Have you ever considered your devotional life? I’m sure most Christians have at least thought about this or have even attempted to read through some sort of book dedicated to focusing their hearts and minds on the things of God. There are selections of daily devotionals to fit into your every routine - short snippets or lengthy meditations. They appear at all times of the year, before Christmas and Easter, and always in January when you are ready to turn over a new devoted, leaf. They may speak to your unique station in life: for men, women, and children, young and old. Even if you have never encountered these little nuggets of inspiration, I wonder, are they worth your devoted mediation?
Now, do not misunderstand: the Word of God is worth your meditation. It is the very breath that allows us to even speak of such things. His Word of life is the most precious treasure we have, especially in comparison to all other words that exist. God’s Word swallows everything that we could say about ourselves and this world. His history and promise and hope is the only Word that endures.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)
There is no question that the blessed one, the happy one, the one of God delights and meditates on God and His Law day and night. And I’m willing to bet you’ve felt this tug at least once in your Christian life: to meditate, pray, dwell on God’s Word, for in it you are promised life. It’s the entirety of God’s Word - His history, promise, and hope – the whole story that directs your meditation. This is where many devotionals are less than helpful.
Quite often, a devotional will begin in the proper place: you experience the Law of God, the way in which the righteous should live. You read about the beauty and perfection of His glorious ways. You long for inclusion, search eagerly to be called His Holy and blessed one. But during the beginnings of your meditation, you discover your unfinished prayers, your shameful failings, your less than perfect ways. You start to realize how much your decisions have been selfish, how you have strayed from the path, and what it means to be in need of a Savior.
Here is where too many a devotional takes a fatal turn. Instead of plunging down deep into the hopeless abyss to proclaim the inconceivable truth of your death and the real source of your life, a devotional might offer you a sneaky escape from it all: a side door when the dark is too depressing, a quick solution that you have control over right now. The misleading path of devotionals may offer you a practical answer so that you think you can delight in the Law of the Lord. The foolish way of a devotional might tell you that keeping the Law of God has the power to save you.
Our meditation listens to the King of Kings when He says; it is finished.
Blessed is the man, after all, who does the right thing. Blessed is the man who can love the Lord with his heart, soul, and mind. Blessed is the man who can do what is required by God. And this is all true. But don’t mistakenly think that the Word of God is talking about what you can do.
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Rom 3:20-22)
And so, while our devotionals begin with the truth, many times they leave us hanging with only the knowledge of our sin. We know God’s Word and Will and Law is holy, and we love it and desire it. But we cannot do it. We cannot be the blessed one that meditates day and night, no matter how many devoted mornings we try. Our meditation is screaming for the righteousness of God. But just following Law does not have the power to save us! We can't accomplish the law even if we wanted to! Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom 7:24-25)
There is no question that Jesus - the Blessed One, the Happy One, the One of God - meditated on God’s perfect Holy Word, day and night. Even if your devotional tries to say you must devote your own life and will to God Almighty, the truth is it is Jesus who devoted His life, His death, His glory to God Almighty. While many devotionals highlight your obligation to stay away from the wickedness outside and within, it is Jesus who walks not in the council of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers. It is the righteous Savior of the world who delights and accomplishes and fulfills every last bit of God’s Law. So why does your devotional still insist you must do just a little more? Left up to focus on your own devotion, your work, your righteousness, God’s Law is never done.
What is worth your meditation? A devotional that gives you an incomplete hope and focuses on your worthless actions before God? Your unpredictable response? Your mediocre intentions? Your certain wickedness? Your ignorant failing? Your incomplete righteousness? There is no life for you here.
But life comes when our meditation is focused on God’s answer to our evil. It was Jesus who was degraded and beaten for the council of the wicked. Our meditation points us away from the trust we try to find in ourselves. It was Jesus who stood willingly, condemned in place of sinners. Our meditation listens to the King of Kings when He says; it is finished. It was Jesus who was hung on the shameful throne of scoffers. Our meditation hears the Word created new life for us. It was Jesus who defeated death and sin.
So a devotional focused on your contribution to a blessed life is not worth your meditation. It takes away from the cherished clarity of the Word of life speaking truth. There is One who has perfectly and completely devoted to the Almighty God in your place. There is One who meditates on the word, kept every law, follows God’s Will, and simply handed over His everlasting life to you. Don’t waste your time meditating on something more you must do, something deeper you must pray, something incomplete for you to finish. It is already done.
Meditate on that.