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?