Can you read the Bible too much? Can you know Scripture too well? Take Psalm 23 for example. Many of us know it by heart. Most of us have sung the song and know all the words. We only need to see the first phrase and we are humming ‘Crimond’, or perhaps (if you’re of a certain age), it’s the Vicar of Dibley version that suddenly overwhelms you. If you’re anything like me these earworms get very annoying and certainly don’t encourage a detailed consideration of the original text. Alongside that we have the Sunday school version: cartoon sheep prancing across flowery meadows with rivers running through them. So we conclude that we’ve ‘done’ Psalm 23 thank you very much…..

Perhaps the point about Scripture is that we’re never ‘done’ with it. It’s God’s Living Word. It’s part of our relationship with him – present and future as well as in the past. As we revisit the old pages from our past and see them in the light of our present circumstances, some very positive things happen. We realise how much we have grown. We see some of the old lessons that have been learned, and as we go round them again we learn at a deeper level. We realise that there is more treasure to be mined and we haven’t yet learned everything. And as we travel round the learning spiral a few more times we begin to see a deep truth – both frightening and freeing: we will never learn the full depths of the wisdom of God!

As for Psalm 23, we might know every word, but do we really experience God’s green pastures and quiet waters, his soul-refreshing presence, his guidance, protection, comfort and provision? And if we do, let’s stop and notice and celebrate. There are so many beautiful and nourishing images in the Psalm! It’s not until we live in the light of them that we really know in our hearts something of what it all means.

Recently I found myself plunged into the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ and the shadow was dark indeed. I reached for Psalm 23 again. Those old familiar words seemed like the only thing that could adequately describe how it felt. Alongside them are words of comfort and reassurance. I may not understand why we have to endure these dark valleys, but I could not get through them without God’s comfort and the promise of the table spread and the cup overflowing and the ‘house of the Lord forever’. Psalm 23 has a lot to say to mature Christians: those who have fought the battles, felt the burdens, seen some triumphs and wrestled with the questions.

And what of the prancing sheep from Sunday school? It occurs to me that we all need a bit of prancing in life! We all need a flower-filled meadow now and then! I feel challenged not to discard that cartoon sheep. She has things to teach me – things about what it means to trust the shepherd so deeply that a carefree meadow is a possibility; things about how badly I need flowers and wide-open spaces in my life, and streams of refreshment, and a good laugh.

So I’m right back there with Psalm 23 and realising again just how much it has to teach me. I’m currently writing study material for the Bible journalling workshop on 13th October and learning a lot. If you’d like to come along or get the Bible journalling kit, you may just find a few prancing sheep in amongst the rest. You have been warned!

To book a place at the Edinburgh Workshop on Sat 13th October 10am-1pm, or to get the journalling kit, Email Jane

If you’d like to see a process video on the picture above, watch here:

Too much Psalm 23

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