...thoughts expressed here are not necessarily final.

September 19, 2005 Meditations on "Scripture"

... from Psalm 1, 19, and 2 Timothy 3-4

The discipline of mediation on the scriptures is something I have practiced for over 25 years. As a direct result of the Holy Spirit’s hammering at the junk in my life much of it has slowly fallen away in the process.

The point of Psalm 1 is that the believer who delights in God’s word will be delivered from wicked ways and is made fruitful and spiritually prosperous. My life bears witness to this truth. The central issue that the God who is not silent requires us to delight in Him as our treasure and joy.

We are commanded to delight in the Lord, and the Lord delights in us. Reading the psalms and Jonathan Edwards dispelled this notion that we should not seek to be blessed by God, but I carried around a double minded approach for years, secretly wondering about the ramifications of really enjoying God forever. David and the other psalmists apparently never had this problem.

Psalm 1 sets us straight. If I want to be blessed and happy in the fullest sense, I must appropriate the source of that blessing in the fullest and prescribed sense- encountering the Most High in His Word. I am also struck that according to Psalm 1 there is something we do and something we do not do- akin to putting off the old man and putting on the new, the negative and the positive aspects of the blessed pursuit. I do not seek the advice of the wicked or take my cues from the world. I do not stand in their ways and I do not find pleasure in fellowshipping with bad company. We do not pursue the world’s words about the world’s ways and thus become wise in the ways of the wilderness, but rather focus on God’s words about God’s ways.

There is a progression in the negative sense seen in walking, standing, and sitting in verse 2. Conversely, as I walk the word, I learn to take my stand against the world, the flesh and the devil, and ultimately, I will sit down in it is utter and delightful resignation to it’s beauty. When I can do no more and all my faculties fail me, I will still rest in the word of God.

I want to have my mind captured and see all my discourse rooted in the radix of the Word. I have known such saints in the past, but I do not meet as many these days. In so doing I will be fruitful and I will endure. The living water my roots draw from is transformed in and through me into something new.

When you delight in scripture, you discover your strength comes from the Lord- just like a tree is nourished by a constant supply of water My next door neighbor planted a willow tree the same weekend I planted a pear tree in my backyard. Four years later, the willow stands thirty to forty feet tall and the pear tree maxes out at about twelve feet. It seems the willow’s roots seek water- they plunged deep into the soil under our houses and found an underground stream and part of the roots found the sewer lines. We have had no drainage problems since that willow started to drink. Willow roots travel a long way and will seek out drains and other sources of moisture. Because its roots seek the water table, it can withstand years of drought as well as the ferocity of floodwaters. Life rooted in the word will be strong.

I do not know which comes first- meditation or memorization. While there is a distinction, sometimes I naturally memorize a passage after meditating on it long enough. Then I can meditate on it any time the Lord brings it to mind, which he certainly will do. I tend to put scriptural thought to music and then they become songs in the night. Blessed is the man who knows moment by moment communion with the Lord. Jeremiah 31 promises we will have the word written on the tablets of our hearts. But I must always remember that this involves intentionality on our parts.

Next I turn to Psalm 19, and discover God’s three great books. Piper once said that nature is the prep school of our affections. I like that and remember it.

First in His book of creation, the sky talks to us about the reality of God’s character, nature, and beauty. Nature screams and shouts about its creator in all its diversities. We understand that even in its fallen state, where things are NOT normal, we still see evidences of the greatness of the creator. Indeed we are born with this disposition and have to be convinced by mental gymnastics to believe otherwise.

Speech pours forth, but familiarity breeds contempt. I once heard R. C. Sproul sing a co-opted rendition called “I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Grace” to the tune of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” from “My Fair Lady”. What a pitiful truth! And it is as true of common grace as well as saving grace!

As a visual artist by training, I have an affinity for seeking the good, the true, and the beautiful; the words and speech that pour forth are primarily visual, not verbal. I was trained to practice observation. After long reflection and indoctrination to the contrary, I am convinced that while the visual elements of the faith have taken a real hit under the auspices of modernity, the visual must always be in service to the verbal. God’s word is exalted above His name. Pictures without words are indefinite and open to almost any interpretation.

The language of Nature transcends time and space. I can look with wonder upon the same heavens that declared the glory of God to David. As Romans 1 tells us, this has been shown to all men. Yet without the artist’s comments, we are left to wonder at a reasonable maker behind the universe. C. S. Lewis once said something like the following: nature never taught him there was a god of Glory, but it gave him that category of Glory as a concept.

