To Know What Is True, Meditate on God’s Word

I have kept a journal since I was seven years old. At forty-two, I still spend a few minutes most mornings scribbling down thoughts and prayers into a spiral notebook. I recently flipped through some journals from my college years, and written in a harried, anxious script were pages and pages of questions about life and truth and my future. I was an English major, which meant I spent much of my time reading and writing, and it’s easy to tell from specific journal entries which authors were most influencing my thoughts and decisions at the time. 

During those years, I spent a lot of time trying to square my theology with my life circumstances, when actually, I had it backward. I should have let Scripture shape my theology so I would know how to rightly handle my life circumstances. It mattered where I was looking for answers then, and it matters still today. We often look to friends or social media or Google searches for wisdom without ever going to the source of truth: God’s Word.

In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul exhorts the believers to fill their minds with whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (4:8). He encourages them to continue holding fast to their faith in Christ by saturating their minds with true, good things. How do we know what is true? It’s an age-old question, really. Philosophers have waxed eloquent and sometimes quite ridiculously about the origin of truth or whether it even exists. It seems that the longer human beings roam the earth, the more ludicrous our approaches to truth become. Some of those unfortunate approaches found their way into my college journals. 

In our twenty-first-century culture, whatever you believe can be “true” as long as you don’t hold “your truth” over anyone else. As a result, we live among a society of people with a million different definitions of truth that clash horribly and crumble immediately beneath the test of time. American ideology these days touts that “whatever is true”—whatever you want to be true can be true for you.

But Paul didn’t mean “whatever” as in “choose what you want to be true.” Paul meant “fill your mind with what is true.” We already know from Jesus that God’s Word is truth. His Word is also honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. We can and must think on these truths—God’s truths—and by them measure all that we see touted, advertised, and celebrated as “true” from the world. We will be able to discern what is truly true by meditating on what is eternally true. And by meditating, I don’t mean emptying your mind—I mean filling it up to the brim.

Mumble, Mutter, Meditate

Though you won’t find a verse in Scripture that commands, “Thou shalt memorize Bible verses,” the Bible is full of exhortations to treasure God’s Word and think about it often. 

When God brought Israel into the promised land, He commanded them:

Be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 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. (Joshua 1:7–8 esv)

As a generation that had grown up wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites needed the guidance of the law to instruct them how to live as God’s people in the land He would give them. Without the parameters of the law and the careful account of God’s deliverance of their families from slavery in Egypt, Israel would run headlong into idolatrous worship like their pagan neighbors. Belonging to God meant living holy lives that reflected their Deliverer; thus, the people were to keep His words in mind at all times, meditating on them day and night so that they did not wander away from Him in disobedience. There was grave danger in departing from the commands of God, so the best way to hold fast was to keep His words ever before them.

We see similar language in Psalm 1, where the psalmist calls the man who delights in God’s law, meditating on it day and night, happy, fruitful, and blessed. The Hebrew word for “meditate” means to mumble or mutter aloud to oneself.The way to delight in God’s Word is to repeat it aloud to oneself, mumbling and reciting the words so that you believe them, live them, think them, practice them. In muttering the words of Scripture over and over again, we learn them, really learn them, because we think deeply on them in the mumbling repetition.

What protects the man in Psalm 1 from worldliness and sinful behavior? Meditating on God’s Word day and night. What produces fruit in every season of life? Being rooted in God’s Word, drawing nourishment from it at all times. This is more than daily Bible reading, though it is not less than that. It is an extension of Bible reading. Meditation plunges you deeper into the verses and passages you’re reading, saturating your heart with their meaning, one repeated word or phrase at a time. 

In the New Testament, the idea of meditating on the Word of God is described as being immersed in Scripture. In Colossians 3:16, Paul tells the church in Colossae to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (esv). Tim Keller writes that “meditation on the Bible is more than just intense thinking. . . . When Paul talks about the Word of God ‘dwelling richly’ within us (Col. 3:16), he is clearly talking of something beyond mere assent to information.”More is going on here than simply digesting knowledge or information. 

Dwell Richly

Because God’s Word is powerful, it changes us as we think deeply about it. Hebrews 4:12 makes clear:

The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (esv

I’ve had several surgeries to address a progressive disease that causes abnormal growths in my body, and I know how skillful a surgeon must be to remove what is diseased without compromising the organs. The scalpel must be sharp, the incisions and excisions exact. There is no room for error. God’s Word is like that razor-sharp scalpel, and His Spirit works it in our hearts with precision like the most knowledgeable and practiced surgeon. His Word reveals sin that grows insidiously in the secret, hidden parts of our hearts. The more we dwell on His Word, the more apparent the disease, and the more decisive its removal. What’s left is a healthier Christian who can continue to grow and flourish in godliness as the Word of God dwells in him or her richly. 

When the words of the Lord live in your heart, they change your heart. How do we let them dwell in our hearts richly? By feasting on them regularly, thinking on them, reciting them—mumbling them over and over to ourselves. Christian meditation is different from the world’s poor version of it. You’ll never achieve any clarity or solid understanding of truth by emptying your mind and closing it down. Rather, you open your mind and make it a house for God’s Word to live in, where your thoughts are fed, rested, dressed, and wisely parented. 

Old Testament or New Testament, the exhortation for the people of God is the same: meditate on the Word of the Lord so that you know His voice and know you belong to Him. So that you avoid sin. So that you stay the course of faithfulness and encourage other believers to do the same. So that your mind is transformed. So that you know what is true. 

My journals these days also reflect a lot of questioning and wondering about life. But in God’s kindness, He has drawn me to His Word for wisdom and truth. All these years of walking with Him and living closely to His Word have shown me that His promises are true and they stand the test of time. The more I meditate on His Word, the more I see the ways He always proves true. 

Note: This article is adapted from the author’s book, Memorizing Scripture: The Basics, Blessings, and Benefits of Meditating on God’s Word. Used with permission.

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1 “H1897 - Hāḡâ - Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (ESV),” Blue Letter Bible, accessed August 8, 2023, 

Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Intimacy with God (New York: Penguin Books, 2014), 150.

About the Author

Glenna Marshall

Glenna Marshall

Glenna Marshall is a pastor’s wife and mother of two energetic sons. She is the author of The Promise is His Presence, Everyday Faithfulness, and Memorizing Scripture. She writes regularly at on biblical literacy, suffering, and … read more …

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