I sure have a lot more coincidences when I pray than when I don’t pray.
It’s the same as studying and meditating on scripture. For the Psalmist he found that everything he did prospered when he delighted in and meditated on God’s Word. The same goes for us as well. God will bless us, and we will find the Lord blessing our efforts as we read, memorize, and meditate on his word. Do you want everything you do to prosper? Meditate on the Word of God.
The Psalmist says the righteous person will be like a tree planted by the water. This is a metaphor or a word picture. A tree has deep roots. It’s not like a tumbleweed that goes any direction the wind blows. A tree is stable, and able to withstand the storms of life that come against it.
The second thing we know about a tree is it takes time to grow. A huge oak tree doesn’t just spring up overnight. It takes time for its roots to go deep down into the ground, and for its trunk, branches, and leaves to grow tall, strong, and mature. As Christians, we also grow and mature in the Word and in the Lord.
One other thing to see in this passage is that this tree is planted by the waters. It didn’t just spring up. In Hebrew, it is even more clear that this tree was transplanted. So the idea is this tree was taken from a desert place, where life was hard, and the growth of the tree would be stunted. It was transplanted to a rich soil with plenty of water where the tree can grow and reach its full potential.
The final part of Psalm 1 says “The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
Chaff refers to the coating that is on wheat. The wheat has an old husk and may have stems mixed in with the wheat, and dirt and dust. A farmer would take his harvest of wheat, and on a windy day, he would take the wheat and throw it in the air. Every time he threw the wheat into the air, the wind would blow the chaff off the wheat. Chaff was worthless. You can’t eat it. Any chaff left over would be gathered and burned. Psalm 1 refers to the wicked as chaff that will be separated from the wheat, gathered, and burned. That’s a scary thought if you are not a Christian today.
The world will always try to lead us away from God. The world will say Christians have no fun, come with us, and have fun. The Bible tells us the difference between right and wrong. The world tells us there is no right and wrong. If it feels good, then it must be right. The reality is real happiness is found in serving the Lord. In the end, those who choose to follow God and accept Jesus Christ as their savior will spend eternity in Heaven, while those who reject Christ will be like worthless chaff.
As you meditate on and take in the Word of God, you will find yourself growing through spiritual formation into the image of Christ.