The Bible treats our mind as a muscle, as something that can be moved, as something that can be set on certain things and not set on others. Paul commands Roman Christians in Romans 12 to be transformed through the “renewing of their minds.” In 1 Chronicles 22 the Israelites are told to “set their minds and hearts to see the Lord your God.” In Colossians 3, Paul commands Christians to set their minds on things that are above. This isn’t often how we approach the task of thinking. We rarely consider thinking to be a task. It’s simply something we well, we “just do.” Which is another way of saying that our minds just kind of latch onto whatever slides in front of them. Our minds are bombarded from Social Media, what pops up on the radio while we’re driving, what comes across the computer screen or television screen. We check our email addressing a question or an advertisement. A notification pops up on our phones turning our attention to twitter or facebook where we find an infuriating article written by an obscure relative in New Hampshire, which was liked by an old friend of ours who has an incredibly cute squirrel living on his tree… We rarely approach the task of thinking intentionally. We rarely set our minds on something. We more likely, trip over our own thoughts all day, like water rushing down a pre-determined path. (Given the intentionality with which advertisers and other media groups approach their work, this path is intentionally shaped by forces that are ubiquitous in our world.) But the Scriptures call us to an entirely different approach to thinking.
This week I ran across this quotation in Psalm 19. Its a famous text, memorized by Sunday school children everywhere:
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sign, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
Here the Psalmist is making a request of God - a plea really, that the things he has set his mind on would be acceptable - pleasing to God. What sort of meditations - the setting of the mind on something please God? In Psalm 19 we see the Psalmist looking to two particular things.
First, creation itself, particularly as it reflects and declares the beauty of God. The description of the sun “running its course” day after day after day is particularly poignant. It reminds me of G.K. Chesterton’s description of a child’s exuberance in discovering each day’s sunrise with “Look! He did it again!” But consider the work necessary to see these things, to meditate on these things. We barely notice the sun rising or setting. Our joy in seeing and giving thanks for the glories that surround us are often fleeting, like our attention. Our minds are not used to resting on something, like a sunset, and then meditating on its beauty, its meaning, its glory.
Secondly, the psalmist has described the glories of God’s law - its goodness and usefulness and wisdom. We Colorado dwellers have some practice in considering the mountains or the sunset. But almost none of us have fixed our attention on the words of God, to meditate on them, to consider their beauty and usefulness and wisdom. But this is what the Psalmist demonstrates for us - minds set on something remarkably complex and nuanced, historic and marvelous.
The Bible describes the life of the mind as a life of deep intentionality, of meditation. We are to hold something in our minds and consider the question again and again, “What must God be like?” The Psalmist’s meditations call us into a life of intentional consideration and seeing and then drawing all this thinking up into a consideration of the grandeur and goodness of a God who made and sustains all things by the word of His mouth.
As we continue our examination of the Ten Commandments this Sunday our goal is not only to understand the sort of life God is calling all of us into, but also to consider the character of God Himself as revealed in His law…. What must God be like?