“The end of study is information, and the end of meditation is practice or a work upon the affections. Study is like a winter sun that shines but does not warm, but meditation is like blowing up the fire, where we do not mind the blaze but the heat” 1. So says English Puritan Thomas Manton. Studying a Bible verse is different than meditating on it. Jesus proved this out in His own life. And you can prove it out in yours.
Paths to Understanding: Meditate on the Word
- How did Jesus have such an understanding of God’s Word?
- There are important clues available by looking at His life.
- How did He walk in the wisdom of God?
- Jesus statement in John’s gospel is critical in coming to grips with this question.
John 14:12 (KJV)
12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
- Jesus did nothing in His earth walk as a result of His powers as God.
- The Bible plainly states Jesus emptied Himself.
Philippians 2:6–7 (KJV)
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
- The phrase, ‘He made himself of no reputation’ in the King James is unclear here.
- The entire phrase is one word in the Greek language, the word ‘keno.’ It means to empty out or to empty oneself.
- The things Jesus knew, He knew by the Spirit of God.
- He knew it the same way you can know it.
- Jesus was not born full of the wisdom and foreknowledge of God.
- He was ‘keno’ or empty.
- He had to grow in wisdom.
- He grew in understanding.
Luke 2:52 (TNIV)
52 And as Jesus grew up, he increased in wisdom and in favor with God and people.
- A look at a couple of Greek words in this passage will help us.
- The word ‘wisdom’ in the Greek is the word ‘sophia’.
- Sophia defined means the capacity to understand and function accordingly, wisdom 2.
- Now let’s look at the Greek word ‘increased’ which is the word ‘prokoptō’.
- Prokoptō means to advance, to progress, to go forward.
- The word of God implies that if Jesus grew in wisdom, then He didn’t possess all wisdom to start with.
- Jesus had to advance in wisdom.
- Jesus had to progress in understanding.
- He had to develop His capacity to function according to the understanding He gained.
- Jesus had to grow and so do you.
- What was true concerning Jesus is true concerning you.
- Individually, we must advance in wisdom, progress in understanding, and develop our capacity to function according to the understanding we gain.
- We must grow.
How Jesus Grew in Understanding
- Now, if we can find out how He grew. Then we can do the same thing.
- We saw how the disciples accomplished this.
- They got Jesus alone and asked Him questions.
- There is no doubt Jesus did the same with His Father.
- At the tender age of twelve, Jesus was already in communication with God.
Luke 2:49 (KJV)
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
- But there was something else Jesus did which you can do to gain an understanding of God’s Word.
- Do you remember Jesus in the Temple asking the teachers questions?
- Do you remember the teacher’s reactions to Jesus questions?
Luke 2:46–47 (NKJV)
46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.
- The teachers were astonished at Jesus understanding.
- Where did Jesus get such understanding at such a young age?
- It didn’t come by osmosis.
- He didn’t go to sleep one night in the manger and wake up the next morning with more understanding than the doctors of the law.
- Now, it is true that by the age of 12, Jesus was already studying scripture.
- From a religious education standpoint, how was Jesus reared?
- This passage from the Mishnah, the oral law of the Jews gives us a clue about what may have been the education of Jewish boys during this time.
At five years of age, one is ready for the study of the Scripture, at ten years of age one is fit for the study of the Mishnah, at the age of thirteen for bar mitzvah, at the age of fifteen for the study of Talmud, at the age of eighteen for marriage, at the age of twenty for pursuing a vocation, at the age of thirty for entering into one’s full vigor (Avot 5:2l).
- According to the tract, five-year-olds were already studying the scriptures.
- Here is more on this from another source.
At the age of five, Jesus would have attended the local synagogue in Nazareth to begin His formal education in Judaism, just like all of the other Jewish boys throughout Galilee. Called the Beit-Safar (House of the Book), He would have been taught by a scribe or rabbi the memorization of the Torah. The rabbi would have read from the Torah in Hebrew while an interpreter, called the meturganim, spoke it forth in Aramaic, which was the common language of the 1st century Jewish people throughout Palestine. We know that Jesus mother tongue was Aramaic. Over the next five years, Jesus, along with all of the other young Jewish boys memorized all of the Torah, meaning the books of Genesis through Deuteronomy. At the age of 10 Jesus would have entered the Beit-Talmud to memorize the rest of the Tanakh (Old Testament). By the time Jesus reached the age of 14, He would have, according to the Hebrew educational custom, put to memory all of the Tanakh (Old Testament). He would have also learned the art of rhetorical debating of questions with questions (refer to Lesson I of this course). Having the anointing and favor of God upon Him, Jesus would have been among the top in His class 3.
- The memorizing of huge portions of scripture was due in part to the fact that writing materials were costly and scarce. The scriptures were hand written on scrolls and many did not have their own copies.
- Albert Edersheim, a Jewish convert to Christianity known for his work “the Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” states.
In the days of Christ, home-teaching ordinarily began when the child was about three years old. Verses of Scripture, benedictions, wise sayings, etc., were impressed on the child, and mnemonic rules devised to facilitate the retention of what was so acquired 4.
- The point of all this is that education in the scriptures for a Hebrew boy began at an extremely early age.
- Even though Jesus was given education in the scriptures, this was the same education given to every Hebrew boy.
- Yet at the tender age of twelve, Jesus stand head and shoulders above his peers and challenging even the more seasoned and elder teachers of the law.
- The point is It’s one thing to memorize the Bible, it’s another to understand it.
- What we have to know is what gave Jesus such a huge edge in understanding?
- How did He gain it so He was head and shoulders above everyone else?
- Psalms 119 gives us a clue.
Psalm 119:99 (NKJV)
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.
- How did Jesus gain more understanding than His teachers?
- He meditated on the Word.
- He didn’t just memorize it.
- He didn’t just read it.
- He didn’t just have discussions about it.
- He meditated on the Word of God.
What is Meditation?
- Meditation is not memorization.
- Meditation is not to be confused with Eastern religions.
- Meditation is where you take God’s Word and camp on it.
- It’s where you take a verse and turn it over and over in your mind. It’s where you think on a passage continually. Examine it from every angle.
- Meditation is where you trust the Holy Spirit to show you the truths in that passage.
Psalm 1:1–2 (KJV)
1 Blessed is the man That walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor standeth in the way of sinners, Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; And in his law doth he meditate day and night.
- Joshua was instructed along this line when he took over for Moses to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land.
Joshua 1:8 (KJV)
8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
- According to Psalm 119, Jesus meditated the Word. It’s how He increased in understanding.
- What Jesus did, you can do.
Call to Action:
Take some time to meditate on a Bible verse. Use the verse your pastor used in last weeks sermon for example. Chew on it. Turn it over and over in your mind and ask the Holy Spirit to help you see what you need to see in that verse.
Question: What did the Lord show you in the last Bible verse you meditated on? Please leave your comments in the comments section below.
- Elliot Ritzema and Elizabeth Vince, eds., 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans, Pastorum Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013) ↩
- William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 934 ↩
- http://theonlinebibleschool.net/courses/141-contents-jewish-roots/241-2-jesus-as-rabbi-jewish-roots.html ↩
- Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ (London: The Religious Tract Society, n.d.), 129 ↩