As someone who majored in ancient languages at University I know that words are important. We use words everyday without consciously thinking about them. They are something we use to make communication easier. Words are actually labels for things or concepts. It may be helpful to imagine a box with a label on it. The label does not tell us everything that is inside the box but it does give us the basic idea. For example it may say “DECORATIONS” but it won’t tell us that in the box there are baubles, tinsel, fairy lights and the first Christmas Star my son made when he started school.
Likewise if I say the word TABLE you will have a general idea about what I am talking about but you won’t know if it is large or small, has three legs or four, is a dining table or a coffee table. Do you get the idea?
Why are you telling me this, you may ask? It’s because we all use words to talk about God. We read words in the Bible about God and we use theological words such as salvation, righteous, atonement etc. Words can be in such common usage that we feel we know what they mean but aren’t actually able to articulate that meaning. Over-familiarity with them can actually hide meaning from us and we can miss out on the richness of truth and how it applies to us.
We can unearth those riches by meditating on the word of God. This is not something many value in the 21st Century but it has been part of Christian worship and tradition over millennia. Today we like the sound bite, the daily bible verse text, the thought for today – anything that is easy and accessible. I would like to suggest to you that meditation is as easy as just thinking about the words in a bit more depth.
So where do I start? Take any verse or passage of the Bible preferably one that is part of your regular reading and ask God to speak to you. Read it through slowly. Look up the dictionary definition of any word that you can’t define yourself or any familiar word that you are drawn to. Ask yourself what does it mean? What does it mean to you? Write out your own version of the verse in your own words. Spend a few moments thinking about the meaning of the individual words and and of the verse as a whole. Use your imagination to visualise the meaning, for example if you are thinking about the LOVE of God you could imagine yourself with Him and what it would be like to be with the one who loves you the best. What is God saying to you?Note down any particular thoughts or feelings you have about the verse in a journal/notebook. Ask yourself what is the application? Note down any other verses you can remember that are relevant.Read it again drawing on all the new insights you have gained.
This whole process can take just a few minutes but it is so much more enriching than skimming over verses in an effort to get through a particular chunk of scripture. When we read the Bible we are looking for meaning and for God to speak to us not just going through the motions of “reading the Bible”.
Here is an example of my meditation on the phrase “ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2a)
- (Read it yourself slowly)
- What do the words mean? Conformed – to behave according to the usual standards of behaviour that are expected by a group or society (here – the world). Transformed – to change completely the appearance or character of something or someone, especially so that that thing or person is improved . Renewal – Make new, to increase the life of or replace something old.
- What does it mean? Don’t meet the expectations of the world by behaving as they do even though that’s what is expected. No be completely different. How? By replacing the old way of thinking and replacing it with the new (the truth).
- Visualise (I’ve cheated a bit here because I know the Greek word! ) The Greek verb used for transform here is μεταμορφομαι (metamorphomai) – it’s where we get our word metamorphosis from. Imagine a caterpillar, how it just lives to eat and eat. Then it spins a cocoon and after a while it emerges – TRANSFORMED into a butterfly. How did it do that. By feeding itself. I imagine myself feeding on the word of God and being transformed into someone no longer squeezed into the world’s mold but living free by the grace of God. Free to be the person God made me to be. Free from the constraints of peer pressure and worldly values.
- Notes/Application a)I so often wish I could change but don’t know how to. This verse teaches me that I can be transformed by reading and feeding on God’s word so that my thinking is renewed. As my thinking is changed so change in behaviour follows. God has provided his word to me as a means of growth and change. b)It is a command – be transformed. This is something I can do for myself.
- Other verses Ps 119:15-16, Matt.4:4, Col. 3:16, Heb 4:12
(There is more application in the second part of this verse – you may like to think about it yourself.)
As you learn to meditate on each verse you will find that you will more easily memorise scripture, you will build up your own commentary in your journal which we will be a source of encouragement to you as you reread it and you will know God, your Father, more. You will be studying the Bible and it may lead you to more in depth study. You might even venture into a commentary to see what others have said!
Why not have a go and post what you learn in the comments?
Not a words person? Are you more visual? Then you might like Bible Journaling using art – my friends have an excellent blog here.
Star: This is my own photo – please do not use without permission
Other images: pixabay