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Bible Study for Every Christian (Part 4): Meditation

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2011-08-07 PM
  • Bible Study for Every Christian
  • Sermons


Tonight we return to our study of Bible Study for Every Christian. How is it that we as believers can come to the Word of God and see our own souls fed with its truth? You know, it really is amazing the resources that are available to us today. I have in my office just one page from William Tyndale's New Testament, one page printed in 1536 by his friend Miles Coverdale while Tyndale himself was in prison. He was in prison for 16 months and his only crime was translating the Bible into English and printing it so that, as he said, every plowman, every plowboy, could have a copy of the Scriptures in his own language, could understand it, read it, see what it says. After 16 months, he was taken out and publicly strangled, and then his body and as many of his Bibles as they could find were burned together. He was simply trying to give Christians of his era one resource, just one resource, the Scripture itself.

We live in a day when we are flooded with resources. I probably have 2,500 Christian books on my computer, not to mention the ones in my office here at the church and the ones at home. You probably have countless resources in your own home. And the computer age has made more and more of those available to us, an amazing amount of information. I remember the first time I had a CD with Bible resources on it, and it had like five books, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven, five books on a little disc, who could imagine that? And now the information is more and more condensed. There's even talk of what is called molecular information storage, storing at the molecular level, in which, theoretically, and this is being bandied about, the contents of the entire Library of Congress could be stored on a block of data the size of a sugar cube.

So much information, but unfortunately for us, having the availability of the information, having the knowledge of the information, doesn't always translate into the living and the doing, does it? Why aren't we doing what we know? What is it that takes us from knowing, from the knowledge of the truth, to practicing it, from hearing to doing? Well tonight, in our study of Bible study, we come to a key ingredient in our Bible study. The Scriptures identify this tool, this skill, as the bridge between knowing and practicing.

Turn with me to Joshua 1:8. Let's start there. I want you to see this. This is a very familiar text. You've perhaps memorized it, but maybe you've never seen the bridge here between knowing and doing. God says to Joshua, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth." The book of the law, at that point, the only revelation Joshua had, were the first five books. Moses had written them, Genesis through Deuteronomy. "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth." That may be a reference to the law of God influencing his speech, not likely, but possibly. It could be referring to Joshua teaching the law to others, "it shall not depart from your mouth," but more likely, this is a reference to reading. In the ancient world, people read out loud. You see that even in the book of Acts, you remember the Ethiopian eunuch is reading out loud. That's how they read. It didn't make for a quiet library, but that was the reality of it. And so, what God is telling Joshua here is this book of the law, you're to constantly be reading. And "you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it." "So that," the Hebrew expression is "for this reason," "in order that." It speaks of purpose or intent.

So you have reading not departing from your mouth, and then you have doing, "so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it." What's the bridge? Do you see it, the bridge between knowing, in taking in the information, and doing? The key is there in the middle of verse 8, "you shall meditate on it day and night." Read it, meditate on it day and night, so that you will be able to do it and put it into practice. So meditation then is the Biblical bridge between merely knowing the content of Scripture and actually living it out.

Now when you hear the word meditation there may be a lot of mistaken ideas that pop into your mind. There are some people in our church who were saved out of eastern mysticism. And so when you hear about meditation, the absolute wrong ideas come into your mind. You picture or see someone sitting with their legs crossed, eyes closed, palms raised, repeating some mantra like "Om." That's meditation. It is generally associated with the cults and the eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. There's the New Age movement that popularized it here in the United States. That's not Biblical meditation. In fact, that is the antithesis of Biblical meditation. Truly Biblical meditation is the complete antithesis of all of that. In the pagan understanding meditation is emptying your mind. In the Christian and Biblical understanding meditation is filling your mind. Pagan meditation has the goal of not thinking; Christian meditation is intentionally choosing to think deeply. As we'll see tonight, the Biblical practice of meditation is absolutely crucial to the issue of Bible study.

Now, we're in the middle of this series called Bible Study for Every Christian, how every Christian can study the Bible for himself or herself. Although there's obviously a high value in the New Testament set on teachers in the church, it doesn't obviate the responsibility for every Christian to study the Bible individually. So we're learning how this summer. We're working our way through a process for Bible study. Let me just remind you of the steps, six distinct steps, to which we have reduced the process of inductive Bible study. Step number one is preparation. The primary part of preparation is preparing your heart with a spirit of dependence. It's acknowledging, "I am ignorant, O God, and in need of a teacher; open my mind to understand, help me to see Your truth." It also involves having the right tools at your resource, and we mentioned some of those, and particularly a good translation, a good literal translation. And again, if you missed that, I encourage you to go back and catch up.

