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Meditate, Moan, Mutter and Muse

May 3, 2015

There are several different words in the original Hebrew and Greek that are translated “meditate.”  For those of us who are reading the Bible in English, it might be helpful to know which “meditate” we are reading.
For example, when we read in Joshua 1:8 about meditating on God’s Word “day and night,” the word hagah [H1897]
includes a sense of vocalizing, of musing out loud. Even a muttering or a moaning as we interact with His Word. Hagah is a word that invites you to read Scripture and to more or less vocalize what you are reading … and hear yourself doing so. It’s meditation, but it’s a vocalized meditation of God’s Word that resonates from the gut.
Another vocalized sense of meditation comes to us by way of the Hebrew word siyach [H7878], as used at Psalm 77:6. It also carries a sense of sounding out, but more from the head than from the heart or spirit. It is meditation with slightly more music than mutter. It is a bit more intellectual than intuitive.
There are also two Greek words in the New Testament that are translated “meditate” in English: meletaō [G3191] and promeletaō [G4304]. The former is translated at Acts 4:25 as “premeditate” in the KJV, “devise” in the NASB and “plot” in the ESV. The latter is translated at Luke 21:14 “meditate” in the ESV and KJV and “prepare beforehand” in the NASB. In both Greek words, there is a sense of premeditation, not just meditation.
All four biblical words (hagah, siyach in the Hebrew, and meletaō and promeletaō in the Greek) imply an active, alert and focused mental engagement. But not just active: directed. If you read the context of each of these words, we are directed as to how to focus our (active) minds. We are challenged not just to be thoughtful, but to be thoughtful about something in particular. Like, in the case of Joshua 1:8 meditating on God’s Word.
So when want to meditate on God’s word, engage. Engage the mind. Engage the vocal chords. Engage the ears. As our Pastor Keith has suggested, allow God’s word to “loop” through the mind, the voice, the ears … and the soul. Trusting the Holy Spirit to engage our soul as we do so. Reading God’s word is a conversation, a communication. Not, as in the case of some non-Biblical religious, spiritualist or similar exercises, an “emptying of the mind.”
Don’t empty. Engage. Even if this includes some muttering along the way.

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