As you may remember from elementary school an onomatopoeia is a word that sounds like its meaning. For example, saying the word “splash” sounds like a rock landing in a pond. In the Hebrew language there are a lot of these. I learned one this past weekend from Ray Vander Laan at his weekend conference. The Hebrew word is “Hagah.” Unfortunately, when the word as it is used in the Old Testament got translated into English, translators decided to go with it’s more literal meaning – “meditate.” But this only slightly captures it’s original intent when written by the Hebrew writers. Look with me at Joshua 1:8 :
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
The word “meditate” here is “hagah.” Typically we think of meditate as a quiet reflection. So here we get the idea that we should quietly reflect on God’s law day and night, which is of course a wonderful thing. But the original idea was even more powerful! So what did it mean? “Hagah” is an onomatopoeia for what a hungry lion does when he’s seeking food. Imagine that lion in your mind and hear his roar as he passionately and even desperately seeks after something to eat – “Hagaaahhhhhhh!” Does that sound like meditation to you, at least as we’ve defined it? Joshua 1:9 is about focusing on God’s Word but maybe not as quietly and passively as we might think. It’s about being HUNGRY for God’s Word day and night! And not just a little bit hungry for a snack. We’re to desire God’s Word like a starving lion. “Hagaaahhhhhhh!”
I would suggest that most Christians treat God’s Word more like a snack, if that. No wonder it has “departed from our mouths” and we aren’t careful to “do everything written in it” as God declares boldly in Text. But there’s more. God goes on to say in Joshua 1:8 that our hunger and obedience to His Word is directly related to our “success” in life. Obviously it’s not being implied here that if you read God’s Word that everything will always go well. But no matter what you face in life, if you have been “Hagaaahhhhhhhing” on God’s Word then you’re going to be able to follow God through that moment. Why? Because His Word is not only our guide, it’s the way to live life fully. Somehow we’ve reduced it to a set of rules and obligations. But God’s Word is LIFE as it’s meant to be LIVED! The laws and “rules” are there but not to merely restrict us – they are there to give us LIFE! Of course there are things there about what NOT to do. But that’s because those things that we’re being told to avoid will DESTROY us! We have to really believe God’s Word is life if we’re going to hunger for them.
Listen to the “Hagaaahhhhhhh!” used again in Psalm 1:1-2
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates (hagah) day and night.
If we’re going to follow Jesus as our Rabbi and truly be “covered in His dust” then we must know Him. And the way we know Him is by immersing ourselves in His Word. I want to wake up every morning hungry. I want to “Hagaaahhhhhhh!” all day for His Words so that I can be more like Him, so I can do what He does, and so I can go where He goes.
It’s time to work up an appetite and then to devour God’s Word. Day and night, I can’t get enough. “Hagaaahhhhhhh!” God’s Word is my food and I want it more than anything! “Hagaaahhhhhhh!” God’s Word is LIFE and to live it I have to know it. “Hagaaahhhhhhh!”
Maybe the more we “Hagaaahhhhhhh!” the more we can be like Jesus, the LION of Judah.