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Biblical Meditation 2 – The value of repetition

‘Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His love endures forever.’   Psalm 136:1

We have begun to look at the practice of Biblical meditation in the hope that we might be able to develop this very useful devotional tool, particularly during this time of lock down and restriction.  But the very fact that we are in such unusual and disturbing days may mean that we find it more difficult to meditate rather than any easier, as there is so much more to distract and concern us.

As with all things, we should be flexible with our devotions and do those things that we find useful to our circumstances rather than press on with a set routine, out of which we get no benefit.  Meditation is no different.  Sometimes, rather than taking a long passage and working our way through it, just a little phrase is enough, as in the case of Psalm 136.  If you read the whole psalm, you will quickly see that the phrase ‘His love endures forever’ is repeated at the end of every line, 26 times in total!  So, if you come away from the reading with nothing else, you will know that His love endures forever!

After all, what is meditation?  Someone has likened it to a cow that eats grass from the meadow and then stands in the shade later and ‘chews the cud’.  The specifics of this are that a cow has four stomachs, and that grass eaten goes into the first and second stomachs to be stored.  When the cow has opportunity, it coughs the grass back into its mouth and then spends time chewing it over, breaking it down thoroughly so that it can be digested through the third and fourth stomachs!  This is an unhurried process, much like true meditation, when the words to be meditated on are worked over until all the meaning is extracted.  Sometimes all we can manage is a small portion like ‘His love endures forever’.

A short Biblical phrase like this is not the same as a mantra.  In Eastern religion, a mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated over and over again without thinking, to help force other thoughts away and even induce a semi-hypnotic state. Biblical meditation is the opposite; it is the quest to extract meaning from words which carry the divine message.

So today try Psalm 136, and don’t worry if the only message that you come away with is ‘His love endures forever’.  This is not a bad result, especially during these times!  You may also find that the phrase pops into your head at other times during the day, which can also be a blessing.  Alternatively, choose another Biblical phrase, for instance ‘He is not here; He is risen’ (Luke 24:6), ‘Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8), or simply ‘Jesus is Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12:3).

 

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