Meditating on difficult passages of scripture

After one of our services yesterday, in which I preached about Biblical meditation, I was asked about a difficult passage in the Bible – how do I meditate on that, or should I find something different?

Here is the passage – Ezekiel 8.

It is about worship (false worship). So our meditation can reflect on true and false worship. True worship (something that we want to be doing) and false worship (something that we want to avoid).

If I was to meditate on the overall theme of worship from this passage, it might go something like this:

  • What was wrong with their worship? They were bowing down to things that were not God.
  • Am I honouring things that are not Him? What do I treasure? What do I effectively worship by the love, attention and thought time I give to those things?
  • Do I need to repent of serving things that are not Him?
  • I pray: Lord, let my first love be for You alone. Kindle that desire to worship the Lord my God and to serve Him only.
  • Anything else wrong with their worship? They were worshiping in a way that was not according to God’s will.
  • How do I worship? Is my worship about pleasing me or pleasing Him? Do I worship just to make myself feel better or to honour Him? Am I more worried about style than content? Am I guided in my worship by my culture (or the culture around) or by scripture?
  • So I can search my heart about these things. I can confess and pray where I find that I am not where I should be. I can pray also for our church and the worship in our church to grow to be more Christ-centred and God-glorifying.
  • How do others worship? We can pray for those who don’t know Christ either personally or by people group.
  • What are the consequences of this false worship? Reflect on the urgency for people who don’t know God to repent. Pray for mission. Pray for opportunities to share the good news about Jesus and to point people to to true and living God.

This is not exhaustive; there is much more you could find there. The list above is illustrative. It is not the only way that you could meditate upon this passage, but I hope it gives you some fuel for your own meditation.

Or you might focus on one verse. For example, Ezekiel 8:16

And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the LORD. And behold, at the entrance of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun toward the east.

Ezekiel 8:16, ESV, emphasis mine

That phrase “with their backs to the temple of the Lord” leaps out to me. These men turned away from the Lord to worship the sun. Do I turn away from the Lord? Do I get distract by things that cause me to be drawn to them and away from the Lord? This shows sin for what it is; it is not a mild misdemeanour, it is turning our back on the Lord that made us and saved us. So, Lord help me to keep my eyes on You.

Even if our daily reading is a difficult passage, it is still suitable for meditation (after all, it is scripture). Whatever the passage, we simply reflect on what the passage is saying – if it is showing wrong, then I meditate on what that wrong is and to what degree I am guilty of that. If it is showing right, I meditate on how that good thing looks practically and how can I respond.

There are still more difficult passages. What about all those lists of names in 1 Chronicles? Well, you could start by the amazement that God knows your name. In fact, He knows all about you. If it was your name in scripture, what would He write about you? Many of those names are unknown people – and yet God knows them. We haven’t got to be famous to be known by the Lord.

Of course, there is the greater place to be written, in the Lamb’s book of life. If your name is written there, then that is glorious treasure and fruit for meditation and praise.

Biblical meditation is a battle. It is such a source of fruitfulness, that the devil doesn’t want us to meditate. There will be days when we seem to find little in our meditating, but it is important to persevere and keep setting aside time to meditate, because fruit will come.

Thomas Watson offered these motivations for persevering in Biblical meditation (emphasis mine):

“1) The price that God has set heaven at is labor. Our salvation cost Christ blood; it may well cost us sweat.… 2) We do argue so in other things.… How will men venture for gold! And shall we not spend and be spent for that which is more precious than the gold of Ophir?… 3) Though while we are first entering upon meditation it may seem hard, yet once we are entered it is sweet and pleasant.”

David W. Saxton, God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015), 116.

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