What it Means to Meditate on God's Word

Let's face it, there is only so much time in a day, and all too often it's hard enough to find a few moments to read a few lines of Scripture, let alone find time to contemplate it deeply. So what do we do with passages such as Joshua 1:8, which says,

This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything that is written in it.

The instruction to meditate on His word is obviously important to God. It was among the first things God said to Joshua before he began his first actions of leadership. In the Psalms, David confirmed again and again the intrinsic value of meditating on God's word day and night, and even went so far as to identify that doing so as an indication of godliness.(1)

How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! Instead his delight is in the Lord's instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. The wicked are not like this; instead they are like chaff that the wind blows away.

It would be easy to read the words of Scripture and begin to think that if we are not dedicated to reading the Bible and thinking about it all day, everyday, to the exclusion of all else, we are not truly pursuing godliness or familiarity with His word to the degree we should. But is that really true, and if it is true, can anyone really do it?

I think the answer lies in understanding what the word meditate (the Hebrew word hagah) actually means in Scripture. Meditating in Bible lingo is far more than just repeating the words of a passage over and over again, day and night. It implies intentional action and application.

In the Hebrew language, meditating literally means to moan, growl, utter, speak, and muse. In practice, it implies exhaustively mulling over an idea, working hard to understand its application, and even muttering or talking to yourself about the matter as you work it out.

Oftentimes, in my job I have to drive for an hour to two between accounts. When I have an idea weighing on my mind, I tend to talk to myself about it as I mull over all the angles of reasoning and possible applications and implications of whatever it is I am thinking about. Thankfully, in the age of Bluetooth and cell phones I probably look less like a mental case than I would have in years past! But I think this is a picture of the essence of what it means to meditate on the words of God's instruction to us.

I say that with the words of Deuteronomy 6:6-9 in mind, which says,

These words I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.

In other words, whether at work or play, at home or in the field, keep the truths of God's word foremost in your mind, so that no matter what you are thinking about, you are bringing the wisdom of God himself to bear on the subject. And while we cannot sit and read Scripture all day everyday to the exclusion of all else, it does require knowing God's word well, which requires intentional regular reading and studying of God's word.

(1) Psalm 1:2

Scripture quotations above from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.