Mrs. Lubbers is a wife and mother in the Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, Illinois.
“Meditate on these things….”
Ours is a noise-driven culture. From earliest morning, one’s life is governed by the continuous sounds of conversation, music, and background noise. Alarm clocks beep—or sing—to us. Telephones ring. Computers click. Doorbells buzz. Headsets crackle. Television keeps up its incessant chatter, often when no one is in the room. Many of us have taken to carrying our communication noise-makers along withus attached to belt or waistband, ensuring that we are never truly free from the cacophony of our culture. Grocery stores, shopping malls, and dentist offices pipe in their intrusive music to make sure there is no lull in noise. The car radio is often the first dial to be turned on after the ignition, unless one has the unfortunate experience of getting into the car after a teenager has used it. Then, the radio and the ignition come on simultaneously. And, loudly! We have become programmed to need noise. Silence, being alone with one’s thoughts, is becoming less frequent for us.
Do we feed off noise because we are afraid to think? Do we fill the quiet times in our lives with inconsequential prattle by others because we ourselves are not able to think logically and coherently? Has the derogatory slur become true of us—that we no longer have two thoughts in our heads to rub together? More importantly, are we spending a decent amount of time in prayer, meditation, and reading worthwhile books so that we are able to think discerningly and contemplate eternal truths? Are we using moments each day in the systematic study of God’s Word? Do we search out and add companion commentaries and study helps to our personal libraries to know God better and to enjoy Him forever? Do we recommend to one another and read the abundant literature which is available to us to help us on our pilgrim journey?
“Be still, and know that I am God,” says the psalmist in Psalm 46. The author of this psalm is undoubtedly demanding a cease from war and imposing a peace on the vanquished by the All-conquering God. “Lay down your arms. Surrender, and acknowledge that I am the one and only victorious God” (James M. Boice, Expositional Commentary on the Psalms, volume 2). It is not, Boice adds, primarily a psalm which calls God’s people to the contemplative life.
Nevertheless, on a secondary level, one does not err to gather from this passage that there are periods in one’s life and interludes during each day when one would do well to “be still” and meditate on God. The contemplative hours are the “selah” from the frenetic restlessness of this life. Minus moments of meditation, we are like wooden animals on a carousel, going round and round, and going nowhere. Failure to indulge oneself in contemplation, writes the late Dr. Zylstra in Testament of Vision, and “life is nothing but a treadmill” (p. 140).
Without study and meditation it is not difficult to accept the evolutionism that is so prevalent today: man is nothing but a refined animal. What does an animal do? Well, he spends a big part of his day searching for and hiding his prey; he mates, sleeps, and starts the vicious cycle all over again. This is exactly what man without God is reduced to. He spends all his days searching for prey—building bigger and bigger barns. This includes hiding his prey from others—devising new and ingenious ways to invest his many capital gains. In the end, the man who does not make time to know God and meditate on His Word is nothing more than a pig rooting in the pea patch. He is no different from the animal he claims as his ancestor. “Man that…understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish” (Ps. 49:20).
The world of unbelief needs its constant pulsating noise. The profane man squirms in the silence. When, and if, he meditates, he is wracked with his own guilt and inadequacy. He has no cross to which he can flee. So, more noise, please! And, the music—louder, louder! Drown out the emptiness of my life! Keep the volume turned on high, the images flashing, and the pace accelerated so that I do not have to consider my end.
How different, by grace, is the experience of the believer. It is his delight to know God and enjoy Him forever. In every facet of his life, he contemplates God’s sovereignty, His lovingkindness, His grace, and all His many inestimable attributes.
How does a Reformed Christian best do this? One does this first of all on the Sabbath Day. This is “Day of all the week the best, Emblem of eternal rest,” as the old hymn says so well. On this day, especially, by my active attendance at and participation in the worship service I close my ears to the deafening clamor of everything around me. I listen carefully to the speech of God. Throughout the day, I immerse myself as much as is possible in reading Holy Scripture and other worthwhile books and magazines. Even young children can and should be trained to sit quietly, at least for a little time, on this special day while you as parent read to them from materials appropriate to their development. Throughout the week, as well, one must exercise oneself to set apart time to read and reflect on spiritual things. In the same volume Zylstra pens: ” Contemplation can sanctify work, provide its reason, give it purpose, harvest its fruits.” We are not refined animals. We are a people purchased with precious blood.
Jesus Christ, as always, is our teacher and example. If the divine Son of God did not consider it beneath Him to go to God in prayer, or spend time in contemplation, how much more necessary it is for us to seek a quiet place to refresh ourselves for the journey ahead. When Christ needed strength to go on, encouragement in His work, or affirmation in His calling, He escaped the milling crowd and went up into the mountains or to some other private place. “Come ye apart and rest a while,” said the Master to His disciples in Mark 6:31.
In most of our churches, societies have already begun for the season. Take time—make time—to study and prepare for the Bible discussion. All kinds of good books, pamphlets, and commentaries are available to us today to assist in the deliberation of God’s Word. Many of them have been written by our own clergy. Read for knowledge. Read for enjoyment and pleasure as well. Let us not be an ignorant and mindless people. May it not be said of us as it was of unregenerate Israel: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6).
One must completely shut out the pandemonium around him, the ceaseless running to and fro, and find quiet in God. David did not find inspiration—or time—to write His psalms on the run, but rather, he often considered the vastness of the heavens, the greatness of God, and his own puniness in comparison in the engulfing solitude of the Judean hillside. From his prison cell, the apostle Paul did not call for his laptop (more cursors and keys). He called for his books and parchments.