I don’t know when I first read it, but I got myself in a little bit of trouble in college when I read Psalms 27.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; thought war break out against me, even then I will be confident. (Psalms 27:1-3 NIV, emphasis added)
I didn’t get much further than “devour my flesh” and “stumble and fall” before my twisted little brain said “He is totally talking about being surrounded by an army of zombies!” Obviously, I didn’t really believe that was the case, but it was fun to contemplate King David leading his mighty men against a horde of the undead, hacking off the heads of reanimated corpses. (I was also reading the “Zombie Survival Guide” by Max Brooks at the time, which may have had some influence on where my thoughts were at the time.)
It was a great conversation starter. “Hey did you know there are Zombies in the Bible?” I’d flip to the verses and it’d usually get a laugh. Usually.
My friend Emily thought I was being absolutely ridiculous, but this only encouraged me on all the more. I even devised a bogus theory (even less credible than my first) that when Jesus returns, he will in fact do so riding on the back of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The joke went on for months and months.
But alas, this is a story of hubris.
One night a group of us met to pray for the family of one our international students. The man’s wife and young son were trying to flee to the U.S. and were being smuggled out of their home country that night.*
I’d never been in an atmosphere like that, with such a mix of hope, fear, and faith. My prayer life seldom includes literal “life and death” scenarios.
And guess what verses came up during the prayer night.
Go ahead guess.
Yup. Psalm 27. My zombie verses.
My friend Matt started praying for God’s protection over the family. He read the exact verses I’d been using as a punchline for months and there was nothing funny about them that night.
Reading on, he said “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” (Psalms 27:5 NIV)
The family made it through the treacherous journey safely, reaching the U.S. where the entire family was reunited.
On my end, it became pretty clear that Psalm 27’s best use was not as a punchline for bored fans of George A. Romero movies. I wasn’t fearful of any lightning coming my way, but it was clear that I wasn’t using the Bible the way that I ought. There are definitely some humorous moments in the Bible, but that wasn’t supposed to be one of them.
So I quit telling people there were Zombies in the Bible, although I know a few people who will argue with you over the T-rex thing.
Most of you are probably smart enough not to twist the meaning of scripture for comedic value, but when you quote the Bible to people, do your best to make sure that it’s done in the right context and for the right reasons. There’s grace for our mistakes, but we should still take steps to avoid being flippant about the things that should matter most.
What about you? You ever misquoted or misunderstood something from the Bible in a way that got you in trouble? I mean, I can’t be the only one…right? Right? Leave a comment with your story if you got one or if it’s really embarrassing, you message me on Facebook or Twitter.
*The whole story of that family fleeing to the U.S. is actually an amazing story in and of itself, but unfortunately it’s a story that I don’t have time to tell here. Maybe in a future post.