Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms by Brian Webster and David Beach

The subtitle to this book is "KEY INSIGHTS FOR READING GOD'S WORD". When I saw the title and subtitle I was very interested in reading this work. I don't know exactly what I envisioned reading, but it was very different than what I did read.

This work consists of a brief overview and introduction followed some comments amounting to a page per Psalm that are intended "to provide a basic orientation" and to "point out essential elements"(pg.11) for each Psalm. They hope that this book will help us as we endeavor to personalize these old and foreign Psalms in our relationship with our Lord. This personalization of the "Psalms involves several conversations: with self, with scripture, with community, and with God." (pg.25) By putting these ancient psalms on our lips when we pray, or sing, or read them, we will often compare our lives with what is written. By doing so we can begin to enter the thought world of these ancient writers and allow them to critique us, to encourage us, to guide our praise, and to help us draw closer to God.

With each Psalm comes a little bit of background. Here the indefinite words, may have, might have, probably, could have been, seem to, etc., are used. As one who is trying to get key insights into these Psalms, I find such ambiguity meaningless. Webster and Beach evidently feel that insight comes an understanding of background and of little understood terms. So they have given us the best they could in such a restricted format. But in so doing the soil they gave us to grow our insight is much too shallow. I would have hoped for more insight into the psalms as prophetic of Christ and the church.

For instance, in the their categorizing of the Psalms they have no place for messianic psalms. Although the back cover states that they treat various types of psalms such as messianic and prophetic, only prophetic is mentioned in the book itself. Those psalms that are, in my view, clearly messianic are allowed a reapplication to Jesus, maybe, and only if he actually quoted it. Psalm 16 is applied to Jesus only because "Peter and Paul extend this royal interpretation to Jesus, the ultimate Davidic heir in whom this psalm is fulfilled, not in preserving Jesus from death, but in his conquering death through the resurrection." (pg.52) I guess Peter's argument about David being a prophet didn't convince.

Additionally, those pesky imprecatory psalms, you know the ones that state that happy is the guy who kills the enemies children, are touched on. That is all, just touched on. No insight into the proper place for anger and vengeance. The relationship of this type of sentiment and the 2nd coming of Jesus in judgment would have been helpful.

So that sums up the problem I have with this book. It would make a somewhat decent survey of the Psalms. But to say that this book will provide essential key insights for reading God's word is much too much of a statement.



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