[The book of Psalms] is, as Calvin says, “an anatomy of all the parts of the soul.” It is a guide to piety for the believer. In particular the book of Psalms provides guidance for the Christian in four areas: meditation, expostulation, prayer, and song.
The art of Christian meditation is in our age largely a lost art, though our Puritan and Reformed forefathers wrote dozens of treatises on the subject. The term meditation has been appropriated by the practitioners of Eastern and New Age religions. Insofar as meditation has come into the evangelical church it has often come in under a baptizing of these New Age ideas. Meditation, as understood and practiced by New Age religions, is an emptying of the mind. It is an attempt to achieve a sort of mindless spiritual condition in which the one meditating becomes open to “spiritual forces,” having been emptied, as it were, of himself and thus ostensibly open to the presence of God. The book of Psalms, on the other hand, teaches the reader what true biblical meditation is. Consider Psalm 1:2: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” In understanding the point this verse makes, it first must be understood that law here is not limited to the legal sections of the Old Testament. The word translated law is torah, and it means not just legal statements but “every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Thus, the practice of Chrisitian meditation is an intellectual, spiritual exercise in which the believer reflects on and considers the Word of God, seeking first to understand it and second to apply it to himself. The word translated meditate has the idea of “mutter,” hence the idea of repeating, chewing over what has been read. Psalm 119 is an example for the believer of a meditation on the law of God. Virtually every verse in the psalm refers to torah, or some synonym as verse by verse the psalmist seeks to understand the meaning of God’s Word for his own life. A number of the psalms are particularly useful as guides to meditation, among them Psalms 1, 34, 37, 49, 111, 112, and 119.
–from “The Psalms” by Benjamin Shaw,
Tabletalk Magazine, February 2007, Volume 31, Number 2
Dr. Benjamin Shaw is professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina.