Psalm 19:14 (NIV84) May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
My dear friends in Christ,
What’s your favorite thing? Why? Usually it’s because of the way we feel when we think about it. We think about our favorite thing and we feel happy. For how long? Not too long, and then we need to think about it again. Pretty soon, we need to find a new “favorite” thing to make us happy. The world around us is happy to influence us. We turn to the things we see on television or on social media to find happiness. We turn to people, hoping that a relationship will bring the happiness that we crave. We even influence ourselves. During our alone time we have plenty to think about. David called it “the meditation of the heart.” Where do our thoughts turn most often when we have down time?
I have had a lot to meditate on this week. Pastor Jake is getting better, but he won’t be back up to speed for a while. We were busy making vacation plans. I had to get the services ready for the next two weeks. I had a sermon to prepare, shut ins to visit, and even tucked in a hospital visit. Friday evening we gathered with some friends at the River Falls Days parade. One of them asked how my week had been. I told him, “Busy, but good.” At the same time, all the challenges of the week flashed through my head. Even after the parade had started, I was meditating on all these things and feeling a bit stressed. Then, something else caught my attention. Two 3 year-olds were experiencing the parade for the first time. When the candy started flying, they didn’t know what to do. The looks on their faces said, “What is going on?” An older sibling showed them how to pick up the candy and put it in their bags. Their joy was obvious. They smiled as they dumped treasure after treasure into their candy bags. Then they heard the marching bands. The two of them started dancing and marching. Their eyes shone and their giggling was infectious. Those two little ones had a better meditation of the heart than I had. While worries and anxieties – the weight of the world - were on my shoulders, the meditation of their hearts was on the excitement of the parade and the music they heard.
Why is it that life becomes so heavy, anxious, full of worry, and stressful? I am convinced that a large part of the problem is the meditation of the heart. Those two 3 year-olds weren’t worried about anything. They weren’t afraid of being run over by a marching band or a float as they reached for candy. They know that mom and dad had everything under control. That freed them to play and enjoy what they’re doing. Meanwhile the rest of us are trying to carry the world on our shoulders because we meditate on a gigantic lie: It all depends on me. Can you see the disastrous results of meditating on this lie? Spiritually, we shove God into a corner and only go to him when we’re desperate. Our worship and prayer life become an afterthought. Emotionally, we suffer depression, anxiety, and worry at alarming rates. Physically, we struggle to sleep, get sick, have elevated heart rates, and suffer all the damage caused by the stress of negative emotions. We struggle in each of these areas because the meditation of our hearts is not pleasing to God.
Are our anxious and worried thoughts a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord? How can we bring these bodies, God’s temples, wracked with stress as an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord? We can’t because first of all God is too holy, but even more importantly God’s promises eclipse any sacrifice we try to bring! So, this sermon series over the next 7 weeks is for everyone whose meditation of the heart is unacceptable to God. This sermon series is for all who worry, who are struggling with anxiety or depression. This sermon series is for all who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. David offers us a new and better meditation of the heart.
Listen to what he wrote. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14 NIV84). In this prayer David calls attention to “...the meditation of my heart...” Can Christians meditate? I thought that was something only the Eastern religions do. We can meditate. We need to meditate. Maybe it would help if we understood what David meant when he wrote about “the meditation of my heart.” The word “meditate” also means “growl.” How would that fit? Now, picture a dog that has just received its favorite chew treat. It lies on the floor, chewing on it. As it enjoys the treat, a low rumble comes from its throat. We do the same thing when we see something particularly beautiful. On Friday night the Lord painted a spectacular evening sky after the rains passed through. As we looked at it and enjoyed it, the meditation of our hearts produced a quiet, “Mmmmm!” This is meditation. The deepest, most fulfilling meditation involves thinking about God and his Word, rolling it back and forth in our minds and finding joy and contentment in his beautiful promises. “Mmmmmm!”
Let’s be clear: there is such a thing as a pleasing meditation and an unacceptable meditation. David prayed, “May...the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you...” Our meditation is not acceptable to God when we focus on the problems and worries of life. Our meditation is not pleasing because we repeat a mantra over and over. Our meditation is not pleasing because we empty our minds and sit in a certain position for hours on end. Our meditation pleases the Lord when it focuses on the “... Lord, my rock and my redeemer...”
Let’s meditate on that name “Lord” for just a moment. Do you remember what it means? The Lord explained his name to Moses: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6–7 NIV). Compassionate. “Mmmmmm!” Gracious. “Mmmmmm!” Loving. “Mmmmmm!” Forgiving. “Mmmmmm!” Just. “Mmmmmm!” Holds people accountable. “Mmmmmm!”
Let’s meditate on the next word. The Lord is our “rock.” God obviously isn’t actually a rock. David pictured him this way because a rock is strong. A rock provides a solid foundation and protection during a terrible storm. Rain, hail, and even hurricane strength wind can beat on the rock, but the rock stands and protects because of its strength. The Lord is our rock. He is the foundation for our lives. He is the best hiding place. He is the very best fortress. The Lord is our strength. “Mmmmmm!”
Think about that third word. The Lord is our “redeemer.” A redeemer in the Old Testament acted when an Israelite couldn’t help himself. A Israelite slave couldn’t free himself, but a redeemer could buy that slave’s freedom. A redeemer could preserve a dead man’s family line by marrying the man’s widow. A “blood” redeemer could avenge a dead man’s murder by seeking justice in his place.
The Lord is our Redeemer. Our Redeemer, Jesus, lived and died to set us free from our slavery to sin, even our sins of unacceptable meditation. Our Redeemer, Jesus, set us free from death by his powerful resurrection. The Lord, our Redeemer, helped us because we could not help ourselves. Jesus is our Redeemer in any situation that is impossible to solve. Are you starting to see what a God-pleasing meditation of the heart looks like? It is meditation on the Lord’s beautiful promises!
The Apostle Paul gave us even more to meditate on in our second lesson. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV). That’s a great meditation of the heart! So, instead of focusing on all the negative things that happened today, or yesterday, or 15 years ago, think about what is true, noble, and right. Begin the day with a little bit of God’s Word. Even one passage is plenty. Write it down on a sticky note and put it on the bathroom mirror. Write it on a note card and stick it in your pocket. Pray about it for a few minutes. When the day becomes challenging and you’re tempted to focus on the negative or the hurt, turn back to the Word. Roll it over in your mind and your heart and let your soul say, “Mmmmmm!” This kind of meditation strengthens our spiritual health because our heart knows the Lord is our rock. This meditation of the heart leads to emotional health. When the hurts and challenges of life threaten blow us away, we go back to God’s Word and meditate on that title, “Redeemer.” “Mmmmmm!” I’ll be okay. Jesus has taken care of everything! Finally, this meditation of the heart improves physical health as it eases stress and anxiety. David wrote, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him” (Psalm 62:1 NIV). “Mmmmmm!”
A wrong meditation of the heart has a way of making our problems a mountain that we cannot move. A right meditation of the heart remembers that our God is big. He is all-powerful. Nothing is impossible for him! “Mmmmmm!” What happens when God and his Word dominate our meditation? We can rest on him, knowing that he will take care of everything. “Mmmmmm!” That is what this entire sermon series is about. It is about remembering that our Savior is bigger than all of our problems and hurts. “Mmmmmm!” It is about letting his truth dominate our meditation. “Mmmmmm!” It is about replacing the lies we often tell ourselves with the truth about God, his Word, and his saving love. “Mmmmmm!” Amen.
Special thanks to Pastor Tim Bourman, Sure Foundation Lutheran Church, New York City, for his sermon study and outline!