Last week, my lab, Sage, came home with a prize! A deer leg bone. I was sitting out by my fire pit at Hebron Woods, our property in Black Forest, working on a sermon and she plopped down with this massive bone, almost bigger than her, and commenced to go through the routine every dog owner knows: shaking it, staring at it, slinging it up in the air, then dragging it to a quiet solitary place and just chewing. From that point her pleasure was purely solitary—she licked it, worried over it, but finally settled into just gnawing it—then all you heard were these low rumbling growling sounds.
I take delight in my dog’s delight—that she wasn’t bugging me with one of her saliva-covered tennis balls is delight enough. Imagine my further pleasure when I discovered through one of my favorite authors, Eugene Peterson, that the word “gnaw” or “growl” is the same word for “meditate.” Isaiah says this, “As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey” (31:4) and the Hebrew word for “growl” is hagah, and is usually translated “meditate.”
It’s the same word in Psalm 1:
Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates (hagah) day and night.
Hagah is a word that our Hebrew ancestors used frequently—but “meditate” is too tame a word for the true meaning. Meditate seems to fit the more cerebral practice of thinking on something in a quiet garden or study.
Isaiah’s lion imagery is a growling lion crouched over a lamb. It’s Sage devouring a deer bone—they attack, they chew, they swallow, they get the meat down into their bloodstream—the bone, the lamb, becomes them. This kind of chewing and swallowing is metabolizing the protein, the vitamins, the enzymes into their system.
We are told in scripture to “eat the book.” It’s Ezekiel being told to eat this scroll (Ezekiel 2:9~3:2), Jeremiah being told to eat God’s words (Jeremiah 15:16) or John on Patmos being commanded to eat the book (Revelation 10:8~10). Same idea as hagah. We are to gnaw, consume, and metabolize God’s Word into our system.
We eat the Book when we, as Peterson writes, “assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing, and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name.” It’s getting The Book into your system.
Sage’s bone taught me a lesson in discipleship — Steve, eat the Book.