The Psalm moves on the God’s second book, the Bible when it focuses on the Law of the Lord in verses 7-11. This is the source of salvific understanding. The Law is perfect, complete. It is to be read as the Word of God. This is evidenced by its power to convert, to restore, to revive. It sustains life because it begets faith. It is the greatest reward because it tells us of the ultimate treasure. As these words of mine are Anthony-breathed and reflect my will and intentions, for better or worse, the Word of God is God-breathed, but only for better, never for worse unless you are on the fiery end of judgment. Even in warning there is great grace!

The third great book that God is still writing is the tablet of our hearts. David’s words ooze with unmitigated love for God. He recognizes that the propensity for sin is still there in spite of the Love the Spirit has birthed in us. We sin in unpremeditated and premeditated ways. I pray the Lord he keeps me from both of these ways of sinning. I do not even know my own motivations without the power of the Holy Spirit enlightening me. The answer to Jeremiah 17:19’s question “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked; who can know it?” is: God can, and He uses his word to do so. The word will tell you plainly if you enquire of it, and the Spirit will tell you even if you do not. I discern from verse 13 that we can have victory over this kind of presumptuous sin in this world. Holiness is not an option.

Finally in 2 Timothy 3-4, we see that God revealed Himself as the Word and by the Word. God is actively working by His word to will and to do according to his purposes and pleasures. The universe consists (Col. 1) and all things hold together by it. Since scripture is God-breathed and profitable, the prevalence of Biblical illiteracy in our day is a hideous sin before the Lord. We truly do not treasure Him properly if we do not hunger after his very Word.

From this passage, I see a court order, a command. It is not optional. I see that it is not enough to guard the gospel, or even to suffer for the Gospel. I must stick with it and abide with it, to never get beyond the good news. This is what I needed to hear. Finally I must also share it.

I have come to the conclusion during this time that God has called me not only to saturate myself in His word, but also to declare it. I have shared this fire in my bones with my church leadership and have just been privileged and entrusted by my church this week to preach the word of God.

I visualize all my acquaintances on the day of judgment- will their names be written in the Lamb’s book of life? We proclaim the Word in the light of Christ’s return and in the light of the darkness in men’s hearts, because they need to know the Truth.

I see in 2 Timothy how to live in the light of the gospel. I also see from Paul’s example in chapter 4 how to die for the gospel. This is the Christian way of death. I see so many parallels to Psalm 22 in this section of chapter 4. I noticed this and did a study, and sure enough there are many corresponding words that are the same as the what the Septuagint’s translation of Psalm 22 has here. It is almost as if Paul is meditating on Psalm 22 as he writes. There are even more ideas that do not appear word for word. There are nine verbal parallels alone.

It never fails to shake me to my core that Paul wrote these words from the Mammertine prison and that he was preparing to take the journey to the Ostian way. I am so comfortable and clean and well fed as I write these words. There are no rats eyeing me. And here Paul summons Timothy and me, into the presence of God to deliver a commission: Preach the Word. As in the days of Elisha, we do not well to hold our peace. I must proclaim it urgently, and in a timely way. I must inform and warn, and encourage based on the authority of the word of God. But I must also do it with patience and careful instruction, intelligently to preach with all teaching.

Paul faced death as he faced life, longing for departure as an unyoking, a liberation and a taking up of tent stakes. He is longing for the stephanos and more importantly, the one who bestows it. I want to think of death in that way- to ponder it daily as Edwards said, to long for death and to flee from a life based on the pursuit of fun. I want to become a better swimmer. I want to swim against the tide of the culture, really living in the light of eternity. I want to unreservedly say, "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain," then living in the light of eternity will replace an insignificant life with deeper, higher, wider, longer, more unshakable, more varied, more satisfying, more durable, more solid pleasures than all the fun that entertainment could ever give. I am on the road.

These meditations on the passages have fueled my study and provided a needed buffer to keep me from smelling like seminary at the end of the day. It is curious how much more in tune with nature I have become, and have smelled a lot of roses and photographed a lot of sunsets as a result as well. So the initial effect these times of meditation have had on me of late is a noticeable increase in the peaceable fruit of righteousness in my life.

Concentrating on the beauty of scripture as God’s more sure word to us has replaced fear with confidence, and longing with peace. The first thing I remember most mornings is waking up with a song in my head based on what aspect of the proscribed scriptures I have been pondering.

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From the personal weblog of Anthony Foster @http://anthonyfoster.com/blog/