Sermons and Articles | Ken Puls
Laying Hold of Truth
Bible Study by Ken Puls
I love God's Word and delight in its truth. Yet too often I find that after reading my Bible or hearing a sermon, the truth, so necessary to the wellbeing of my soul, can too easily slip away. The truth that had for a moment captured my attention and my affections can quietly fade amid the clutter and noise of the day.
One of the best ways to remedy this is to practice the spiritual discipline of meditating on God's Word. It is a discipline that takes time and intention, but one that brings great benefit to the soul. We need to carve out time to lay hold of the truth of God's Word.
It is a bewildering paradox of our day that the Bible can be so accessible and yet so marginalized. On the one hand our technology has brought God's Word close at hand. It's on our phones and tablets and computers and iPods. We have almost immediate access to several versions of the Bible as well as a wealth of sermons and commentaries. But this same technology also threatens to distract us and drown out God's Word. We have become a culture obsessed with noise and comfortable with clutter. So many sources are bringing input into our lives: TV, radio, online news feeds, Facebook, Twitter… More than ever we need to make time to meditate, to dwell in God's Word.
Meditation is pondering the Word in our hearts, preaching it to our own souls, and personally applying it to our own lives and circumstances. It is how we sanctify our thinking and bring it into submission to Christ—taking every thought captive. Paul tells us in Romans 12:
In Psalm 77 Asaph uses three verbs that capture the essence of meditation. When he finds himself perplexed and troubled and cries out to God, he determines to steady his soul by looking to God and laying hold of truth. He says in verses 11 and 12:
Asaph uses 3 verbs in the Hebrew to describe what it means to lay hold of truth: He says: I will remember, I will ponder and I will meditate.
He begins with remembering (zakar)—calling to mind "the deeds of the Lord" and His "wonders of old." He intentionally takes note of truth and draws it back into his thinking. Asaph reflects on what God has accomplished for His people in the past—events and epics like the Exodus and Passover, the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, the conquest of the Promised Land. He makes an effort not to forget all the Lord has done.
David also speaks of remembering God:
In Psalm 143, when David is overwhelmed with trouble, he uses the same three verbs as Asaph, beginning with "remember."
We are a forgetful people and God would have us to remember. Meditation begins with remembering, bringing back into our minds the truths and praises and promises of God.
But, second Asaph also uses a word that is translated in Psalm 77:12 "I ponder."
This is the verb hagah in the Hebrew. It is found in numerous places in the Old Testament and is translated as "ponder" or "meditate":
In Psalm 2 it is used of the nations "plotting" against God.
The word literally means "to let resound." It is used in Psalm 92:3 of the sound or tones of a musical instrument as it resonates.
It is used also in Psalm 9:16.
It is not entirely clear if the use of the word here is a musical instruction for the musicians to play an interlude—letting the instruments resound—or if it is an instruction to the congregation—let this truth resound within yourselves.
We find the term also at the end of Psalm 19:
In other words: Let the inward tones of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord…
This is how we want the truth of Scripture to fill us and impact us—as we hear it and sing it and pray it—as Paul tells us in Colossians 3:16, let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly! Let it dwell in us in a way that resounds and reverberates in and through our lives.
We see another use of the word in Isaiah 31:4 that helps us understand its intent. Isaiah uses the word in reference to a lion:
The word for growl or roar is this word for meditation. Have you ever heard a lion when he roars? He does not just use his voice. His entire being reverberates. This is meditation. Letting God's Word resound from within the very center of our being.
Meditation involves remembering, and resounding, but finally Asaph speaks of meditating.
This word siyach means to muse and wonder and dwell on—to think deeply about something. Used literally it means to murmur, mumble or talk to yourself.
In a negative sense it can mean "to complain." It is the idea that something has so taken hold of your thinking that you can't stop thinking about it. So on the negative side—it troubles you and disturbs you and draws out complaint; but on the positive side—it captivates you and enraptures your thinking so that you "dwell on" it. This is the way we want God's truth to lay hold of us—so that we can't but dwell on it, so that it captures our thinking and finds it way into our choices and decisions.
The Puritans thought of meditation this way as they described it as "preaching to yourself." We take the Word of God that we hear and read, and we mull it over in our minds and then bring it to bear upon our lives in personal exhortations.
It is a word that is found often in the Old Testament, especially in the psalms.
When we meditate we think about God's Word. We dwell on it and then as opportunities arise, we preach it to ourselves. We inject it into our thoughts as we make decisions, as we admonish and instruct our souls to choose right things and walk down right paths.
This is the essence of meditation. It is evoking the truth, embracing it and embedding it in our lives. It is intentionally focusing on recalling God's truth that it might resound in our hearts and become that grid through which we sift and measure our thoughts and actions.
Meditation is a crucial Christian discipline and a vital means of grace that we must treasure and practice. But it is a discipline that takes time and effort. Accessibility can never beat intentionality. Don't assume that having God's Word close at hand means you have it close at heart. Carve out time in your day to remember, time to ponder, time to preach to yourself. The world around us can too easily choke out what is needful and good for our souls. Don't allow God's truth to slip away from you. Be intentional and diligent and your meditation.
©2013 Ken Puls