An ad campaign for a credit card pounds away at consumers with the relentless tagline, “What’s in your wallet?” A far more important question arises for those embracing the Shema with its Great Commandment of Deuteronomy 6:5. The next verse prescribes the starting place for an all-consuming love for God: “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” A lot rides on how we answer the question, “What’s on your heart?” A heart in love with God will be saturated with Scripture.
What does on-your- heart Scripture saturation look like? Deuteronomy 11:18 says, “Lay up these words of mine in your heart.” Deuteronomy 32:46 counsels, “Take to heart all the words.” Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart.” Proverbs 3:3 pictures it this way: “Write them [God’s words] on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 7:1 puts it, “Treasure up my commandments with you.” Luke 8:15 says, “Hold it fast in an honest and good heart.” Colossians 3:16 directs, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
Each of these word pictures brings insight into what it means to have His Word saturating our inner being. But how do we do that? Scripture elsewhere commends to us the spiritual discipline of meditation for this purpose (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:1–2). Here are eight steps for meditating on Scripture using the word meditate as an acrostic.
Make a text selection by reading
If we are not reading Scripture at all, we will never land on a verse for meditating. While reading, ask the Holy Spirit to impress upon your heart a text particularly appropriate for you.
Recently, I read Proverbs 5. At verse 21—”For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths”—I paused. That week, news had broken about a local pastor’s fall into sin. Wanting to guard my own heart, I determined to meditate on this verse.
Examine a text’s details by questioning Scripture
Practice good observation skills by quizzing the text with who, what, why, when, where, and how questions. The point of this step and the next is that meditation will not profit you if you do not get the correct meaning of the text.
With my Proverbs 5:21 text, I asked this question: “What does it mean that God ponders the way of a man?” I did some digging and discovered that a concrete use of the same Hebrew word has to do with balancing or weighing something as in a system of weights and measures. The meaning became clear: when God ponders, He evaluates, scrutinizes, or closely judges a man’s behavior, even as a merchant meticulously weighs out items on his scale.
Determine a text’s meaning by studying Scripture
This step takes step two to its ultimate conclusion through the disciplines of inductive Bible study. This involves the use of helps, such as a good study Bible. For example, The Reformation Study Bible includes this note on the word ponders in Proverbs 5:21: “Or ‘takes note of.'” Our behavior is under constant scrutiny. Through the study process, I concluded that the author’s meaning as to what God does with His “eyes” is that He makes an exceedingly close inspection of a man’s ways.
Internalize a text’s content by memorizing Scripture
Scripture memory is not Scripture meditation, but the best meditation cannot occur without memorization. Memorization enables what Psalm 119:97 commends: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” No one can keep his Bible open in front of him night and day. But Scripture memory allows for Scripture recall in a host of life’s otherwise throwaway moments, enabling us to redeem the time with a moment of meditation.
Here is a simple plan for memorizing Scripture. Write a verse on a 3×5 card. Read it aloud ten times. Then say it aloud until you can say it by heart. Keep the card with you throughout the day. Review the text whenever you get a chance. It works.
Tailor a text’s content by personalizing Scripture
This step really brings a text home to the heart. Let me illustrate how I might personalize Proverbs 5:21: “Curt, your very own ways are before the eyes of the Lord. Curt, God ponders all your personal paths.” This immediately leads to the next step.
Amplify a text’s ideas by paraphrasing Scripture
Enlarge upon the text by elaborating on the concepts it contains. If I were to amplify Proverbs 5:21, I might say: “Curt, your ways—where you go, what you do, all your choices every day—are before the eyes of the Lord. He is watching you, weighing you, scrutinizing your every step, including your intimate personal relationships. Nothing at all escapes His notice or gaze when it comes to your every move.”
Tap a text’s power by praying Scripture
Hebrews 4:12 calls Scripture “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.” Meditation rises to a new level when it involves praying Scripture back to God. With Proverbs 5:21, it might look like this: “Lord, I acknowledge that nothing is hidden from Your eyes. Everything I do, everywhere I go, everyone I engage, all of it without exception lies open before Your penetrating gaze. Father, help me to live in light of this reality and not be fooled by the thought that something I might do would escape Your holy and just scrutiny and evaluation.”
Embrace a text’s impact by applying Scripture
All the meditation in the world will amount to nothing if the laying up of Scripture in the heart does not translate into the living out of Scripture in the life. The judgment due a “hearer only and not a doer” (James 1:23) manifestly increases with the disciplines of meditation—if we stop short of putting a verse into practice. But a verse like Proverbs 5:21 stored up in my heart serves me very well as I bring it to bear on my daily choices when I face temptation.
Jonathan Edwards well described meditation’s value:
I seemed often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading; often dwelling long on one sentence to see the wonders contained in it, and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders.
What’s on your heart? Let it be the words and wonders He has commanded.