The Bible Reader’s Manifesto: Meditation & Marination Are More Valuable Than Expedition

by Pastor Sam Cirrincione

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…2 Cor. 3:18

I am a slow reader. I always have been. I can remember this being true of me from my days of elementary school, through my time in middle school and high school, on into college and especially through seminary. My slow reading came with a price, namely, feeling like learning and completing assignments took longer. Longer is always worse, right?

Take Longer To Linger

The truth about my slow reading is that, admittedly, it is driven by an obsession-like desire and curiosity to understand all facets. Not that I ever do. With practice, virtually anyone can read words with pace; it simply comes with time. But naturally, when you desire to understand a source’s intent regarding tone and content, each dynamic of ‘meaning’ for the words used, the inherent tunnels of meaning underneath words which connect with countless connotation, the particulars about connections and flows of thought, expansions and the interworking of what can be understood from a simple sentence, and how words or phrases clarify a bigger picture…it just takes longer. Most basically, whether studying economics or religion, photography or education, asking “why” something is true and works the way it does, and at each step contemplating its connection to the dynamics of the “whole,” as well as envisioning the implications for your life will force more time upon you.

What if taking bite size chunks and chewing on their intricacies for an entire day, or multiple days, before moving on, actually deepens and solidifies one’s grasp?

This can be frustrating at times because it can feel like the desire to fully understand and internalize what you’re reading prevents you from advancing, but what if taking longer to linger isn’t a bad thing? What if closing your eyes and thinking long, hard, and deep about what you read is actually more beneficial than trying to make a fast journey to reach the end? What if taking bite size chunks and chewing on their intricacies for an entire day, or multiple days, before moving on, actually deepens and solidifies one’s grasp? This is indeed the case with Bible reading. One thing that God makes clear is that lingering long upon His Word is not a bad thing. If fact, it is what causes deep, life-long wisdom and understanding, worship, and life-transformation.

Satisfied and Sanctified Through Meditation and Marination

Notice in these passages how God encourages us to meditate and marinate on His Word:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…”

2 Cor. 3:18

When we behold the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into His image.

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

Psalm 119:18

When you read, aren’t your eyes open already? Is the Psalmist simply asking God to wake Him up in the morning? There is obviously a deeper and more clear “seeing” that he is asking for. This is for the purpose of being able to behold the deep and wondrous things that are not found on the surface. He wants to see things in the Bible that only come with supernatural vision.

“…my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”

Psalm 63:1-3

Notice the word, “so.” The quenching of the soul’s and flesh’s thirst comes from gazing upon God, in His rightful place, and beholding His power and glory. Gazing upon and beholding God is how this man chooses to quench his thirst for God. This then leads to a realization, for the man, of the supremacy of God’s steadfast love, which leads to praise. So, displaying God’s infinite worth is a result of being satisfied in God. And the way we become satisfied in God is by beholding God.

Blessed is the man…[whose] delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Psalm 1:1-2

The man who finds his main delight in God’s Word, and therefore meditates upon it day and night, is the man who is characterized by God-centered happiness.

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.

Joshua 1:8

The picture here is a perpetual and all-encompassing marinating in God’s Word. It involves a repeating and a meditating. This facilitates (notice “so that”) obedience and results in God-centered prosperity and success.

There are countless other texts that provide the same encouragement as these. God clearly desires for us to linger long upon His Word.

God inspired difficult texts, because to understand Him and His thoughts is like digging through an endless mine.

Take A Closer Look

Indeed, occasionally making a sprint through the Bible is beneficial. To do that occasionally in order to more fully grasp the metanarrative of the whole Bible, with understanding each story and passage’s place in God’s greater story is very important. But most of the time we may do well to wonder why we actually want to move so quickly while reading. What are we trying to get to? And what is the point if what we read doesn’t cause deep and lasting understanding, worship, and specific application? If we don’t attempt to exhaust a section and carry it with us for a lifetime, but just quickly move on, what was the point of reading it? What if there are 10,000 gems only to be found by seeing and re-seeing? The truest blessings of my life have come from finding understanding, through meditating and marinating on Bible passages, rather than simply making an expedition through them.

We too often read the Bible by hovering superficially over the text. When we do this, we often and simply confirm what we already know. But God inspired difficult texts, because to understand Him and His thoughts is like digging through an endless mine. Each passage has layers and multi-faceted meaning communicated by intentional connection of thought, because God is complex and inexhaustible in His goodness. When we take a long look at His Word, we will more fully understand Him, His Gospel, our sin, His Church, evangelism, discipleship, His call, prayer, and the list goes on. Therefore, let us become textual people and look more carefully at what is actually being said by our glorious God and His inspired writers. He has inspired every word intentionally.

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