Secondly, it involves observation. This is, in more detail in a moment, I'll share with you what observation is. Tonight, meditation is the third distinct step. The fourth step is interpretation. Once you've done all the study, once you've thought about it deeply, then you make a decision about what the text means. That's interpretation. The fifth step is evaluation. This is when you look at other resources to see if your interpretation stands up to the rest of church history and to other godly men. Make sure you're not sort of standing out there on your own with some view of this passage that nobody else ever has. And then finally application, once you have observed the text, you've thought about the text in meditation, you've made a decision about what the text means, you've evaluated your interpretation against that of others, commentaries, etc., study Bibles, then you apply it. Now you know what it means. Now you ask the question what am I supposed to do with this? What did the original authors intend for their original audience to do with this and what am I supposed to do with this in the 21st century?

Now last time, we completed step two, observation. This step is called exegesis. It's the, exegesis is a word that simply means to lead out, to guide or lead the meaning out of the text as opposed to eisegesis, which is to lead or guide a meaning into the text where you make it say what you want it to say. In exegesis, we try to learn the original author's intended meaning. Bible study is the work of a detective. Your job, my job, when we come to the Bible is not to make it say what we want it to say. Our job is try to discern what did the original author intend to say. And we use all the tools at our disposal to try to get there.

Now, in this second step of observation, there are sub-steps, and I'm just going to list them. If you missed the two lessons on observation, please go back and catch up because that's really the heart of Bible study. If you miss these steps then you're not really doing Bible study. First of all, as you approach a text, always remember the big picture. Don't lose the sight of the overall theme and view of Scripture in the process of that. Then you choose a Biblical book. What am I going to study? Thirdly, you read up on the book's background. You get a study Bible and you look at the introduction to that book, and why was this book written and from whom and to whom and when? What is the background of that book? Fourth, you read through the book multiple times, and as I said, somewhere between five times and John MacArthur's recommendation of thirty times. You choose, but somewhere in the middle. Read the book multiple times so you understand what it's saying, so you get an overall view of it.

Then you start studying it in paragraphs, when we study the Bible, our primary approach to Bible study is paragraphs and I showed you in our English Bibles how to identify paragraphs, or in poetry, sections. You identify, you break up the book into paragraphs, or poetry into sections. Then you begin to look at that paragraph in detail. You make observations and ask questions of the text, and we talked about how to do that. You start a list of what does this mean and why does he say this, and what does this word mean? You begin to make observations and ask questions. You look up all the proper nouns so you're sure you know who and where and what is involved in that passage. You analyze the grammar, and this is absolutely key, if we believe, and we do, that the Holy Spirit inspired the Scripture, not only its words but even how it was expressed, then that's important as well. Meaning is expressed in grammar, and we talked about a tool for doing that, you remember block diagramming and I walked you through that, and again, that's absolutely crucial.

Once you've done all of that, you identify a preliminary theme. What is this passage saying? What is this passage about, what's the point? Then you look up cross-references, you see how that same theme is developed in other places and you study the key words, and we talked about all of that. That's Bible study. That's not Bible study for seminary professors, Bible study for pastors; that is, in simplified form, what Christians through the ages have done, maybe not exactly every step the way I've listed it, but the flow is what has always been done in the study of the Scriptures. When you finish those steps, you will have accomplished the heart of Bible study. You will have completed the second step in inductive Bible study and you will always have a good understanding of what the passage says.

Now, I know, let me speak for a minute to the men. I know, men, that we tend, men tend, as a rule not to be as much readers as others; I hope that will not be true of you. I hope you will challenge yourself to read. But what I have just shown you, this process, is taught to godly women all across the country by Kay Arthur, a process very similar to this, and they do it. They study the Bible. They do it in BSF. So let me just challenge you, men, to step up to the plate, all right? Let's be men of the Word. Get involved in this process.

