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Discovering the Lost Art of Musing on the Word of God

Please follow the link to read the updated version of  this post entitled “7 Tips on How to Meditate or Muse on God’s Word.”

If you’re like many of us, you don’t muse on much of anything. Our thoughts often jump from our text messages to Twitter, then to Facebook—maybe a G-chat and then back to our text messages. Such a cycle scatters our thoughts. Throw in a little bidding on e-bay, and you’re done for.

Our soul becomes like a ping pong ball, that can’t be settled on anything. What’s more, you’re mad at the guy who outbid you—whoever he may be. Need some reprieve?

I recently discovered something exciting, a kind of revolutionary practice that can transform your Christian life. It’s ancient, but also quite up-to-date, even revolutionary. It’s called “musing,” but translated as “meditating” in the King James Version (KJV). So in this post we’ll begin to consider this lost art of “musing” on God’s word with a call to join us in learning to “muse.”

The Difference Between Meditating and Musing on God’s Word

First we need to see the difference between “meditating” and “musing” on God’s Word. “Musing” is used in the Recovery Version because the original Hebrew word indicates more than “meditating.”

The dictionary defines “meditate” as to “think about something deeply, to reflect on it or to ponder on it.”

The definition of “muse” however, is not just to meditate on something but to comment upon it, to ruminate upon it—like a cow chewing the cud.

A note in the Holy Bible, Recovery Version explains the meaning of this Hebrew word for muse by saying,

 “Rich in meaning, the Hebrew word for muse (often translated meditate in the KJV) implies to worship, to converse with oneself, and to speak aloud. To muse on the word is to taste and enjoy it through careful considering. Prayer, speaking to oneself, and praising the Lord may also be included in musing on the word. To muse on the word of God is to enjoy His word as His breath (2 Tim. 3:16) and thus to be infused with God, to breathe God in, and to receive spiritual nourishment.” [Psa. 119:15, note 1]

God’s Charge to Joshua

 In Joshua 1:8, God commanded Joshua, the leader of  Israel, saying,

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall muse upon it day and night so that you may be certain to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.”

 For Joshua to be successful in leading God’s people into the good land, God charged him to be occupied with the Word by musing on it day and night. It was only by musing on the Scriptures that he could make his way prosperous.

The Practice of the God-seeking Psalmists 

The ancient psalmists practiced such musing on God’s word as expressed in Psalm 119:147-149,

“I anticipated the dawn and cried out; I hoped in Your words. My eyes anticipated the night watches, that I might muse upon Your word. Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; O Jehovah, according to Your ordinances enliven me.”

Musing upon God’s word in the context of Psalm 119:147-149 is sandwiched between our “crying out” and God’s “hearing our voice.”  So an open mouth with audible expressions is strongly associated with musing on God’s word and may distinguish it from meditating.

The Example of George Muller of Bristol

Let us consider the example of  a man of faith and prayer named George Muller (1805-1898) from Bristol, England as referred to in his  booklet entitled, “Soul Nourishment First.” There Muller said,

“Now I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, and instructed; and thus, by means of the Word of God, while meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experiential communion with the Lord.”

What was Muller’s actual practice of “meditating?” He wasn’t just trying to think about, understand or memorize Bible verses. Rather, after asking the Lord’s blessing upon His word,  Muller would begin to meditate on the Word, searching into every verse to get blessing out it—simply for the sake of obtaining spiritual food for his own soul. Then he said,

“The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my souls has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication, so that, …it turned almost immediately more or less to prayer…and then my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened…”

What about us?

 First, I’d say that from Muller’s example, the best time to start musing is when the world around us is the most quiet. For most of us that would be first thing in the morning. Muller said in that same booklet,

“I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning.”

Second, it’s better not to look at your smart phone, or computer before musing on the word or your mind will be gone before you can reel it back in.

Third, try to grab your Bible and find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted. When weather permits, I often find that it helps me to go for a walk. I believe that Muller also practiced this.

Fourth, pray short prayers to turn your heart to the Lord, open to Him, and ask His blessing on the opening of His word. This is so that the same Spirit that revealed the Scriptures would open them afresh to us.

