Christianity 201

July 25, 2016

The Watches of the Night

My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
 – Psalm 119:148

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
– Psalm 63:6

I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
 – Psalm 16:7

Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
– Psalm 4:4

Sunday morning at one of the two churches in which I am involved we continued in a series about the rhythms (practices) of the Christian life. The subject this week was meditation. The website tells us that,

In the Old Testament there are two primary Hebrew words for meditation: Haga, which means to utter, groan, meditate, or ponder; and Sihach, which means to muse, rehearse in one’s mind, or contemplate. These words can also be translated as dwell, diligently consider, and heed.

I was surprised that much of the sermon looked at the opposite — if that’s the right word — of meditating on God’s Word, and that is worry and anxiety. There was an interesting quotation from Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life:

Surprisingly, if you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate on the Word of God. Worry is when you take a negative thought and you think on it over and over and over. When you take a passage of Scripture and you think on it over and over and over, that’s called meditation.  (emphasis added)

I hadn’t considered that, but it’s true. We can obsess over various family and health and economic concerns, so we already know, so to speak, how to obsess on God’s Word, God’s character, God’s creation.

Of course, some people suffer greatly from panic attacks. Sometimes anxiety issues run in families. I was glad to hear this discussed also. Too often mental health issues are not mentioned at church.

And then there were the scriptures about “the watches of the night.” It was suggested that the Psalmist had trouble sleeping. (I wondered if perhaps he simply needed to relieve himself several times in the night. Various things can wake us up. Then we have trouble getting back into sleep.) In the scriptures above, these times are used as opportunities to meditate on God’s word, and hear from Him. It may also be a time we are most receptive and free from distractions.

I’ve mentioned here that I sometimes breathe Psalm 100 and the Lord’s Prayer as a way of taking some calming, deep breaths and getting back to sleep.

Unfortunately a number of practices of the Christian Church have been co-opted by other groups. (When is the last time two people walked up your driveway and they were Baptists, not Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses?) It’s the same with the terminology around meditation. It’s seen as a New Age practice. The word is currently guilty-by-assocation. But the principle is clear in scripture.

Rick Warren continues:

No other habit can do more to transform your life and make you more like Jesus than daily reflection on Scripture…If you look up all the times God speaks about meditation in the Bible, you will amazed at the benefits He has promised to those who take the time to reflect on His Word throughout the day. (PDL p. 190)

We’ve previously written about the decline in scripture memory, and how this can be seen as a barometer of the spiritual health of the church. This is part of the challenge we currently face. You can’t meditate on what is not already in your mind and heart.

But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night.
 – Psalm 1:2*

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
 – Psalm 119:11

I know the author of “God Leads His Dear Children Along” was talking about the “night season” of life we pass through, but I couldn’t help but think about this song as I considered the watches of the night:

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

All scriptures NIV except * NLT

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