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« Building, dismantling, and the critical spirit | Main | I am the Lord that healeth thee »
Monday
Jan192015

Memory, meditating, and music

I just finished a little book by Edmund Clowney, called Christian Meditation. My first reaction to having finished this was "Why have I not read anything by Clowney until now?" He was a very eloquent writer. I have already added a couple of books to my wishlist for the future.

The book, as the title suggests, is about Christian mediatation. The foundation of Christian meditation is threefold: " ... it is centered on the truth of God, moved by the love of God, and directed to the praise of God."

Those three points are the basis of the book as he unfolds them. He focuses on meditating upon God's character, his wisdom, and his acts, all which are found in God's word. Christian meditation depends on the truth, which is found in God's word. There are a lot of references to the Psalms, which I liked.

When we think of meditation, perhaps the picture we have in our heads is of someone sitting cross legged on the floor, chanting a meaningless mantra in order to empty our minds. That is not Christian meditation. Early in the book, Clowney points to the meaning of "meditate," as given in Psalm 1:

When the psalmist speaks of meditating on the law of the Lord (Ps. 1:2) he uses a word that means "to mutter." The word occurs again in the second psalm to describe the rebellious mutterings of the kings who would cast off God's yoke (Ps. 2:1). It is also used to describe the growl of a lion and the cooing or "chattering" of doves (Isa. 31:4; 59:11). It seems evident that the psalmist's meditation is closely related to the repetition of the words of Scripture.

At the end of the book, practical suggestions are given, and one of them is memorization, and considering this notion of "muttering," the relationship between meditation and memorization is obvious. Memorization helps us with meditation, because it involves repetition. As we read and think of Scripture over and over again, it becomes part of us.

Clowney extends this to meditation through singing. What better way is there to memorize Scripture than to memorize it with the aid of music? How often have you heard a chorus of a song you have known from childhood, and find yourself remembering every single word? Music and memory go hand in hand. This means that what we sing is important, because singing contributes (or it should) to meditation on godly truths.

Clowney says this:

The hymns of the church are the richest source of written meditations on Scripture. Changes in musical taste have eliminated beautiful hymns from use because their tunes are no longer in vogue. But the whole treasury of hymns from across the centuries lies before the Christian in meditation.

The words of songs, therefore, are important. Really important. Content matters. Just because the tune is great and it's easy to learn doesn't mean the content is worth meditating on. It seems these days, we are more worried about how many instrumentalists we can fit on the platform, not how enriching the words are. But I'm being a curmudgeon, and showing my age. I know some talented musicians; I'd love to see them use those talents and bring the words of the Psalms to bear on their compositions, like Sons of Korah have done. I think our problem is that we believe our worship music has to sound similar to popular music, and I don't think I agree with that. Music rant over. 

It is my goal this year to memorize some Psalms. I'm not sure how many but I know Psalm 46 and Psalm 145 will be on my list. And I don't want to memorize them just so I can say them without error; I want to think about them to ponder them, so that they will sink into my bones.

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Reader Comments (2)

Judy Rogers has a great album called "Never be Shaken" that has strong biblical lyrics, including a great song based on Psalm 46.

January 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Thanks, Angela! I'll check it out.

January 19, 2015 | Registered CommenterKim

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