Fifth, read a few verses, then turn any part that impresses you into a word of prayer, praise, thanks, or petition to the Lord. You may even sing them with your own song. At times I do this and it really helps. (It’s ok—no one has to hear you, but the Lord.)

Sixth, re-speak the Word you enjoyed in the morning, throughout the day. This is to ruminate on the Word.

Seventh, share the Word. You can text it, Tweet it, share it on Facebook or Google+ along with any enlightenment you received.

This is a little of my discovery of musing.

So what about you? I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any experience of musing on the Word, or are you interested in learning this practice and becoming a person who muses on the word of God? By sharing your experience you’ll  help us all to further discover this lost art of musing on the word of God. Please leave a comment and we can continue the fellowship in the comments below.

About Tom Smith

Hi. My name is Tom Smith. I'm the writer behind Holding to Truth in Love, and I love the Lord Jesus and His life-giving Word. Please feel free to send me an e-mail through the contact page if you have any questions. I hope you'd take a moment to subscribe to the Holding to Truth blog. Then you'll be sure not to miss a post. Thanks!

23 Replies

  1. Turns out quiet time may be a misnomer? Getting my mouth open has been a big help to me in my morning times with Jesus. Especially singing. There’s just something about it that wakes up my spirit. Someone once told me, “We need to shatter the silence of the morning.” I agree! Musing has that distinct advantage over meditation.

    1. Tom Smith

      Really so. Psalm 81:10 says, open your mouth wide and I will fill it. It’s really hard to ruminate, to muse without using your mouth. Singing is great help to our musing on God’s word. Sometimes I enjoy making up a spontaneous song to sing the Word and to sing my prayer from it. From experience, this kind of practice can really usher you into a sweeter touch with the Lord.

    2. Joe Putnam

      Hi Kyle, I hadn’t thought about this until you mentioned it, but, even though having a “quiet time” sounds so good, many times it’s better to open our mouth when we spend time with the Lord. Our spirit is connected to our mouth so when we pray and sing out loud, we’re also contacting God.

    3. It depends what kind of “quiet time” we are having. If we are audibly silent, we miss something of the Lord, as the post and comments bring out clearly. However, “quiet” in the NT sometimes means “without turmoil” e.g. Acts 19:35-36. We need this kind of “quiet time” where our soul is not a “ping pong ball.”

  2. Ricky

    I like how you pointed out the difference between meditation and musing because I actually know some brothers who love meditating on the Scripture but it turned out that they were totally in their mind. I even know a case which this one dear brother developed mental issue. But sounds like “musing” is the way to go.

    1. Tom Smith

      That’s a good point. Some people ponder over the Word, but only using their mind and don’t get life from the Word. Since our speaking God’s word activates our spirit of faith (2 Cor. 4:13), it’s really helpful to speak out the Word–to the Lord, to ourselves, to God’s creation, and to other people. All such speakings of God’s word help us to ruminate on it and better digest it for our spiritual growth and constitution.

  3. This post helps illuminate what I consider to be one of the most crucial practices in the Christian life – taking in God’s word through prayer and careful consideration. It is through ruminating on God’s word that we partake of the divine nature and are richly supplied to live Christ.

    I also appreciate your practical pointers, especially the matter of finding a quiet place to muse on God’s word. This is most crucial if we expect to adequately feed on and receive God’s word.

    1. Tom Smith

      Yes, it really helps to find a place where you can get away from all the earth’s concerns to spend time alone with the Lord. Even the Lord Jesus as a man on this earth, felt the need to get away to spend private times with His Father to have intimate and uninterrupted fellowship (Mark 1:35). Shouldn’t we also?

  4. Megan

    I really enjoyed this post! It’s true that our mind is everywhere from the time our eyes open until we finally decide to shut them again at night. My favorite part of my mornings are when I am able to stop everything, turn off everything, and begin my day by crying out to the Lord (even if it is a quiet cry) and praying over a couple of verses. The Bible really is the best prayer book! It has also been my experience that by using the Bible to pray, the Lord has a way to speak to me, and many times it is completely unrelated to the very words I’m reading!

    1. Tom Smith

      Yes, I agree. A key is to start our morning right, to give the Lord the first and best part of each day. If we can receive His life element into us through the Word first thing in the morning, then we have something to ruminate on, to nourish us, that we may live because of Him all day long (John 6:57). Amen, the Bible is the best prayer book!

