Sunday, May 13, 2007

Meditation: "Under the Fig Tree"


by Charles G. Goodall



When Jesus revealed to Nathaniel that He had seen him in the privacy of a fig tree, he exclaimed, “Thou art the Son of God ... [and] the king of Israel” (John 1:48-49). The Scripture doesn’t say what Nathaniel was doing there, but he had taken enough precaution to be alone that he felt only God could have known about his solitude. On one occasion, Isaac sought seclusion when he went out to meditate in the field at eventide (Genesis 26:63).

These instances stir our curiosity about meditation, its merit and its relationship to prayer. It seems we hear about prayer and supplication but little about meditation. It is a kind of prayer, but is of a higher nature than a petition. Meditation is the putting aside of the world and ourselves to focus upon God.

For a moment, let us not use our imaginations to bridge the Fantasy Islands in this world, but use our will to make resolutions to bring us closer to the throne of God. We can do so by suspending for the time being the outward struggle against worldly forces in order to experience the inward realization of the presence of God. We must seek first to be alone. A good way to do this is suggested by the familiar song penned by Will Slater:

Walking alone at eve and viewing the skies afar,
Bidding the darkness come to welcome each silver star,
Sitting alone at eve and dreaming the hours away,
Watching the shadows falling now at the close of day.

We often make the same blunder with God that we do with our friends, we do all the talking. The heathen mistakenly thought they would be heard for their much speaking (Matthew 6:7). We can disrespect God by changing the Scriptures from “Speak Lord, thy servant hears” to “Listen Lord, thy servant speaks!” Why can’t we learn to be still? The psalmist wrote in Psalm 4:4, “Stand in awe and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still...”
Meditation helps us with maintaining the proper perspective. When we are busy, it seems harder to keep our priorities straight. By meditating we see ourselves as we really are, and not as we think we are. It affords us an opportunity for genuine self-examination. When we work hard, our friends tend to praise us highly and perhaps sometimes it is deserved. However, after a time we have a tendency to put more stock in the adulation than we should.

During meditation, we are not as prone to deceive ourselves. Paul said, “We dare not ... compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). Alone with the Lord, we are face to face with reality. No one is there for us to impress. Our soul is laid bare and open in the presence of the eternal God.

In meditation we cleanse our souls in much the same manner that the sanitation workers clean our streets of trash and filth in the quietness of the night. Have you ever awakened during these hours and had the experience of dearly assessing your spiritual condition? Reflection of past sins is so painful at those hours. Insomnia strikes those who have a sense of guilt more often than those who have found peace with God. When that inner peace is found, the distractions are gone and our conscience is clear before God.

During the daytime we can see our neighbor’s faults so well because we have failed to meditate on our own. The more we meditate the more our neighbors faults look minute in comparison with our own. Isaiah once said, “All our righteousness are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Through meditation, we can remove the mote and obtain new spiritual heights. For example, the Lord taught that the one who had been forgiven the most should be all the more grateful. The humbler we are in meditation, the higher we can climb the spiritual mountain.

But sometimes we destroy or neglect what we are working for while we over pursue our own selfish interests. What good are luxurious possessions if we have no companion with which to enjoy them? For example, why labor and provide for children if they rise up to condemn us because they’ve been neglected?

Thus, it is important that we find time to meditate on who we are, what we are doing and whether or not we are putting our energy in the right places. To accomplish these objectives we must find time to be alone with God. If, with the knowledge of His word in our hearts, we will reflect on our lives, we can momentarily escape the relentless demands of this world to firmly determine the proper course to take.

Meditation is a time for digesting God’s law by calling into service our memory, our intellect and our will. David said that the righteous man “delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night” (Psalm 12). In our study of the Bible we often soak up factual knowledge, but sometimes fail to make the proper application to our daily lives. The difference between studying and meditating is like the difference between knowledge and communication. When we meditate, we want to commune with God.

As a child, I remember the cow we milked each day would quickly clip grass and later in the day lie in the shade of a tree to chew and digest it. There is a time for intense study, but there is also a time for considering its application to our lives. James said pondering past Bible lessons was like looking into a mirror to see if we are really all we are striving to be (James 1:23-25). We use our memory to recall God’s blessings and His infinite goodness. We use our intellect to recall what we have learned about His life, truth, and love. By our will we strive to follow Jesus’ instructions: “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37).

For us to meditate we would need to find a place to comfortably be alone with the Lord. One could find his “fig tree” or “field at eventide.” “Take time to be holy,” the poet has said. The Lord “which seeth in secret...shall reward thee openly.”
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