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May 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 17, 2015 – Matthew 7:24-27

Analytical Meditation

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.
Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell–and great was its fall. Matthew 7:24-27

Intro: This is the famous conclusion of Jesus’ Sermon On the Mount

Afterward, “the crowds were amazed at his teaching” (v. 28)

I imagine the disciples saying, “Lord! Look at all the people coming to hear you. Think of the impact You have on all these lives.” But I also imagine his response, “Yes, the crowds have arrived, but if you could see into their hearts you would not be so enthusiastic. We can not build the kingdom of God on lives that do not have an adequate foundation. ”

• this is the meaning of Jesus’ parables of the seed and the soils (Mt. 13:3-9 & 18-23)
• not everyone derives the same value from his word
– a common theme in the parables is the contrast Jesus draws between two types of characters
• a Pharisee and a tax collector, wise and foolish virgins, an obedient son and a disobedient son
◦ they illustrate failure and success among those that profess to know God
• there is a listening to God’s word that goes nowhere

But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, “Come now and hear what the [word] is which comes forth from the LORD.” They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them. (Ezek. 33:30-32)

◦ there is another listening that takes us to the path that leads directly to God

I am going to walk your through “analytical” (or “discursive”) Meditation
– this is a rational approach to exploring a verse or passage of scripture – the “text”
• it is not as light as Bible reading nor as heavy as Bible study
• and it is definitely not memorizing verses
◦ research has shown that memorizing verses improves one’s ability to memorize
(memorization has little effect on how people respond to real-life situations)
◦ memorization does not get to the substance of a text or make it ours
◦ meditation involves more thought processes than memory: alertness, attention, noticing, etc.
– we need to give our intellect something !!

The opening of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
(Ps. 119:130, “opening” translates a Hebrew word that can also mean plowing or drawing out–e.g., water from a well)

• analytical meditation is a way to ingest and absorb God’s word (into our minds and hearts)

Your words were found and I ate them,
And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart . . . (Jer. 15:16)

John Chapman had this to say regarding usual religious the many books that must be read during one’s religious training, “But if you don’t meditate, you get nothing.”
• we need to give our intellect something, but eventually won’t be enough
◦ our rational minds can be full while our spirits starve
◦ so in coming weeks we will look at other forms of meditation

Perhaps you’re thinking, “I can’t focus my attention enough to meditate like this”
– you can and you already do
• a Hebrew word is sometimes translates as meditation means : to mumble to oneself, “ruminate”

  1. We “ruminate” when trying to think our way through a problem
    • also, when persistent anxieties grab our minds and will not let go
  2. We “ruminate” when we mull over a text
    • it involves similar neurological activity as worry; and we know we can do that

– we are going to learn how to harness this natural ability for our spiritual benefit
• we will train our brains to ruminate over the word of God
◦ all we need are a few tools to get us started
• I do not want you to think I’m saying there’s only one way to engage in analytical meditation
◦ but the suggestion I am making is that these tools are here if you need them

Begin with prayer
We ask God to give us access to his revelation

Ditriech Bonhoeffer, “. . . we begin our meditation with the prayer that God may send His Holy Spirit to us through His Word and reveal His Word to us and enlighten us.”

– a simple prayer is all that is needed
• but make a point as you pray to perceive God’s presence

Read through the passage

Don’t choose random verses for your meditation
– generally, we’re reading through a biblical book from beginning to end
• the Bible isn’t a collection of verses in which each one is an individual packet of truth
• it is part of a whole thought — one verse may be no more than an illustration of another
◦ a single verse does not explain itself (with the exception of a number of Proverbs)
◦ without knowing the context, we are wasting time – then meditation can lead to nonsense
– our goal is to catch the main idea as we read
• we do not have to read an entire chapter, just enough to get the thought
• we do not have to meditate on every verse — we don’t even have to “get” every verse
◦ don’t worry about the particulars – just pick up theme

Narrow your meditation to the central verse (or two)

Make general observations and then close observations

Two very helpful questions:

  1. 1. What does God reveal here? (about himself, the world, humans, and so on)
    – is there something here we would not know if God had not revealed it to us?
  2. What is the question this text answers?
    • this is an extremely helpful exercise because it takes us to the main message

Focused observations:
– we are looking for clues to specific features in the text:
• the message, it’s meaning and key words (that indicate the message and meaning)
– anything out of ordinary, emphasized by the author, or repeated

“Open” observations
– we relax our mental effort and let the words flow into our minds
• we allow ourselves to sense or feel the effect of each word as we come to it
• then we follow the trail these impressions lead us

It is okay to look things up (definitions of words, etc.)
• and perhaps read one commentary just to “check” our initial thoughts
• an excellent online resource is

Turn up your curiosity

This–and millions of fresh neurons–is how small children learn rapidly
– probe – don’t be afraid to explore the text, entering caves and forests
• however, avoid curiosity that speculates or is easily distracted by theories
• ninety percent of the questions Christians ask have little value
◦ neither the questions nor answers result in spiritual insight or a changed life
◦ for example, “Where did Cain get his wife?”
– the kind of curiosity we need is that which is driven by love
• rather the kind of curiosity that seeks to know God

Use your imagination

We willingly enter the world of the Bible
– experience it in its own setting, culture and customs
• we accept conditions as they are in the text
◦ we feel the hard edges of the lives of our biblical character heroes
• we use our imagination to enter the minds of various characters in the story
– then we return to our world, but different – perhaps wiser
• maybe only slightly different, but different enough

Our imaginations are likely to stir or bring up feelings and emotions
– in this way God’s word may enter our minds, heart and soul through a side door

Write out your thoughts

Writing is a tool the brain uses to help it think
– begin writing down thoughts triggers more thoughts

A diagram for examining the text can be useful

Personalize the text

Do not do this at the beginning – only at the end
– this is a typical mistake every novice in biblical meditation makes
• at your first reading of the text, it’s not about you! – it’s about God and others
◦ but your meditation eventually brings it home to you
• so at this point, personalize the text as vividly as possible
– God’s word strives to get inside of us
• it singles me out (I can’t hide in the crowd)
• this word is for me


“Seal” the text in your heart by bringing it to God

Conc: Meditation is a necessary foundation for knowing and living the word

But it is only a foundation
– we have other tools for building our lives on the Scriptures

We are giving scripture space to do its work in us — to give birth to God’s life

. . . for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Pe. 1:23)

• which means, we do not merely “listen” to God we “hear” him
• that is why we must shut down the chatter in our brains – if we’re talking, we’re not hearing

Our ability to analyze scripture in our meditation  improves with practice
– eventually we do not need to remember any of the advice I’ve given here
• we begin to do all this automatically
• from then on it gets more and more wonderful

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