The discipline of contemplation is a vital spiritual discipline many Christians are missing today. In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes,
“In contemporary society our adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged and entangled in muchness and manyness, he will rest satisfied.”
We can all get caught in the trap of rushing through life. This can cause a disconnect from God and what he wants to say and do in our lives. God is in complete control of global events and invites us to slow down and spend time with him. One way to do this is through the spiritual discipline of contemplation on the words and works of God.
In fact, Thomas Keating says, "Contemplation is a loving attentiveness to God who is always present."
We see many examples of this spiritual habit in scripture. In Psalm 63:6, David writes "When I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night. For you have been my help," and in Luke 4:42, we are told that Jesus withdrew to a desolate place to pray not once but regularly.
Often, the difference between a Christian’s ability to persevere in testing times and one who is not is determined by one’s ability to maintain the spiritual discipline of contemplation on God's word and works in everyday life.
Let's Dive into the History Here –
The discipline of contemplation is partly what Psalm 46 is about. We learned last week that this song Is attributed to the Sons of Korah, who were among King David’s chief worship leaders. Commentators tell us that Psalm 46 was most likely a song about "God's deliverance of His people from the Assyrian nation in the time of King Hezekiah." King Hezekiah was a descendant of David who became King of Judah at 25 years of age and decided to serve the Lord as his ancestor David did.
"He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel." 2 Kings 18:4
Hezekiah was decisive in his faith, but one day, he heard a bad report. Sennacherib, The King of Assyria, and his army had captured the neighboring town of Samaria and overtook all of the fortified cities of Judah itself.
Hezekiah and the people of God were surrounded, outnumbered, and in trouble.
Suddenly, Hezekiah had to decide whether to bow to the wicked leaders' demands or trust God.
And we learn in this story that what Hezekiah meditated on what mattered! In Psalm 46, the Sons of Korah sing about this time in history, and in the first stanza of their lyrics is a good confession of faith. But as the song unfolds, their lyrics contemplate what God did in the past and what they believed he would do in their generation.
1. The River of Joy Amidst Adversity:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46:4-7
These lyrics make more sense when you know that Jerusalem was one of the few ancient cities not built on a river. Water was a precious commodity in Hezekiah’s day. He knew that the water supply would be the primary target for Sennacherib’s men.
2 Kings 20:20 tells us that Hezekiah wisely built an underground water system connecting Spring in Kidron with the Pool of Siloam within the city, making water available. This water supply was their source of life, water for cattle, and water for crops. Etc.
2 Chronicles 32 tells us that Hezekiah gathered the men together, and they shut off the water supply that was outside the city gates.
Then the Bible says Hezekiah strengthened himself and built up the broken parts of the city wall. In other words, he made all of the natural preparations he could. But we also see evidence in scripture that Hezekiah contemplated God’s word and works in the past to strengthen himself in the present. And through this meditation, he became encouraged.
Notice what he said amidst the crises – "With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles." And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah." 2 Chron 32:8
Remembering Hezekiah’s contemplation, the Sons of Korah sing in verse 4, "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High."
This stanza refers to God’s presence amid the troubled waters in Hezekiah’s day. The phrase “The Holy habitation” refers to their belief that the same God who was with Hezekiah in the past was in their midst in the present. The imagery of a river in Psalm 46 becomes a powerful symbol of God's constant presence and joy, even in the face of external turmoil.
2. Contemplating Past Victories for Present Courage:
Hezekiah's contemplation of God's word and works in the past became a catalyst for courage in the present crisis. As the Assyrian army surrounded Judah, Hezekiah strengthened not only the city's walls but also the spirits of its people through his words of faith. The Sons of Korah, in Psalm 46, continued this legacy of contemplation, reflecting on God's deliverance of Jerusalem in Hezekiah's time, finding encouragement and courage for their challenges.
Develop a habit of contemplation, drawing strength from past experiences of God's faithfulness to face current challenges.
Embrace the metaphor of God as a River of Joy, recognizing His constant presence and the deep joy of focusing on your relationship with Him.
Combine strategic preparation with a contemplative focus on God's promises, understanding that this dual approach builds enduring courage and faith in challenging times.
About Pastor Bob Moya
Pastor Bob Moya has served as the lead pastor with his wife Candace at City Chapel in Arlington, Texas for over 22+ years. He is currently wrapping up his dissertation at Regent University and will graduate in the spring of 2024 with a doctorate degree in Spiritual Renewal and Leadership. When not serving at the church, you'll find Bob enjoying a good read at Barnes & Noble, sipping a nitro cold brew or black coffee at Starbucks, or spending time with his family.