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Take Time to Be Holy

The biblical idea of meditation has been somewhat distorted in the Western world by the important function that it plays in several Eastern religions.  Whenever the word is used we often imagine a Buddhist monk sitting cross-legged seeking to clear his mind of all worldly concerns.  In the Bible, the word simply means to reflect on something, and while clearing our mind of worldly matters may help that, at times true meditation also may involve thinking of ways to apply God’s will in our everyday lives.  In Joshua 1:8, after the death of Moses, Joshua is told

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.

I realize that Joshua, as successor of Moses, had greater opportunity and, therefore, greater responsibility in knowing the word of God than the average Israelite.  However, the public readings of the Law (Ex. 24:7; Deut. 31:10-13; Josh. 8:34-35) and the placement of the 48 cities of the Levites, as teachers of the Law, throughout the land showed that God also had high expectations of all of the Jews, in reference to understanding His Law. 

In the Psalms meditation is frequently mentioned.  God’s works are often the subject of the Psalmist’s reflection (Ps. 77:12; 119:27; 143:5; 145:5), as is His Law (Ps. 1:2; 119:15,23,48,78,148), and even His nature and person (Ps. 63:6).  While this kind of reflection is not limited to the Sabbath (Ps. 4:4; 27:4), one day with no other regular responsibilities would certainly have removed the excuse that many in our time make that we “just don’t have the time” to ponder spiritual things. 

In Deuteronomy 6:4-7 the Lord said

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

Obviously, much more than Sabbath teaching is under consideration in this passage.  But I expect that just as in our time there are many whose days overflow with responsibility there were also Jews who overbooked their lives.  As a remedy for this malady the Lord prescribed the Sabbath, so that, at least for one day, when their children wanted to play with them there would be time; for at least one day they would have no excuse for not telling their children a Bible story; for at least one day they could answer their questions about life and instill in them spiritual values. 

An entire day devoted to spiritual meditation, worship, and family time would be wonderful, wouldn’t it?  In our culture no such time will happen unless we make it so, and it is eternally important that we do make it so.  In next issue’s final article in this series, let’s explore a few suggestions on how we can set up sabbatical margins in our lives.