Now, tonight we come to the third step in inductive Bible study, the third step, not only preparation, observation, but meditation. And as we look at meditation, I want to really consider three issues related to meditation, why, what, and how. Why, what, and how. Let's begin with why is meditation important. Why is this important in the process of Bible study? What is the value of this skill? Well according to Joshua 1:8, which we looked at, meditation is the tool that helps us move from reading and the embracing of the knowledge of what the text means in that passage to actually putting the Word of God into practice in our lives. And according to Joshua 1:8, if your Bible's still open there, notice the end of verse 8. Once you have read the Bible, meditated on the Bible, translated it into action, "then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success." This is not talking about financial success; this is talking about spiritual prosperity. The word "have success" there literally means to live wisely. When you have done that, when you have taken in the Bible, you've read it and tried to understand what it means, you have meditated on its meaning, then you have tried to put it into practice, the result will be a life lived out wisely, a life that pleases God. In Psalm 1, or let me go back and just sort of refine Joshua 1:8. Joshua 1:8 then tells us that meditation is important for this reason, it is a tool that helps us move from reading and study to putting God's Word into practice.

Now, in Psalm 1, and I want you to turn there with me, we get just another little glimpse of why it's important because in Psalm 1 the psalmist defines what spiritual prosperity looks like. The spiritual prosperity that Joshua promises, that is promised to Joshua in Joshua 1:8, is defined for us in Psalm 1. The book of Psalms is a collection, as you know, of songs or poetry. Its basic theme is an intended, a divinely intended record and pattern of man expressing himself to God. It is a pattern for our worship, for personal worship. Psalm 1 is an introduction to the Psalter. It displays the two ways set before every man, the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked, the way of the righteous in verses 1 to 3, the way of the wicked in verses 4 to 6. And those two ways, those two paths, have different ends. So you have here the path of the righteous, and notice it begins by saying, "How blessed is the man", the righteous man. I've pointed this out to you before, but the word blessed here is a word that, a Hebrew word, that pictures a third party observing a man and his relationship to God. And as the person looks at that man and looks at his relationship to God, he says, "blessed is that man." We could translate it, "O, to be envied is the man."

Now, in verse 1, the psalmist begins by identifying what the righteous man, the enviable man, doesn't do and there are three things that are listed there in verse 1. You put them together and it means basically this, the righteous man rejects all human ways. He doesn't think like humans think, he doesn't act and behave like sinful humans act and behave, and he doesn't associate with those who scoff at God. So he doesn't buy in to the world system; he doesn't follow the thinking of the world around him. Instead, verse 2, the psalmist reduces what the righteous person is, how he can be described, with one desire, one attitude and one duty, one activity. Notice, they're both related to God's Word. Here's how the psalmist describes the righteous man as he introduces the Psalms, he delights, "his delight is in the law of the Lord." "He takes pleasure in," is what the word delight means. Ten times in the Old Testament it's translated "desire." "The law of the Lord," of course, is a reference to all of Scripture. His desire, what he takes delight in, what he takes pleasure in, is "the law of the Lord." And notice how that translates into action, verse 2 goes on to say, "and in His law he meditates day and night."

The psalm is content to develop this one theme about the righteous. What I want you to understand is that the call to think deeply about God's revealed Word is not merely for pastors, seminary professors; it is, and this is what Psalm 1 is telling us, it is a practice that is foundational to every Christian's spiritual health and growth. This is who the righteous man is, this is what he does, he meditates in the law of God day and night.

Notice what this man is like, verse 3, "He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yield its fruit in its season. Its leaf does not wither; in whatever he does, he prospers." Here's the point. The righteous man, the enviable man, the blessed man of Psalm 1, enjoys a remarkable state of well-being. He is filled with a strong spiritual life. He is carefully cared for by God. He fulfills the purpose for which God made him. He yields fruit. He has permanence and endurance and stability. The image there of his "leaf doesn't wither" is when drought comes, like we're seeing all around us. You drove to church tonight; you saw trees everywhere that didn't have enough water, that didn't have their roots down in the ground water, beginning to shrivel up. The psalm is saying that this man, this righteous man, who meditates in the law of God day and night, his soul doesn't wither when drought comes. And it ends by saying in verse 3, whatever his external circumstances his soul prospers and thrives. That is what meditation promises. Look at verse 3. That is what meditation on the Word of God promises. So it's very important.

Now, that brings us to a second aspect of meditation. We've seen why meditation is important, but let's move on to what exactly is meditation. How do we meditate on the Scripture we've studied? What exactly is this skill that promises so much? I want to define it for you, but before we can define it, we first want to examine the Biblical words that are used for meditation and then we want to look at the two primary results that it produces, and when we've done that, we'll be able to put together a definition.