      1. Christy Hudson

        This is a wonderful piece, happened upon your site looking for the Hebrew meaning of musing. Turns out I been musing for quite a while. Its easy to tell someone to read the bible, yet so many Christians don’t. Your article opened my eyes with scripture on how to tell others how to muse, on the Word, our daily bread, which is essential everyday! Thank you!

        1. Tom Smith

          Glad you found the post helpful. I’m afraid few believers have heard of “musing” on God’s word. They may have heard about meditating on the word; but for many this may just be a mental exercise. However, if we only use our mind but fail to contact the Lord with our praying spirit (Eph. 6:18), we’ll get little supply from such practice. When we muse on the Word, we mingle it with speaking to the Lord in praise, thanksgiving, confessing, and petition. If we come to the Word in this way, it will leave us with a sweet taste and make us long for the Word (Psa. 119:103; 1 Pet. 2:2-3). Thank you for sharing your appreciation in comment. For more appreciation for this wonderful practice, I’d recommend reading Life-study of Exodus, message 57 by Witness Lee. You can read it for free online at: ministrybooks.org

  5. I love the expression, “the lost art” – it is an art for us to stop our outward activities and our inward thoughts and just focus on the Word of God and muse on it, receiving the Word into our being with much prayer, consideration, and thought. Not just meditating – that can lead you somewhere else; MUSING! In Psalm 119 there are so many synonyms for this – consider, muse, remember, write down, read, etc… If we muse on God’s word in this way, the Word becomes part of our being, our constitution…

    1. Tom Smith

      I really like to consider musing a “spiritual art” that we need to cultivate. In our fast paced society, it is hard for most of us to muse on anything. So I like George Muellar’s way of getting away with the Lord in the morning and the Psalmist’s way of musing on the word in the night watches. May we all find some times when we can learn the “art of musing” on God’s word. May so many younger believers be helped to step away from the reactiveness of digital media to discover this lost art of musing on God’s word in order to receive a richer infusion of God’s divine element.

  6. Musing on the Word is an incredible blessing…and when I get too busy (or sleep too late) I experience an enormous hole in my heart and in my day. I’m also finding God responds in equal to my pressing into Him. If a little, a little in return…a lot and the day continually reveals to me new confirmations/revelations of Truth. I trust more. I accept and flow with the ups and downs of life more. I may be days…weeks on the same verse. For now its been I Peter 5:10. So thank you for the reminder and the lesson. Blessings to you and yours. F

    1. Tom Smith

      I agree that musing on God’s Word is an incredible blessing. It really goes along with setting our mind on the spirit to enjoy divine life and peace (Rom. 8:6). It is like keeping a switch on so the electricity can flow. As we muse on God’s Word, God’s Spirit of life transmits into all the life power we need to live the Christian life. What a blessing! Yes, in this way the God of all grace will Himself, perfect, establish, strengthen, and ground us (1 Pet. 5:10).

  7. giovanni

    In my experience these past 2 days I’ve received tremendous revelation in the word whil slowly reading over it over and over and ofcourse pray reading it which has brought a new excitement in my heart for the word! I can just thank God that a person can be as dumb as a rock but still receive tremendous revelation in His word!

    1. Tom Smith

      God’s word is living. Whenever we come to it with a heart open to the Lord, He is just there waiting for the opportunity to infuse us with more of Himself. I also have found pray-reading to be such a wonderful way to touch the living essence of the Word. Such a daily touch provides me with the grace I need to live the Christian life. By the revelation found in His living and operative Word, God causes even us who were “dumb rocks” to praise Him.

  8. David Davis

    I’d say Jonathan Edwards a preacher / Pastor of a day gone by would be an exceptional example . His bible notes are unmatched in my mind.

    1. Tom Smith

      Yes, there are many men of God from previous times that discovered the tremendous benefit of musing on the word of God, although they may have called it by other terms such as meditating on the Word. George Muellar of Bristol, England was another such man of God who found the great benefit of taking the Word prayerfully and turning the Bible verses into his personal prayer, petition, thanksgiving, and praise to the Lord. His little article “Soul Nourishment First” relates his healthy practice of enjoying the Word early in the morning. Thank you for comment.

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