For years, I’ve followed a recommendation by Donald Whitney about a plan for meditating on scripture when I’m not following a specific Bible reading plan or doing a structured discipleship study. It was in a May conference for Arkansas campus ministers where I first heard him recommend reading Psalms and Proverbs in this way:
- Whatever day of the month it is, read that Psalm or Proverbs.
- In the Psalms, skim the Psalm for personal relevance and application.
- You’re looking for truth to meditate on and respond in prayer to. If you can’t find something in the first chapter of Psalm corresponding to your day, add 30. So first instance, if it’s January 27, skim Psalm 27. If it happens to just not “connect” or resonate with where you are, add 30 and skim Psalm 57.. and so on. In using this approach, I’ve always found a Psalm that seems to speak deeply and powerfully to my condition and situation.
- In Proverbs, you stay in that one chapter (Proverbs 27 if it’s the 27th of the month), and look for truth that might challenge or direct you toward more obedience and faithfulness. You might also find a verse or two that encourages or directs you.
Whitney’s point in reading the Psalms and Proverbs in this way is not to utilize scripture in a selfish way but to practice meditation upon its truths. When I use this approach, I find a passage or verse to write down and dwell on throughout the day. I repeat it to myself throughout the day and often jot down a few thoughts about how the Lord may be speaking to me through it.
I’m Not Like You
It was using this approach the other day that I read Psalm 50 and was stopped cold by verse 21:
“…you thought that I was one like yourself..”
In the Hebrew, many translators say that the verse can be literally phrased, “you thought the I AM was one like yourself.” The implications of this indictment by God in the Psalm are staggering. The use of the holy name of God as “I AM” is in reference to God’s personal, covenant name that He gave to Moses in Exodus 3.14.
Here, it’s a rebuke to those who would make God common, who would attribute to God human characteristics.
The greatest danger is thinking that God is like you – reducing Him to a really good human in His motives, thinking and perspective.
This faulty view should induce repentant terror in our hearts. Yet, how often have we uttered or heard opinions that reveal just such a view?
- “I just don’t believe God would do that…”
- “I believe in a God who __________..” (fill in the blank with how we believe God should act or respond
In the two statements above and a host of others, we show that what we think about when we ascribe motive to God is that we simply feel God is like us, only smarter, more loving and more powerful. But the devastating truth is that God is not like us at all.
He doesn’t think like us. He doesn’t act like us. He doesn’t love like us.
God is other.
The Psalm begins with:
“The Mighty One, God the LORD,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.” (v1)
Until we come to grips with God’s otherness, our worship will only be a sad, pathetic projection of humanity’s best qualities onto an unreal half-deity.
I was delighted to stumble upon Matt Redman’s article of September 2004 in Christianity Today called The Otherness of God. I’d recommend it to further your thinking. In it, he quotes Psalm 50.21 above too. He begins with:
Worship thrives on wonder. We can admire, appreciate and perhaps even adore someone without our having a sense of wonder. But we cannot worship without wonder. For worship to be worship, it must contain something of the otherness of God… Otherness gives us a sense that God is so pure, matchless and unique that no one else and nothing else even comes close. He is altogether glorious—unequalled in splendor and unrivalled in power. He is beyond the grasp of human reason—far above the reach of even the loftiest scientific mind. He is inexhaustible, immeasurable and unfathomable—eternal, immortal and invisible. The highest mountain peaks and the deepest canyon depths are just tiny echoes of His proclaimed greatness. And the blazing stars above, the faintest emblems of the full measure of His glory.