First of all, the Biblical words. There are primarily three Hebrew words that are used of this skill and, conveniently, they're all in one verse. Turn over to Psalm 143:5. If you want to trace these down with your concordance, you can do that because they're all right here in Psalm 143:5. Use this verse as a kind of hook for you to remember these three Hebrew words. The first one, verse 5, "I remember," there's the first one, "the days of old; I meditate," there's the second common word for meditation, "on all your doings; I muse," there's the third one, "on the work of Your hands." Those are the three primary Hebrew words used in different places throughout the Old Testament for meditation.

Now let's look at what they mean. Take the word remember. Usually, this word doesn't refer to suddenly recalling something. Instead, it refers to deliberately reminiscing and thinking about something. It implies choosing what you think about. This word is not like remember, our word remember used in the sentence, "Now, I remember where I put my keys," something you forgot and now you've called it to mind, it's finally come back to you. Instead, this Hebrew word for remember is used more like we use the English word remember in this sentence. You're sitting around the table with friends or family, probably, talking about your last family vacation and you say, "Remember when we…" It's not that they forgot it. It's not that they're calling something that was forgotten to mind. It's that they're deliberately, you're calling them to deliberately choose to think about something. That's what this word remember is.

The second word is meditate. This word can mean to mutter, to talk, to whisper, but it often means to reflect or to think. It's a kind of internal discussion. This kind of thinking may originally have been accompanied by a sort of low murmur as a person either read the Scripture aloud or quietly spoke to himself. You ever done that? You know, don't let others see you do it, but you're sitting studying the passage, you're thinking through what you've studied, and you're kind of muttering under your breath saying, "Well, what does that mean?" I don't want you in my office when I'm studying because occasionally that happens and you'll think I'm losing my mind, but that's what this word originally meant, a quiet, low murmur, a person talking to himself. In Psalm 49:3, it's clearly internal because it's used like this, "the meditation of my heart" versus the words of "my mouth." So the emphasis in this word is on a kind of internal discussion. You're talking to yourself essentially. The third word muse usually means, or it's usually translated, talk or meditate. It's not usually translated muse. It means to go over something in your mind, to deeply reflect on something in the mind. So look at those three words. Meditation involves a determined choice to recall something to mind, an internal discussion, and deep thinking and reflecting about something.

Now what exactly is all this concentrated thinking trying to accomplish? Well we get another clue of what meditation is by looking at the two primary results of meditation. The first primary result is insight or understanding. Look at Psalm 119, Psalm 119:99. The psalmist here in this stanza is talking about meditation. Verse 97,

O how I love Your law! It's my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine.

But look at verse 99, "I have more insight than all my teachers." And you probably remember people in high school or college who took this as their life verse, but that's not what it means. Insight in this verse refers to the ability to understand something and to know how to use it. That's insight, to understand it and to know how to use it. The Hebrew word means prudence, shrewdness. It's not talking about just the gathering of data. It's talking about the ability to understand something practically in a way that you can use it. In fact, in Proverbs 22:3, it's used of knowing the ropes.

Now, the psalmist says I have more of that kind of practical understanding of how to use the Scripture than all my teachers. Did he read more than his teachers? Did he study more than his teachers? Did he have more experience than his teachers? No, probably not, so how did he get this insight? Look at the second half of the verse, "For," because, here's how I got this understanding, this practical understanding of how to use the Scripture, "Thy statutes," or Your statutes, "are my meditation." Because I meditate on Your Word, I get insight into it. I understand it in a practical way, in how to use it.

Now, how does meditation bring that kind of insight? Well, the theological answer is the word illumination. It is a work of the Spirit of God whereby He enables us to see and understand and grasp the Word of God. I like J.I. Packer's explanation of illumination, listen to it. "It is not the giving of new revelation, but a work within us that enables us to grasp and to love the revelation that is there before us in the Biblical text. Illumination is the applying of God's revealed truth to our hearts so that we grasp as reality for ourselves what the sacred text sets forth." That's what illumination is, and that's what happens in meditation. I get insight; I get illumination into the true meaning of Scripture.

