Psalm 1 – Meditation

Bhs_psalm1

It’s easy for us to think that meditation has roots in the eastern (Hindu and Buddhist) religions.  And of course it does – but not exclusively. Meditation is also prominent in the Bible. It is foundational to Judeo-Christian spirituality.

There are 150 Psalms (poem-songs) in the Bible.  The first Psalm sets the scene. It has to do with meditation:

“Their delight is in the law of the Lord and they meditate on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

The Hebrew word translated in English bibles as “meditate” is pronounced haga.  We get a good idea of what haga means by looking at the usage in the Bible.  In addition to the obvious texts that have to do with meditation, the word is also used of a lion that growls (haga) over its prey (Isaiah 31:4).  The lion is meditating presumably because it is doing something repetitive and audible and it is focused on its prey.  The lion is aware of the present moment! The Bible also speaks about the cooing (haga) of a dove (Isaiah 38:14).  The word haga in other contexts describes the wailings in the mourning rituals of the ancient Near East.  

The noun “meditation” (in Hebrew higgäyôn) in Psalm 92:3 refers to the melody played on a musical instrument.

“Their delight is in the law of the Lord and they meditate on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

The word “law” in the Bible doesn’t mean what it means in English. The Hebrew word torah very often means: “teaching”, “instruction” and “guidance”.  Meditation in the Bible has to do with focus, recital, repetition, melody and chewing over the guidance given by the Good Lord.  The person who meditates on the torah

“is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:3).  

Unlike trees growing wild or planted in the fields, where rainfall might be sporadic; the person who meditates on God’s good guidance is like a tree that has been planted beside irrigation canals (in Hebrew, palgê māyim, “streams of water”) – artificial water channels made for the purpose of irrigation.  Whatever he does prospers.

Rev Dr Peter Pimentel

See also: Pslam 1 – We are formed by what we love

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