Read Big … Meditate Small

When I was in seminary, my professors would assign us students a sizable amount of reading for
each course—usually multiple textbooks and hundreds of pages overall. One of the challenges I
faced was figuring out how I was going to remember everything I had read. I soon discovered that
trying to remember everything was an impossible task. I was able to determine what each professor
wanted me to know for the final exam, but I wanted to retain at least some information long-term for
use in ministry when I became a pastor. I finally decided to work at remembering just one idea from
each book. This may not seem like a lot of information to retain from a single source, but if you follow
this approach with each book you read, and you read a lot of books, it won’t take long before you
have a storehouse of information in your long-term memory.

Many Christians struggle with a problem similar to the one I had in seminary. They don’t remember
much of what they read in the Bible. This problem is true for even some of the most devoted daily
Bible readers. They will take the Bible and read a chapter or two, but then they close their Bibles and
if pressed would have to admit, “I don’t remember a thing I just read.” These good-hearted Christians
may think they are unable to retain the information they’ve read because they don’t have a good
memory, or they never received a good education, or they were not born with a high IQ. While these
things may be true, they are not the reason why they fail to remember what they read in the Bible
because the problem is not with their lack of ability or experience, it is with their method.
The answer to this problem is found in Psalm 1:1-3. The Psalmist writes, “Blessed is the
man…[whose] delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he mediates day and night. He is like a
tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.” Notice from this passage that it is not the man who simply reads the
Bible who is blessed, but the man who reads and meditates on the Word of God. Dr. Don Whitney,
author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, says, “Reading alone was never intended to be
the primary means of absorbing the Scripture. Reading is the exposure to Scripture; that is a starting
place. Meditation is the absorption of Scripture that leads to the experience with God and the
transformation of life that we long for when we come to the Bible.” Christian meditation is not like
what the Buddhists and other religions practice—where there is an emptying of the mind. No, when a
Christian meditates on the Scripture, his mind is fully engaged. He is thinking intently about what the
Bible says, about God and His ways.

“Pastor Rex”, you may say, “I just don’t have the time to do what you’re suggesting. I am working two
jobs to make ends meet. I have a family at home that needs my constant attention. It’s hard enough
for me to chisel out 10 minutes of my day to read the Bible. That is the best I can do. Now what I
hear you saying is that’s not good enough; you can’t just read the Bible for ten minutes. You have to
meditate on top of that. I don’t have ten more minutes.”
Well, here is the good news. If you only have ten minutes, don’t read for ten minutes. Read for five
minutes and meditate for five minutes. Far better to read less if necessary and remember something
than to read more and remember nothing. Here is a general rule: read big, meditate small. Read a
big section, a whole chapter or two and then go back and mediate on one or two verses. If you do
that, you will remember what you’ve read. It will begin to stick in your mind.

Let me give you an example of how this works. For 2022, some of you may be following a Bible-
reading plan that takes you straight through the Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—in one calendar
year. Usually such a Bible-reading plan assigns between 2-3 chapters per day to read. Let’s assume
that you were assigned Leviticus 19-21 for today’s reading. These chapters describe various laws
that Israel was to follow under the Mosaic covenant and the punishment they would receive should
they disobey God’s commands. As you read these three chapters, you may have noticed a certain
phrase associated with many of the commands. The phrase is, “I am the Lord your God.” You might
chose to mediate for a few minutes on this phrase. The repetition of this phrase in these chapters
reveals that God’s commands are given in the context of relationship. The reason why God could
command Israel to keep His decrees was because He had entered into a covenant relationship with
them. He was their God, and they were His people. Thinking about your own relationship with God,
you may recall what Jesus said in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is
the one who loves me.” Jesus calls us to obey Him not out of obligation or an effort to win His favor,
but because we love Him and we’re grateful for His saving work in our life. Having meditated on
these truths, you may now be motivated to follow Jesus wholeheartedly that day because you truly
are in love with the One who saved your life. Reminded of Christ’s love for you, you will surely want
to demonstrate your love for Him through your active obedience.

If there was one piece of advice I could give Christians to encourage them to grow in their faith, it
would be this: Meditate on Scripture. Will you, Christian, choose not only to be exposed to the Word
of God through reading it, but to absorb the Word of God into your heart and life through thinking
deeply about it?

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Anthony

    Thanks Pastor for the helpful insights. I read through the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation and have been doing so for many years. I try to glean something from my daily reading and to meditate on the scriptures. I often sit with a pad and pen and make notes from my readings. There are times when the Lord stirs the water of my heart and I am moved to share my thoughts with my circle of family members or on Facebook. Thank you for your helpful insights on how I can be more focused and prayerful as I read through a book , i.e., themes, applications, focused meditation on the texts.
    One issue I sometimes find challenging is when it comes to text memorization, because when I came to know Christ I was reading in the King James translation and consequently many of the texts I have memorized are in that prose. When I attended seminary in the late 70’s we were required to memorize five texts weekly as part of our course work in NT Theology., and they were selected from the King James translation. I am currently reading in the ESV and I’m finding it difficult to shake that habit at my age. I had been using the NASB and since coming to Perryville I have been using the NIV.
    Thanks for the insights and encouragement in the blog.

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