What does it look like? Let me give you an example of what it looks like. And I've used this before, but imagine walking at night into one of the great European cathedrals and examining one of its stained glass windows with the darkness behind it. As you look at that stained glass window at night, you can make out the images, you can make out the colors, you can understand it, you can understand the story it illustrates, but it makes no real impact on you personally. But if you walk into that same cathedral and look at that same window the next morning as the full light of the sun comes streaming through it, what happens to that stained glass window? It comes alive. It becomes real and beautiful and attractive.

That's what the Spirit does in illumination. He turns on the light, as it were, behind the page of Scripture and God's Word suddenly becomes real and beautiful and attractive and desirable. It matters to you; you get it and you love it. It's the Holy Spirit that does that and that's why the Scripture commands us to pray for this kind of insight. Psalm 119:18, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law." That's a lot smaller than I thought it was. I apologize. Ephesians 1:18, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know the hope of His calling, the riches of the inheritance you've received," etc. God has to give us that insight; He has to give us that illumination. So through the work of the Spirit, listen carefully, through the work of the Spirit, called illumination, meditation brings insight into the meaning of Scripture.

Now there's one other primary result of meditation that helps us sort of get our arms around it; it's application, the application of the truth. Joshua 1:8 says, "so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it." That's the point of meditation. Meditate "so that" you do it. So meditation involves the application of the truth. You can see this in Psalm 1 as well, by the way. If you compare Psalm 1:2 where it says, "the righteous man meditates", the same Hebrew word translated meditate in 1:2 occurs in Psalm 2:1. It's the word devising, "the peoples are devising." You remember that? They've taken counsel against the Lord and against His anointed. They're devising a vain thing. It means to create a plan in order to carry it out. So meditation not only brings understanding. It also creates a plan of action to do what we've come to understand. Listen carefully again, meditation accomplishes two primary things, it helps you understand the meaning of the text and it helps you apply the text to your life in practical action.

So, now that we understand the Hebrew words, now that we know the primary results, let's define meditation. Here's what it is. Biblical meditation, it is deliberately choosing to think deeply about a passage of Scripture, a truth in Scripture, in order, one, to better understand it and two, to plan how to do it. That's meditation. I am going to think about what I've studied. All the fruit of that work that I have done in my study, I'm now going to think about it. And I'm going to choose to think about it intentionally. I'm going to call it to mind. I'm going to mull it over in my mind. I'm going to talk to myself about it. I'm going to think about it for two purposes, to better understand what it means and to plan in my own life how to do it.

I'll tell you for me, practically, what this looks like. If you were to track with me on Wednesday when it's not quite so hot, I'm studying in my home office typically on Wednesday for my messages on Sunday morning. The morning and through lunch is essentially spent with observation, what I've taught you in the first couple of steps of Bible study. But when lunch is done, I fold up my books and I go for a long walk. And as I'm on that walk, I am meditating on what I've learned. I am internalizing it. I'm choosing to think deeply. I'm recalling the different parts of my study together and I'm thinking about this word and what it means and what I learned here and how that affects this, in order to understand it. What is God saying in this text and what am I supposed to do with it? That's meditation, and that's what promises so much.

If I could illustrate it, it would be with a cup of tea. There are still a few civilized people left in the world and imagine for a moment that you, your soul, is the hot water, that the tea bag is God's Word. Reading and studying is like dipping the tea bag in the water, leaving it for a short time and pulling it out. You study a little more, you dip the tea bag in the water and you pull it out. You have any interest at this point in drinking that tea? It's not really tea yet. Meditation is putting the tea bag in the water and leaving it to steep. It's letting the truth you're learning permeate your thinking. When we meditate on Scripture, we talk to ourselves about it, we turn it over in our minds, its meaning, its implications, its application to our lives and it, in the process of that, changes us. We understand it and we begin to understand how to use it. We get insight and we get application.

Now, I've concentrated on the Old Testament, but understand that meditation is in the New Testament as well. In fact, the New Testament is full of the language of thinking deeply about God and His Word. Let me just call a couple of passages to your mind. Jesus said, in John 15:7, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you." You're thinking about the Word of God, "My words abide in you." You see it in Ephesians 1, Ephesians 3. You can look at those references later, but look over at Colossians chapter 3. I'll just call this one to your mind. Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ," "Let the word of Christ dwell richly within you." Think about the message about Christ. Think about the realities of who He is and what He's done. Think about what He has communicated to us through His apostles. "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you." That's a call to Biblical meditation.

