Please turn in the pew Bibles to Psalm 104, and follow along as I read v34. “My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.” The word of God. Thanks be to God.
My exercise program received a bit of a setback a week ago. I had been riding a bicycle, but over the last couple of months, I noticed increasing pain in my left leg. Finally, it got so bad that I went to the Doctor. He pinched me and prodded me and x-rayed me, and said it was a pinched nerve. He prescribed medicine and he told me to do several things, one was to stop riding the bicycle for the time being, and take up walking instead.
So on Monday, I had been reading Psalm 104, which is a great psalm celebrating God as creator and sustainer, and I decided to obey the doctor’s orders and go for a walk. I was not doing anything religious. I was walking because of doctor’s orders. But I was thinking about God as I found him in this psalm. I walked just a few steps around to the front yard of the Manse. There are two maple trees in the front yard. And I noticed that one maple still had some of last years dead leaves on it, and it looked like the sap was down and it was still in winter mode. But the other tree, just twenty feet away, was already budding. It was covered with new growth. As I looked at that budding maple, I seemed to see also some sort of divine power radiating through the growth of the tree. It did not feel strange or weird, but I felt that behind the growth there was a force or power. Then I realized that this sense of a power was not only in the tree, but all around me. I felt surrounded and enveloped by God.
Now I remember thinking a couple of things when this happened. One thing I thought was, you probably should never tell anybody about this. People would think you are some kind of nut. Old Tony sees God in trees, he is out of his tree. His elevator does not go all the way to the top. His biscuits aren’t done. But I am too old to worry about what people think about me, so, as you can see, I told you any way. Then my common sense kicked in and said, You were thinking about the psalm and thinking about God, so it is not surprising that you see divine power in such a pretty thing a budding tree. That is true, but I still had a real sense of the presence of God.
That whole incident on Monday is what is called a walking meditation. You walk, not really thinking about walking at all. You contemplate God, and you are so lost in the contemplation that you actually realize the nearness of God.
Today, I would like to urge you to recover a lost art, the art of meditation. Now I realize that you mighty think that meditation is something from Yoga or Buddhism or some kind of New Age strangeness. When you meditate, you twist your legs into a lotus posture and chant some kind of mantra. That is what many people think about meditation.
But meditation has always been a practice of the church. In the Psalms, in the KJV, the word “meditation” is mentioned six times. The word refers to a contemplation of God that leads to an awareness of God. There are also many passages in Scripture that do not specifically mention the word “meditation” but describe the act of meditation (for example. 1 Samuel 3:1-18, 1 Kings 19:9-18, Matthew 14:13,). Meditation is a discipline that Scripture teaches, and that we need in our lives. We need some time every day to contemplate God.
Now you may be thinking, “I am too busy for this. I have things to do.” To which I reply that It is people who think they are too busy, that need meditation most of all.
Some of the devil’s best weapons are noise, hurry, and crowds. And we give the devil every opportunity because we seek every possible distraction. We say, “It is too quiet, let’s turn on some music.” Or, we say, “I’m bored, let’s turn on TV,” or “Let’s read a book.” We allow ourselves to be bombarded every day, every moment, with busyness.
The most recent development in busyness is talking on the cell phone while driving, or if not that, while I’m driving I’m listening to the radio or reading billboards, or drinking coffee. Every study on the subject tells us that most accidents are caused by people not paying attention to what they are doing. They don’t keep their eyes on the road and their mind on driving. We have the same problem with our spiritual life: We don’t have our eyes on scripture and our minds on God.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92) was England's best-known preacher in the latter part of the nineteenth century. In the summer of 1858, he wrote a sermon on Psalm 104:34 (sermon 2690). Spurgeon says meditation is “a very profitable exercise” but most people are dominated by busyness. Let me quote: “You rise up in the morning, just in time to take your accustomed seat in the omnibus; you hasten to your counting-house for your letters, and there you continue all day long, for business when you are busy, or for gossip when business is dull, and at night you go home too tired and jaded for the wholesome recreation of your minds, Week by week, month by month, and year by year, it is still with you one everlasting grind, grind, grind.”
