I am like a sheep and the Lord is my Shepherd:
He will always take care of me.*
Those are the opening words of Psalm 23 in the Bible paraphrase authored by William Ackland and recently self-published in Australia. A retired church worker currently living in Cooranbong, New South Wales, Ackland, 79, set out to write-up a Bible paraphrase of his own six years ago, after reading a news story in a 2012 Adventist World magazine that, he says, he found inspirational.
“What an exciting journey it has been!” he says when recounting his experience to Adventist Record. “As I say to my wife, this is an experience no-one can take from me. It is really God’s gift to me in obeying His promptings to do something I had never envisaged doing.”
Triggered by a True Story
When it is time for me to rest, He provides a bed of tender grass,
and when I need to drink, His still waters do not frighten me (v.2).
If the fact that Ackland actually completed his project sounds amazing — his paraphrase runs more than one thousand pages and nearly one million words — his account of its genesis is not less spellbinding.
March 10, 2012, was a Saturday, the seventh-day Sabbath that, following Bible teachings, Seventh-day Adventists keep as holy and use to connect with God and neighbor. On that day Ackland, who serves as an elder at his local church, was reading the March 2012 issue of the Adventist World magazine when he came across a news story about an organic farmer in Korea who, in his later years, decided he would write out the Bible by hand.* Ackland recalls, “In nine years, Nam Yong Han managed to hand copy the Bible in the Korean script not just once, nor two or three but six times, and once in Chinese!”
A Strong Impression
My Shepherd cheers me when I am downcast,
and leads me along the right path where I can honour Him (v. 3).
Ackland shares that when he came to that part of the article, he stopped. “I was amazed at what this brother of mine had done — his determination, his persistence, his dedication to such a wonderful venture,” he says. “I decided I wanted to do something like that.”
Ackland didn’t think his aging hands would endure so much handwriting, so he began to consider other possibilities. “What else can I do?” he wondered.
And there it hit him. He shares, “Write a paraphrase of the Bible, was the strong impression that came to my mind. It is a thought had never entered my head in nearly 74 years!”
Finally, on Monday, March 19, 2012, Ackland sat at his computer and began to type.
Not for the Faint of Heart
Sometimes I enter a valley where death stalks me,
but with my Shepherd near I do not fear,
for His strong arm and shepherd’s rod protect and care for me (v. 4).
“Writing a paraphrase of the Bible is not to be entered into lightly,” Ackland says. “It is a daunting task!” From the beginning, he made the decision to see it right through to the end. “I had to see progress every day, even though not much more than a page at a sitting,” he recalled. “As the weeks and months elapsed I reached my first goal — 100 pages. Other goals were eventually set and met.”
The process itself was painstaking.
“There were passages I approached with apprehension,” shares Ackland. “I prayed at the beginning of each writing session for guidance and help. And I feel God’s Spirit did help me through difficult passages, and in the more straightforward books as well.”
Exactly two years, one month and six days later, Ackland came to the end of Revelation, the last book in the New Testament. “There was still much to be done, of course, in refining the manuscript,” he shares. Finally, he thought The Gift Bible paraphrase was ready for the press.
Why, William, Why?
He is my kind Host, setting a table of good things for me,
even when my enemies are near.
I am consecrated to Him as He anoints my head with oil;
my cup of joy overflows (v. 5).
Since The Gift was published, and as he receives orders for the book from as far as the United States, Ackland is often asked what his motivation was in undertaking such a grueling initiative.
His best explanation? “As Christians, we want to do God’s will for we know it is the best way to live,” he says. “We believe that in a general sense, but what about doing something very specific, something we have not done before? It is then we often hesitate.”
Ackland thinks that only when we decide to go all the way and move forward in faith, we are abundantly blessed. And we are the first ones to benefit from it.
“[Writing a paraphrase of the Bible] is something that will stay for me the rest of my life,” he says.
I do not doubt that He shall bless me with goodness and mercy,
and shall grant me life here in this world,
and a place forever in His heavenly home.
In follow-up communications with Adventist Review, Ackland confessed that occasionally, he stills reflects on what this whole Bible writing-up experience has meant to him. “What have I learned after spending nearly three years pondering every word of every text and reproducing it in my words?” he wonders.
Besides the obvious blessings of delving into the Word and keeping it close to his heart, Ackland says he has learned a lot about what he calls “the promptings of the Spirit,” or those God-given urges to step up and fulfill one’s mission on this earth.
And he leaves a final word of advice: “Don’t be hesitant in what God wants you to do,” he says, “because together with His promptings, He will give you the strength to accomplish it.”
* Ackland Bible paraphrase’ excerpts by courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.
** See “Adventist Credits Copying Bible Text with Spiritual Growth,” in Adventist World, March 2012, p. 7.