Meditating on the Law

In Psalm 1:2, the Psalmist says that the righteous delight in God’s law and meditate on it day and night. What does that mean?

When I was growing up in an offshoot of the Worldwide Church of God, I heard two explanations. Garner Ted Armstrong said that meditation on the law consisted of the following: Consider the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” (or steal, or commit adultery). Now, imagine what the world would be like if everyone observed that commandment. It would be paradise! Whether he realized it or not, Garner Ted was reversing the Kantian imperative, which asks people to think about what life would be like if everyone did a particular wrong deed (or so Kant has been explained to me). Garner Ted’s approach to meditation on the law certainly helps me to see the law’s value.

Ronald Dart, another ex-WCG minister, had another approach. He said that we should meditate on the law (meaning the Pentateuch) to derive principles that can guide our lives. For example, the laws on oxen and fences on roofs do not literally apply to most people in the United States, but they can still discern principles in the law about respect for others’ safety. The apostle Paul himself saw deeper meaning and application in the law, for, in I Corinthians 9:9, he applies the law about consideration of an ox to the principle of supporting ministers. Paul sought the basic principle in the law and encouraged people to follow it.

When I was taking a Psalms class at Jewish Theological Seminary, I saw that the word translated as “meditate” is from the root h-g-h, which means “roar,” “growl,” “groan,” “utter,” “speak,” “meditate,” “devise,” “muse,” and “imagine” (according to Strong’s, but BDB has many of the same definitions). Meditation of the law may have been recitation and repetition of it. Interestingly, that is not too different from what many evangelicals do when they try to memorize Scripture. After all, the Psalmist says in Psalm 119:11 that he hid God’s word in his heart that he might not sin against him.

How do you meditate on God’s law?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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3 Responses to Meditating on the Law

  1. Gene says:

    As I understand meditating on the word (and my NT understanding is that the law is now fulfilled through Jesus and we are no longer under it, but under grace) is a term used that means just like a cow chews it’s cud. To think about it over and over again. Allowing God to reveal it to us through prayer (talking with and listening to God.) In other words, I read scripture and keep it in my mind thinking over it over and over again. The word renews my mind and I see (through God revealing His word to me) who God truly is and who I am in Christ.

    Blessings,
    Gene

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  2. James Pate says:

    That is an interpretation I’ve heard–meditation being like a cow chewing its cud. Some Christian interpreters (and I think Jewish as well) said that this was why God allowed Israelites to eat animals that chewed the cud–he wanted them to see value in ruminating over God’s word.

    Thanks, Gene!

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  3. Pingback: Posts I Wrote Engaging Ron Dart’s Thought | James' Ramblings

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