“And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. 31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32 And they departed into a desert place by ship privately” -Mark 6:30-32
Having sent the disciples out with authority to heal the sick, cast out devils, and preach the gospel, the apostles returned to report on what happened. In the process of reporting to Jesus the concept is set forth that,
“Ministers are accountable for what they do and what they teach; and must both watch over their own souls, and watch for the souls of others, as those that must give account” (Matthew Henry).
Because of these things, Hebrews 13:17 teaches Christians to,
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
If all of this sounds serious, it is, and yet, it is not designed to be negative in nature, for as Matthew Henry comments,
“It is a comfort to faithful ministers, when they can appeal to Christ, concerning their doctrine and manner of life…”
In other words, it is good to be able to talk to Jesus.
In the act of telling Jesus all things, the principle of fellowship is set forth.
Today, fellowship with Christ continues through the privilege of prayer. And Christ is willing to listen as we speak.
“Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?
Tell it to Jesus, Tell it to Jesus;
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Tell it to Jesus alone.”
As Jesus listened to what the apostles had done, and to what they had taught, He discerned that the work of the ministry had taken its toll.
Perceiving them to be almost physically exhausted and out of breath, Jesus said to the apostles,
“Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile.”
There is kindness in the words of Christ. There is concern for His people, for as a Good Shepherd, Jesus cares that His sheep are provided for. And there are two important lessons of life that can be learned.
First, it is essential to pause from constant labor to refresh the body and spirit. A life of frantic activity may be stimulating, but it is a serious risk to good health. While the saints never cease from praising God in heaven (Rev. 4:8), we shall never be able to serve Him day and night till we come to heaven. The Bible teaches that the sleep of the laboring man is refreshing.
Second, in the time of rest it is good to be alone. Christ calls the apostles to be alone in part for the purpose of meditation. Meditation is best accomplished in a desert place, where the accommodations are few, but a quiet atmosphere prevails. The art of meditation has attracted a lot of attention in recent years. Millions today who are not religiously inclined have found merit in meditation. Our concern is to discover what the Bible has to say on this important topic. And so, with that in mind, consider the Doctrine of Meditation. The greatest saints have learned the art of meditation. In Genesis 24:63 we read that “Isaac went out to mediate in the field.” The Psalmist said (119:23) “Thy servant did meditate on they statutes.”
One important reason to meditate is to concentrate the mind. Unlike Eastern mysticism Christian mediation engages the mind upon holy affections. And when the time of meditation takes place, a Christian is to reflect upon specific things.
Meditate upon the Scriptures.
“O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). Reflection in the Scriptures can lead to personal salvation as the Ethiopian eunuch discovered (Acts 8:26-38), or to sanctification as Augustine realized by reading Romans 13:12-14.
In AD 387, as Augustine sat in a garden in Milan, he heard a child’s singsong voice say, “Take and read, take and read.” Suddenly, compelled to find something to read, he found nearby Paul’s letter to the Romans and read the first words of the text upon which his eyes rested. “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” Later he wrote, “It was as though the light of faith flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.” An intellectual and morally restless heart came to rest in Christ as Sovereign Lord, Sweet Saviour, and Sanctifier of the Soul.
Meditate on God Himself
Theologians enjoy ascribing technical words to God, and talking about Him as being omnipotent, omniscience, and omnipresent. They like to discuss His communicable and non-communicable attributes, and all that is very good and proper. When the psalmist reflected upon the attributes of God, is it any wonder that he said, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:” (Psalm 63:5)
Meditate on Divine Providence.
As the soul considers the majesty of the Almighty, so it considers the works He has done.“I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings” (Psalm 77:12). Christians never tire of hearing what God has done, and is doing on behalf of His people. There is a never-ending freshness to the stories associated with Abraham Isaac, and Jacob, the Exodus, the life of David, the ministry of Christ, or the Acts of the Apostles.
And, we have our own stories to tell, how God has provided for all of our needs according to His mercy and grace.
On a personal level, I have seen God provide for three children, all under the age of ten, wandering the streets of Dallas, Texas, day after day. Cast out of the house by 8:00 AM by an abusive alcoholic stepfather, left to play in a local park with only a quarter apiece for food, the children were left to fend for themselves. Hungry they were, poorly clothed, a prey to every predator in the area. But the angels came to watch over them and to protect them. And God was good. He became a Father to the abused, and a provider of gracious things. I tell you, I have seen the providence of God.
Meditate on Bible Doctrine.
In addition to the Scriptures, God, and the works of Divine Providence, the believer would do well to mediate on Bible doctrine. “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all” (1 Tim. 4:15). As the great doctrines of the Bible are meditated on, the heart learns something about the ruin of man due to total depravity, the redemptive work of Christ at Calvary, and the regeneration of the soul by the secret sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.
Because the mind is capable of meditating on good things as well as bad, prayer should be offered that the power to concentrate would be present. The Psalmist pleaded, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
The rewards of taking time to meditate are significant. There will be wisdom of words and understanding of heart. “My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding” (Psalm 49:3).
Following the death of Moses, Joshua was ordained to be the leader of the nation of Israel. But Joshua was not certain how to lead. In matchless grace the divine answer was sent to his soul. This is what God said. Joshua, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Wisdom and understanding were given.
Among the most pleasant objects of meditation is Christ.
We honor the Father, we reverence and worship Him, but in the person of Jesus Christ we draw nearest to the Divine, nearer than man has ever drawn before.
In the Old Testament era, during the days of Moses, when men drew near to God, there was fire and thunder on the mountain when the heavens opened and God came down. The Divine was essentially unapproachable.
Then came the Tabernacle, and people were happy. God Himself was going to come and dwell in the midst of His people.
But a barrier was erected There was a heavy curtain which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies where the Shekinah Glory radiated. The Divine was practically inaccessible except through an appointed mediator.
Then came the Lord Jesus. Though equally very God of very God, Christ humbled Himself, and veiled deity with humanity. Suddenly the Divine was actually touchable. Christ stood forth and cried with open arms,
“Come to me”
“Eat of me”
“Drink of me”
“Permit the children to come to me.”
“Bring the sick, I will touch them and heal them.”
The apostle John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;” (1 John 1:1)
Not only did Christ touch men, but men touched the Divine.
Is it any wonder that the Psalmist made much of Christ, and said, “My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD” (Psalm 103:34)?
Would you like to know the sweetness of loving the Savior? You will experience His presence upon your heart when you reflect often upon the Cross-of Calvary.
Love for Christ increases when we walk to the Cross of Calvary and gaze upon that sacred head now wounded.
Because of Calvary, can we not take time to think more often of Christ and to meditate upon His Word, His essence, His providence, and His bleeding love?
In as far as we do, we will discover the soul’s sweetest delight.