When I studied theology at the University of Exeter, the subject that quite quickly became my favourites to study was Hermeneutics. We had a wildly eccentric professor who would take us into some of the most inconspicuous passages of the Old Testament and just draw out gold in terms of understanding and the culture of the time.
I think it has probably fed my enjoyment of some of the more difficult passages of scripture; delving into lists of family tree’s in the book of Numbers, to picking up small actions of the people that we read about that inform our understanding of their character that could ultimately allow the Holy Spirit to reveal something of significance to us.
So, it’s unsurprising that one of my favourite scenes in all of Scripture is a bit obscure. It comes from Genesis 24. Abraham, at this point, had left his family in Haran a long time ago and now dwells in the land of Canaan. He is old and very concerned about his son Isaac not having a wife from among the people who live around them. Isaac, the son of the promise (Genesis 17:19) is now of age to be married and Abraham sends his servant to Haran to find him a wife.
The servant dutifully does as he is told and, with much prayer and providence, meets a woman called Rebekah. After some time, the servant brought Rebekah back to the promised land to meet her husband, the promised son.
Then follows a winsome scene; Genesis 24:63-64, “[Isaac] went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac.”
I love this because it is a beautiful picture of a chosen son meeting his chosen bride, which is a foreshadowing, a taste of our future reality upon reunion with Christ. And yet I also love it because of the little reminder that Isaac was meditating at the time. Maybe you missed that little detail - in the midst of Isaac’s mindfulness, God brings about fulfilment.
This is not the only mention of mediation in the Bible; the Psalms are full of reminders to meditate on the Law. I am also reminded of the famous exhortation to Joshua in Joshua 1:8, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
God’s people have always been marked by mindful meditation upon the truths and realities of life with God.
Maybe you have never really considered mediation as a practice or a discipline. There is a rich Christian history of meditation, not as the emptying of mind and self as we might see in Eastern religions but as the filling of our being with the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit as we seek God. Tim Keller puts it this way, “Meditation is prayer — full reflection on what God has just told you in His word. It is neither study nor prayer, exactly, but a combination.” Meditation in the scriptures and in practice then is not just Eastern, Western, or beholden to man’s tradition - it is a method of devotion.
Especially as we consider the times we are living in now, various forms of God honouring prayer and meditation are useful tools to help centre us back on God, even for when we cannot see the end of the tunnel. Centring prayer is one such discipline of resting in the Father’s love for you, receiving his love, and being mindful of him. You can practice centring prayer by sitting quietly, maybe setting a timer on your phone, and giving your mind rest.
- Choose a word or phrase like, “Peace”, “Christ”, or “Grace” to anchor your thoughts and then rest in God, receiving His love.
For me personally, as someone who can be a tad restless, busy, almost frantic at times, centring prayer is a salve and, to be honest, really difficult! I suspect it may be the same for some of you which is even more reason to give it a try. By resting and centring our hearts in Christ we can, as Isaac did thousands of years ago, rest in the great gift of grace and be reminded of our status as sons and daughters of promise.