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  • Paul Reich

"My Meditation of Him Shall Be Sweet”

Prayerful and worshipful meditation on God's attributes and His wonderous works can lead to times of sweet communion with Him.

 

Photo by Jon Asato on Unsplash

 

During busy seasons of life and ministry where most of my attention has to be given to other priorities, I've decided it best to post articles that I have previously written for other purposes. The post below is an updated version of an article I wrote for a denominational magazine in 2006.

 

For more than 40 years, ministry travels have required me to be away from home nearly every year. Whether I have been away for a few days, a week, or an entire month, in those moments of solitude away from the busyness of preaching, visiting, and praying with people, I then realize how much I miss my wife and children - and now my grandchildren!


At such times, I call to mind their faces and mentally replay a variety of delightful and meaningful experiences we have shared together. These times of reflection help me feel close to my family, though separated by many miles. Thinking of my family fans the fire of my love for them, inspires me to pray for them, and increases my longing to see them again. In the same way, I believe that meditating on God is a powerful practice for developing intimacy with God and deepening our love for Him.


J.I. Packer writes in his classic Knowing God:

“How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is demanding, but simple. It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.”

In other words, prayerful and worshipful meditation on truths about God can lead to times of sweet communion with Him.


Unlike eastern meditation, which seeks to empty the mind, Christian meditation seeks to fill the mind with thoughts of God (Psalm 63:6; 104:34), His Word (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3) and His wondrous works (Psalm 77:12; 143:5; 145:5). I think of meditation as prayerful reflection that results in greater insight, awe, faith, and love for God. I have personally found this type of meditation to be very enriching to my Christian life.


Through times of prayerful reflection, I have experienced God’s presence in very meaningful ways, even as David experienced the joy of God’s presence during times of meditation. He writes, “My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord” (Psalm 104:34 KJV). Though I weekly meditate on God’s word during times of personal study or preparation for sermons and classes; like David, I try to also include occasions when I meditate on God Himself or on His wondrous works – though my knowledge of Scripture informs these times of reflection as well.


There are many facets of God’s nature and character that I find to be inspiring during my times of reflection. Three of these are specifically mentioned in Scripture as topics of meditation:

  • God’s unfailing love (Psalm 48:9)

  • God’s name (Malachi 3:16 NKJV)

  • God’s splendor (Psalm 145:5)

Based on these Scriptural examples, I find that God's many attributes and His various compound names provide rich fodder for times of meditation on Him. Over the years, I have especially enjoyed reflecting on the bigness of God and the goodness of God.


Although we can logically separate God from His works, I find that meditating on God’s works often brings me back to thoughts of Him, for His works are expressions of His power, His love, and His faithfulness. Some of God’s works that I have found particularly inspirational in times of reflection include the wonders of creation, answers to prayer, spiritual and tangible blessings, God’s interventions in history, recent miracles, and the faithfulness of God in my life and family. These reflections have often led to moments of heart-felt prayer and worship.


We see this pattern of meditation and praise modeled repeatedly in the Psalms. For example, Psalm 103 closes with a four-fold "Bless the Lord!" after David exhorts us to "forget not all His benefits," and then spends 19 verses recalling God's many personal blessings, His lovingkindness, and His mighty power.



Even as a teenager, the bigness of God was a great comfort to me. I grew up in the mountains of Montana and when I wanted to spend time with God, I frequently climbed the mountain behind our place. At night, I would find a place to lie down on the hillside and look up at the stars. As I pondered the vastness, complexity, and splendor of the universe, I felt humbled. The problems that loomed large in my mind shrank before the greatness of my God. I often prayed, “God if you can arrange all of this, certainly You can take care of me and work out my comparatively small problems.”


Similarly, David’s contemplation of the night sky caused him to consider the greatness of God and the insignificance of man. This in turn led him to marvel about God’s loving care and the weighty role and responsibility He entrusted to man.


When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; …

Psalm 8:3-6a (NIV)


Even portions of Jesus’ teaching and understanding of His Father came from times of prayerful reflection on creation.


Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? … And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. … If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

Matthew 6:26-30 (NIV)


Many years ago, I learned a powerful lesson from following Jesus’ advice to “look at the birds of the air.” One day, I arrived more than an hour early for a dental appointment. I had no other errands to run and the thought of sitting for an hour in the reception area was less than appealing, so I walked to a downtown park just a block from the dental office. The clamor of city life was all around me – the rush of traffic, the noise of nearby construction, and the laughter of children swinging and climbing on the park’s play structure. I sat down on a bench in an isolated area of the small park to quiet my heart and to reflect.


It was a beautiful summer morning. The air was fragranced with the scent of freshly mown grass. Glimmering droplets on the green blades revealed that the lawn had been recently watered. As I sat there enjoying my surroundings and praying, a robin caught my eye. It was looking for worms. It would hop along the ground, peck a few times, and then cock its head to look and listen for worms. Its concentrated efforts were rewarded with several juicy worms. Now, this certainly wasn’t the first time I had seen a robin looking for worms, but in this time of prayerful reflection I considered how intent the robin was as it looked and listened for worms, especially with the noises of city activity all around.


Photo by Brian Kelly on Unsplash


As I prayerfully contemplated the robin, I realized that I too must take the time to tilt my head toward heaven to look and listen. I began to pray, “Father, help me to hear You in the midst of life’s noises. Your word says, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’ Help me to shut out the distractions of life so that I may hear Your words to me and receive the heart food I so desperately need. Help me to station myself like Habakkuk to look and see what You will say to me” (Habakkuk 2:1).


At another time, a thought struck me while contemplating two passages of Scripture


You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11 (NIV)


Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5–6 (NIV)


Based on the similar themes in these two passages, my thought was “God’s presence meets my deepest needs and desires.” As I was reflecting on this, I began to ask myself, “Do I derive more joy from God and time with Him or from His blessings?” I realized then that I find it so easy to turn to His blessings (the people I love and the things I have or can buy) to meet my needs rather than turning to Him, the Blesser.


As I meditated on this, two scenarios crossed my mind. In the first scenario, I pictured a wealthy young woman who bought herself a magnificent diamond ring. She enjoyed the ring, admired the ring, and the ring became one of her many valuable possessions – an item to be enjoyed, but nothing more.


In the second scenario, I pictured an attractive young woman who was head over heals in love with a handsome young man. He had captured her heart and recently asked her to marry him. He gave her an engagement ring, not nearly as ostentatious as the one in the first scenario; nevertheless, to her it was stunning. For days, she couldn’t take her eyes off the ring; however, when she looked at the ring, she didn’t see it as an item to be enjoyed, but rather as a gift from the love of her life. Each time she admired the ring, she thought of what a wonderful man he was. She basked in thoughts of his love for her, and she longed with all her heart for the day when they would be wed and never apart again. The ring was not just an item of material value and beauty; it served as a meaningful expression of her fiancé's deep love. He meant more to her than the ring itself.


As I pondered these two scenarios, I asked myself, “For whom did the ring hold deeper meaning: the one who saw it only as an item of beauty or the one for whom it was a reminder of the man she loved, the giver of the gift?” I prayed, “Lord, help me to see your blessings as expressions of Your love. May they remind me of You. Lord; keep me from getting caught up in the emptiness of things. Instead, may I see Your blessings as opportunities to bask in thoughts of You; for truly, You mean more to me than Your blessings. Your presence meets my deepest needs.”

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. . . . as for me, the nearness of God is my good; Psalm 73:25a, 28s (NASB)

It's from experiences like these that I’m learning the truth of David’s words, “My meditation of Him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord.”


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