You say, well, what am I supposed to be thinking about? What is, and there are a couple of other texts, these'll be on the slides we will put online. What are the objects of our meditation to be? Well, clearly God's Word, read Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2, read Psalm 119. Over and over again, we're called to think about God's Word. We're also called to meditate on God's works of creation and providence. In Psalm 145:5, "on Your wonderful works, I will," what, "meditate." I'm going to think about, God, what You've done.

We're also called to think and meditate on God's character, on His person. I love Psalm 63:6, "I will meditate on You," God. Psalm 145:5, "On the glorious splendor of Your majesty, I will meditate." This is no different by the way. This is still choosing to think deeply about God in order to better understand Him and to understand how that should affect your daily living. These are the objects of our meditation.

So, we know why meditation's important. We know what it is, but how do we do it? How does meditation work? Well first of all, understand you have to discover what the passage says. That's why you must complete observation, step two that we talked about. You must read and study the passage. Thomas Watson, the English puritan, pointed out that "meditation without study is dangerous," because you're making that passage say whatever you want it to say. On the other hand, he said, "study without meditation is presumptuous and will be fruitless in your life." If all you do is study, but you don't meditate, then the Word of God is not going to bear fruit in your life. The Word of God's not a magic book. It doesn't change you by osmosis just because you've studied something or you've run your eyes over the page. So, you must study it.

But then you meditate. How do you do this? Well, let me give you some specific methods. This is not an exhaustive list; this is not an inspired list. None of these, or not all of these, methods are original with me. Some of them are, but I've adapted some of them from Don Whitney's book Spiritual Disciplines. They're not really original with him either though, instead, it's just a list of what Christians have done through the years, through the centuries of the church, to think about the Scripture. Let me challenge you to deliberately set aside time in your study, in your day, to do this. You say, well, how do I fit that in? Well, maybe it's during your study time. Maybe it's on a walk, like I do. Maybe it's on your commute, if you can do it without, you know, running into other people. Maybe it's a specific time you set, but deliberately choose, set aside time, to meditate on what you've studied on the Word of God. You must do it intentionally, that's my point. This doesn't happen by accident. It is intentionally choosing to think deeply about what you have studied with the goal of deeper understanding and personal application.

So what are the methods? Let me use a simple proverb to sort of illustrate what this looks like. Proverbs 15:1, it's a simple, straightforward proverb. "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." I'm going to use that to show you, illustrate, each of these methods. Method number one is to ask important questions of the passage. What questions? Here are some of them. How does this passage fit into the great theme of the Bible, the gospel? You know the theme of the Bible I've reduced to this line: God is redeeming a people for His Son, by His Son, for His own glory. How does Proverbs 15:1 fit into that major message of the Bible? Well, it shows our need for the gospel, right? Because we don't do that all the time. In fact, we do exactly the opposite of what Proverbs 15:1 says to do. So it shows our need of the gospel. It shows how far we have strayed from the divine pattern for relationships. And it shows how we can live with new hearts that have been given to us by grace. We can do this. As believers, we can live this out. And so that's how you connect to the larger scheme of, the major theme of, the Bible.

Another important question to ask is what is the relationship of this passage to Christ? Remember Christ is the theme of the Word of God, so how does this passage relate to Christ? Does it show our sin and need of Christ? Many passages do that, particularly in the Old Testament. Does it show His work for us, does it somehow illustrate what He accomplished on our behalf? Does it reveal something about His person? Does it describe the way He lived as our example? Proverbs 15:1 does. We have not done that perfectly, right? And yet our Lord always spoke in a way that honored Christ, that honored God rather, that honored the Father. And so He was the perfect example. He lived in that way. So as you're studying, you're asking how does this fit into the gospel, how does this passage relate to Christ?

A third question you want to ask of the text is what does this passage teach me explicitly or implicitly about God? The Bible is a book about God. You understand this? God is the hero of the Bible – not Abraham, not Joseph, not Moses, not Paul – God is the hero. So what does this passage tell me explicitly or implicitly about God?

A final question you need to ask is how did the author expect the original readers to respond to this passage? What did he expect them to do with this passage I'm thinking about? Are there commands to obey? Are there sins to confess and forsake? Are there errors to avoid? Are there emotions that I should feel? Are there promises that I should believe? What did he expect the original readers to do? Now in the case of Proverbs 15:1, there is a command. Essentially, I must choose to respond in this way. An answer turns away wrath. Here's the scenario. Something has happened. I probably caused it. And what I've done is made someone very angry. The angry person is now confronting me and here's a command I have to choose to respond in this way. That's the first step of meditation or the first method may be a better way to say it, of meditation. Just ask those questions of the passage.

