I have a confession. I fell off the wagon. I am behind on my “Read the Bible in a Year” reading schedule. Like really behind. But it’s not because I’ve stopped reading my Bible. Let me explain.
Everything was going along fine until I got to Isaiah. In the midst of my reading, I’d come across passages that made me stop and think and turn them around in my mind. And I’d find the time I set aside for my reading time had been entirely taken up. I’d attempt to catch up the next day, but I’d almost inevitably find myself at another passage that beckoned me to ponder on it. And now I’m only in Jeremiah, and I should be done with all the minor prophets by now according to my schedule.
I eventually had to make a decision: Was my reading time more valuable spent just reading through without stopping to think in order to stay on a self-imposed schedule, or was it a better use of my time to stop and consider and ponder over passages, even if that meant I didn’t read nearly as much in terms of quantity? I think you might see where I’m going.
I’ve often heard well-meaning people say an important part of a Christian life is regular or daily Bible reading, and I agree with the sentiment. But is it just enough to just “read” the Bible? Have you done yourself any good if you blaze through without comprehension of what you just read? How valuable was your time spent reading if you don’t even remember what it is that you read an hour later?
Clearly the answer would be to spend more time going deep, to spend more time letting the word penetrate your heart and your mind. I ultimately had to forgive myself for not keeping up with my reading schedule, and realize I was doing myself more good by actually thinking about what I was reading even if it was slowing me down. In fact, in some circumstances it might be better to slow down.
God gave his people certain commands as to what they were to do with the words he had given them. “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates…” (Deuteronomy 11:18-20). God didn’t give the Israelites a reading schedule, but he commanded them to let the word penetrate their hearts and souls, to make it so that it was a constant presence in their lives.
When God spoke to Joshua after the death of Moses, he told Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night…” (Joshua 1:8). The Psalms also use the idea of meditation. An example: “Blessed is the man … his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2).
Often we associate meditation with Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. But there is a Biblical meditation. Eastern religions’ meditations are often directed toward emptying your mind of all thought; this is absolutely the opposite of Biblical meditation. The word for meditate in Hebrew “hagah,” can also be translated “growl” or “murmur.” The idea here is that mediation is a constant speaking to yourself. Biblical mediation is filling your mind with the word of God, turning it about in your head, going over it over and over. This is what God wants us to do with his word.
So, this article is not written to give you a free pass out of your Bible reading, but to encourage you to go deeper. Bible reading is good, but Bible meditation is even better.