February 3, 2016
“When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
Lord God Almighty.”
Jeremiah 15:16 (NIV)
Eugene Peterson, in Eat This Book, tells a story of a dog that he once had that loved bones. Whenever this dog would get hold of a bone, the process was intense. Daily, the dog would bury the bone to keep it safe, dig it up to go to work on it and bury it again. The dog would intently work on this bone until nothing was left, getting so absorbed in the biting and chewing, often growling deeply as it did so.
Peterson uses this as an analogy for how we should engage with Scripture. He notes specifically Isaiah 31:4 and the lion that “growls over his prey.” The word there for “growls” is “hagah,” a Hebrew word that is often translated as “meditate.” (Other instances are mutter, utter, speak, ponder, study, moan, and mourn.) While college students have been translating the words “study” and “mourn” the same for years, this is a new way for many of us to look at meditation and a very different way of looking at Scripture.
It’s full body. It’s experiential, not solely intellectual or mystical. It’s visceral. It goes far beyond an exercise of the mind.
I’m going to take some inspiration from Peterson’s hound. As I encounter Scripture, I’m going to bury it and dig it up and bury it again, knowing just where it is and that I will return to it. I’m going to pore over every letter and sound, every word and phrase. I’m going to chew on it, beyond definitions and standard interpretations, I’m going to mutter while I ponder, moan while I study, growl while I gnaw on it. I’m going to love it and get absorbed in it, and by it. I’m going to mourn it.
Isn’t that what it takes to “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips”? Isn’t that what it meant for Ezekiel and John when they ate the scroll and it “tasted as honey in my mouth” and for Jeremiah in the verses above?
The Scripture has to be more than words. It has to be deeper than language. It has to be something that we consume, that we absorb and that we become. Like Jeremiah, we too, “bear [the] name of the Lord God Almighty.”