A second method of meditation is make general observations about the text. Look at that text and just begin to make observations. Let me give you some examples I made from Proverbs 15:1. Look at it there on the screen and let me tell you some things I observed. What I say deeply affects others. I am able to reach inside a person and either turn away or stir up. There is both good and bad communication. How I say what I say is important. Gentle has to do with manner as much as content. Particular words I choose can hurt other people. A harsh word is literally a word that causes pain. Disagreements happen, but they can be resolved; anger can be turned away. Another observation I made is disagreements improperly handled can escalate into sudden conflict. "Stirs up," that pictures escalating conflict. So if things aren't resolved, they only get worse. Those are just some observations I made about Proverbs 15:1.

A third method is to repeat the verse or the passage, the sentence, in different ways, emphasizing a different word each time. And don't do this mindlessly; instead, do it thinking about each of those words, sort of turning the verse like a diamond to see each facet. "A GENTLE answer turns away wrath." "A gentle ANSWER turns away wrath." "A gentle answer TURNS AWAY wrath." "A gentle answer turns away WRATH." And you're turning that verse and you're looking at each of its facets to see its meaning.

Number four, write it in your own words. This is very helpful. Write the passage out in your own words. Don't copy what's there. You put it in your own language. That shows that you're digesting it. Here's what I did with Proverbs 15:1. A meek and gracious response to someone who is angry calms them, but responding in kind with anger and attacks is going to make them even madder. Okay? So write the passage out in your own words. You're digesting it; you're processing it.

Number five, pray through the text. This is so helpful. When I'm on my walks, I love walking because I love being outside. Our Lord loved to be outside to pray. I'm that way. I just have a hard time praying inside to be honest. And so I love being outside. And on the walks, I'm not only thinking about the text, I'm taking that text and I'm addressing it to God. I'm talking to Him about what I've learned. Here is an example of Proverbs 15:1. Here's a prayer that I wrote out just as kind of an example for you.

O Lord, you've commanded me to love others as I love myself, but I confess that much too often my tongue becomes an instrument of pain, hurt, and discouragement for my family, my friends, and sometimes even people I don't know. Lord, forgive me and help me to pursue Your way in how I speak to others. Help me to be gentle and gracious in what I say and how I say it. Give me the self-control Your Spirit brings to respond in love even when someone is angry and strikes out at me. Let my gentle response bring peace and calm and ultimately resolution to all such conflicts. Lord, don't let me give into the flesh and strike out in anger, purposefully choosing words that maim and cause deep pain to others. Instead, let me bring healing and comfort and encouragement in what I say. I want most of all to be a peacemaker for then, according to the Lord Jesus, I will both be happy and be called a son of God.

There's a sample. You take the Scripture and you turn it into prayer: confession, adoration, requests.

And finally number six, part of meditation is think through specific ways to apply these truths to your circumstances. In the case of Proverbs 15:1, can you think about an opportunity for application that's very close to home? Hmm, spouse maybe? Family maybe? Roommates? You choose how you're going to respond the next time that scenario happens. You think it through. What am I going to do when I've made someone angry and they respond to me in anger?

Folks, I cannot overemphasize the importance of this skill to your Christian life and to your Bible study. You take all that you've processed, all that you've learned, all that you've seen in the text, and you choose to think deeply about it in order to better understand it and to plan how to do it. It will revolutionize your spiritual life. In fact, it is, according to Joshua 1:8, the bridge between knowing and doing.

Let's pray together. Father, help us to be diligent students of Your Word. Forgive us for our laziness. Forgive us for our excuses. Forgive us for being diligent about learning so many other things and not being diligent about Your Word. Father, make us students. May we be those who cut the Scripture straight, as Paul admonished Timothy. Father, I pray You would help us to give ourselves to this Biblical art of meditation. Lord, help us to see that it's in that process of choosing to think deeply about Your Word that Your Spirit opens our minds to see, to get it, to understand and to plan how to live it out. Father, forgive us for taking Your Word out, reading a passage, checking off our list, and putting it back in the drawer and putting it out of our minds for the rest of the day. O God, help us to be like the righteous man of Psalm 1. May we delight in Your Word and may we meditate in it day and night. We pray in Jesus's name, amen.

Bible Study for Every Christian