If you have ever needed to rid yourself of a few pounds, you know how your mind can be absorbed with thoughts about food while on a diet. You wake up hungry. You are hungry before meals, shortly after meals, and at bed. When you aren’t engaged in a task, your mind wanders to the meal you just had, or the meal you will next have. You count calories incessantly, trying to squeeze in a few more bites of something that will satisfy the gnawing pain in your belly without destroying the total calorie bill to be presented to you at the end of the day.
The irony is, if you could think less about food, you would be less inclined to eat and you would be more inclined to stay within the budgeted calorie allotment for the day. But it seems the more you try to stop thinking about food the more you think about it.
The psalmist has a similar scenario — except it is no problem for him. What consumes his thoughts are a delight and help to him.
“I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I wait for Your words.
My eyes anticipate the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.” (Ps. 119:147–148)
When the sun rises over the earth’s horizon in the morning, the psalmist is already awake, alert, and attending to prayer and meditation — he is calling to God for help and waiting to hear from God in His Word.
Similarly, as the sun descends below the horizon in the evening, the psalmist is anticipating and watching for the night (notice that his “eyes anticipate…” — he is looking for nighttime) and is planning for his meditation on God’s Word in that night. He doesn’t wait for night-terrors to attack him before thinking about how he will respond; he is thinking about the fears and anxious thoughts that might arise at night and is planning for how he can repel those assaults with Scripture. You can imagine him going through a mental list of verses that he might use against his temptations to anxiousness.
What is notable is that the psalmist is consumed with the Bible. He is always thinking about God’s provision for his life through the Bible. Morning, night, and all points between, he is thinking about God’s care for him in Scripture. He listens to the Lord in the Word and then he cultivates his mind around that Word. As consumed as the person on the diet is with food, that overwhelmed is the psalmist with a desire for the Word of God.
Can we say the same things about ourselves and our hunger for God to address us in the Bible?
- Do we waken early so that we might hear God speak in the Bible and then plan how we will live accordingly that day?
- Do we think about how we will let the Word of God shape our responses when we are consumed with anxious moments at night?
- Do we plan how we will address our hearts with Scripture when we are tempted with sin during the day? Or at night?
The psalmist isn’t just interested in reading a few verses or chapters in the Bible in order to fulfill a “God-obligation” every day. He wants to hear from God and he wants to conform his life to God. The person on a diet wants to think less about food so he can be satisfied. The psalmist wants to think more about God and His Word so that he can be satisfied.
At this point, it is tempting to say “Get up early to read your Bible, read your Bible right before bed, and read it every lunch hour you can.” Those aren’t wrong ideas. But they miss the point of the psalmist’s example. He wasn’t just about “reading the Bible” (remember, few in those days would have had their own copies of Scripture); he was about hearing and heeding what God said in His Book. The psalmist wanted to be transformed by God and was taking in Scripture in a way that he was always consumed with and thinking about God and His Word. He wanted the Bible so that he would have a God-oriented mind, desires, decisions, and actions.
So what will help you be more faithful to hear and obey God (see also Js. 1:23-25)? Getting up early in the day to read, meditate, and pray on the Word? Carrying cards of Scripture with you and reading them repeatedly through the day? Listening to biblical music through the day? Journaling about what you read in the Bible? Listen to sermons and podcasts about the Bible? Reading 10 (or 60 or more) minutes every day in theological literature? Whatever it is that helps you constantly think about God and what He thinks about your place in this world, cultivate those habits.
Day and night in the Bible means using every means you can as often as you can to compel you to think God’s ways about your life so that your life is transformed to look like God’s righteousness.