Recently, I picked up a copy of a local magazine which featured an article about Bible journaling. If you’re not familiar with this artistic endeavor, it involves using markers and pens to create beautiful designs in the margins of, and sometimes across the words of, a Bible to illustrate a verse. The words of the verse are, of course, an important part of the design.
Bible journaling is currently quite popular in the Christian community. In fact, it’s so popular that publishers now sell Bibles with wider margins and helpful prompts to encourage this type of journaling.
I’m thankful the magazine publisher found such a topic noteworthy. In most parts of the country, a secular magazine would not stoop to provide space in its pages for such a Christian activity, but I live in East Texas, the epicenter of the Bible Belt.
I’m also thankful that so many members of my community believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and, as a result, want to illustrate it.
(You know there’s a “but” coming, right?)
But, as I glanced at the photos that accompanied the magazine article, my heart sank, not just a that-was-disappointing-kind-of-sinking, but the gut-punch kind.
The most prominent photo of the article was a lovely illustration of Psalm 46:5, “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” However, the Bible journalist had misquoted the verse!
Instead of writing, “she will not fall,” the illustrator wrote, “she will not fail.”
If you’re going to journal the Bible, it’s crucial that you get the words right.
I looked through multiple Bible translations in the hope that this journalist had simply used a different version. Nope…
A few weeks later, a friend, with whom I had shared my distress about the misquoted verse, told me she had seen the same verse misquoted in another artist’s work.
So, I dug deeper into the many translations of Psalm 46:5, thinking there must be some little-known translation out there somewhere. Nope…
After checking every translation available on biblegateway.com, I decided to Google “God is within her, she will not fail.”
To my surprise, lots of web sites for the sale of things like t-shirts, art work, and plaques came up. The phrase is also a popular tattoo design on Pinterest, but it’s not in the Bible.
So, what’s worse than a misspelled tattoo?
A tattoo that misquotes the Bible!
As humans, we often try to make God’s Word fit into a message we like to hear. We’re all guilty of it.
There are times in the Bible when God promises a certain individual, like Joshua, that he will not fail as long as he remains righteous, but we can’t strangle verses into saying something they don’t really say.
With my Scripture memory method, I encourage you to find your own way to burn a verse into your memory, but one thing I strongly suggest, no matter your memory method: you must study your verse in context as you memorize it.
It’s natural to want reassurances from the Bible that God will not let us fail. When a verse seems to provide such a promise to a woman, you’re in Life Verse Territory!
The only problem is that Psalm 46:5 does not promise to build a hedge against failure. And that’s not a bad thing. God often allows us to fail because lessons learned in hardship are remembered.
Psalm 46:5 says “she will not fall.” Who is this “she?”
As I studied this verse, I also grappled with who “she” referred to.
I kept thinking, “This verse promises that ‘God will help her at break of day’,” but what good is that?
The scary stuff happens in the middle of the night! When day breaks, you can see that the weird shadow in the corner of your room was just the shirt you failed to hang up last night.
Finally, I learned that “she” is actually the City of God, which many New Testament scholars say is the Bride of Christ, the Church.a
Once I realized that “she” is a city and not a woman, the rest of the verse made sense! An army isn’t going to attack a city until daybreak. So, that’s when the residents of the city are likely to be the most fearful.
So here’s the moral of this story: Don’t memorize verses you haven’t studied in context.
While we’re at it, let’s add another moral to the story: If a verse doesn’t seem to make sense, you probably haven’t studied it enough.
Ok, I’ve taken a breath.
I’ll stop ranting.
I don’t want to come across as some self-righteous know-it-all, but we must be careful how we treat God’s Word.
a “Psalms 46:5 – God Is in the Midst… – Verse-by-Verse Commentary.” StudyLight.org, Study Light, www.studylight.org/commentary/psalms/46-5.html.