Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
I can’t remember why, but I once was required to learn Genesis 12 as a school detention punishment. Not very cruel, but certainly unusual, and definitely nothing to do with delight! But even now, over 50 years later, meditation and delight are not the first words that come to mind when I reflect on my own experience of engaging with the Bible. So this first psalm, probably placed as an introduction to the whole collection, is a challenge.
The Hebrew word Torah is here translated as ‘law’, but is broader than law in the sense of legislation or commandments. It’s used, for instance, to refer to the first five books of the Bible, Genesis to Deuteronomy. Those books do contain collections of laws, but they also tell the story of the salvation of God that shapes the people of God as they walk in the ways of God. And our delight is to be found in what God has revealed to us there – delight in finding out what he is like, delight in seeing how he acted to save his people, delight in learning how to live so that we please him. Meditation implies giving Scripture quality time, thinking about it, musing on it, remembering it within the patterns of daily life.
In practice, however, the process so easily becomes a guilt-ridden burden. The pressures of day-to-day living can lead to a quick read and a quick tick for that day’s passage. Even for those employed to teach and preach and write about the Bible, there can be a tendency for it to become like any other academic discipline, with a relationship of delight slipping away.
So how do we meditate? What practices will lead to delight? Jesus promised that ‘when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth’ (John 16:13). The same Spirit who inspired Scripture illumines it, often surprising and delighting us in the process of reading and reflecting on it. Practically, we have to organise our schedules to give the Spirit space and time to do that, even if it’s just once or twice a week. We need to let the words sink into our hearts and minds, and then to meditate on them and pray them into our lives.
Only then will the branch bear fruit and the leaves not wither.