The Bible is ever-new, even though the words remain the same. The original Greek and Hebrew text of the Bible hasn't changed since the canon was considered closed around the third century.
And yet, the impact of the words and the meanings they write into our hearts does shift. The effect of the text ebbs and flows. The very moment we think we know exactly what something means in the Old or New Testament, the Spirit arrives with a fresh perspective, always reminding us that perhaps the goal of faith is not to understand so much as to explore.
The Bible is alive. It appears static on the page (or screen), but it's always breathing. As the Word exhales, we inhale. As we breathe in a biblical text, our spirits fill with a mysterious substance more powerful than even oxygen. It is curiosity. It is relationship. It is awe.
Encountering Scripture, as a listener or a reader, is holy ground. It is like walking through a forest at sunrise. The goal is not to rush about with loud, boisterous footsteps; that scares all the creatures back into their burrows. Instead, the goal is to step gently with thoughtful awareness, ready to experience whatever the Author might provide.
Last week, as I sat in worship, the preacher explored the 23rd Psalm. It is one of the more familiar readings in the Bible, and it often is read aloud at funerals. It is a text that has brought ample comfort to many grieving hearts. Verse 4 states: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
As a pastor, I've used this text many times with families traversing life's paths. So as I listened to it being read in worship on Sunday, I began to tune out a bit thinking, "Oh, yeah. I know this one. Yep, it's a good one. Everybody loves this one. Nothing new to learn here, so it's time for me to start thinking about the rest of the day."
But then a nudge -- an invitation to head back into the forest. I noticed all sorts of rocks around Psalm 23 that still were unturned. Verse 6 specifically jumped off the pages of the Bible sitting in the pew next to me: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long."
Before that moment, I always had thought of Psalm 23 in terms of its significance for eternity. Verse 6 always had seemed to be describing life after death with God. But as I heard and read the words last weekend, suddenly the characters came together to shimmer in a new way. Perhaps it isn't only a verse about forever. It's a verse about now. The Psalmist describes that God's goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives -- all of them. Every single one. And we'll dwell in God's house for our whole lives. Not just parts of our lives. Not only the end of our lives. But our whole lives.
This verse has implications for the way we all live. Imagine God's mercy and goodness right with you -- right behind you -- following you. What if we imagine goodness and mercy as friends? Friends who are always there. Companions on the journey who are there to remind us that this is all God's house — the whole universe. Goodness and mercy aren't just hanging out in foreverland. They're here. That's what the Psalm says.
Psalm 23:6 is a verse I've read hundreds of times. But then, last Sunday, it was made new. This is the very nature of the Word, and it is the very nature of us, too. Always and ever new.