Now we think that busyness is a modern disease, but here Spurgeon is saying back in 1858 that people think that they are too busy to mediate on God. The truth is people have always thought that. If you went back to ancient Sumeria in 3000 b.c., and asked them about God, they would say, “I’m too busy for that. I’ve got to stamp the latest wheat tallies on these cuneiform tablets.” It is not the times that are the problem. It is the people. People in ancient times; people in modern times, never have time for God.
And then they wonder why there is so little of God in their lives. They complain about God’s absence. And they blame others for their problem. “My momma and daddy didn’t raise me right,” they say. Or, “I must be going to the wrong church. These people in this church are not spiritual enough.” But it is not the church, and it is not other people. If you don’t have God in your life, it is nobody’s fault but yours. Seek God, meditate on God, and you will find God.
What is Biblical Meditation? Biblical meditation is simply a practice that helps you to be aware of God. It requires no mantras, and no gymnastics, but it does require focus. Meditation is not daydreaming. Meditation is not letting your mind wander all out the map. Meditation is not thinking about how good Grandma’s fried apple pies tasted, or about how much you hated the Oscars this week, or about what you should say at that next meeting. Meditation puts all those frivolous thoughts away and focuses on God and the things of God..
Meditation is a practical discipline that usually requires some effort. Most people find it beneficial to have a specific time and a specific place for meditation. Though, in the meditation I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon—which is called a walking meditation—I had neither. I was just walking.
There is no specific posture for meditation. Most people just find a comfortable place and relax and think about God.
Meditate on Creation
Part of meditation is contemplation of God’s creation. That is what I was doing in the front yard of the manse. Thinking about God in nature. That is what the Psalmist is doing in Psalm 104. He speaks of God riding “on the wings of the wind” . In verse 5, he says that God has “set the earth on its foundations.” In v10, he says, “You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills.” In v14, we read, “You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth.” And in verse 16, “The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.” In verse 24, the Psalmist proclaims, “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” The Psalmist is overwhelmed by the presence of God he finds throughout the creation.
Meditate on Scripture
In my walking meditation, Scripture also played a large role. In fact, the meditation did not really begin when I walked outside the manse, the meditation began when I started reading Psalm 104. Most meditation includes scripture. We read a passage over and over until it is not just words in a book, but it enters into our life and becomes the word of the living God for us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The Word of Scripture should never stop sounding in your ears and working in you all day long, just like the words of someone you love. And just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation.” (found at http://www.schoolforteachers.org/resources/Session1MargaretLaneSummary2005.htm). Bonhoeffer says meditation is letting the word penetrate your mind, your heart, your whole life.
In Joshua 1:8, we read, “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.” Wow that is a great promise. Today in our competitive capitalistic world, we have all sorts of seminars and training sessions on how to be successful and prosperous. I propose a Joshua 1:8 seminar for success. The secret of success is meditation on the Word.
Meditate on God
Going along with this meditation on scripture is centering our minds upon God. The reality is that most Christians never think about God at all. Even when they pray, they are not thinking about God. They are thinking about what they can get from God for themselves. Or, they are thinking about their troubles and concerns-which is still not thinking about God. In meditation, we learn to put away all the stuff and trivia that clutters up our minds and lives and to center ourselves on God. . In v34, the Psalmist says, “My meditation of him.” The “him” he refers to is obviously God. The Psalmist says, I need to think about God; I need to contemplate God; I need to dwell in God. We need to dwell in God. We need to calm our minds, and rest our souls on the Lord.
The Attitude of Meditation
Let us conclude then with the Attitude of meditation. Again, verse 34, “My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.” A lot of people, when we talk about meditation, think, “Oh, no, this is something else that I have to do. This is another one of those duties that is going to be piled upon me, and the preacher is going to make me feel guilty for not doing it.”
But notice this is not the way the Psalmist approaches meditation at all. He says this is sweet. This makes me happy. This is fun. The psalmist mediates on God’s creation and God’s word and God himself, because this is what he wants to do. If we are going to be successful in meditation, this is the attitude we must have. We should not come to meditation as a burden, or a duty, we should come rejoicing, thinking about how God loves us and how we love God. By all means, practice meditation, but do it with the right attitude, with happiness and love. Amen.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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