Psalms has long been my favorite book of the Bible. I have said for years that I don’t think it’s an accident that they are in the center of the Bible. In most non-study editions, you can open the book in the middle and you will find yourself in Psalms. And in Psalms you can find prayers that address pretty much every emotion that you will ever experience. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it “The Prayer Book of the Bible.”
In The Psalter Reclaimed, Gordon J. Wenham gives us a brief, but somewhat in depth discussion of the book of Psalms. He discusses singing the Psalms and why we should do that. He speaks of praying the Psalms and why we should do that. There are a couple of chapters on how we should read the Psalms. I confess that those got a little over my head, because he began talking about different types of biblical criticism, which I have done little to no study about.
But one thing I did learn in those chapters is that Wenham, as well as other theologians, definitely believe that the arrangement of the Psalms into five distinct “books” is no accident. They are not randomly thrown together. There seems to be a reason for the order and placement of these prayers and songs. Therefore, Gordon believes that each of the Psalms should be read, sung, prayed in context with the entirety of the rest of the book.
There is even a chapter on “The Ethics of the Psalms,” in which Wenham addresses an issue that has not been touched on very much, and that is that the Psalms are also good for teaching the law of God.
He also has a chapter on the somewhat controversial “emprecatory” Psalms. You know, the ones where the psalmist prays that the enemy’s babies will be dashed against the rocks? These, he believes are necessary for us to pray and sing, as well. Even though we, ourselves, do not have such enemies as David and Israel had, when we pray these prayers, we could be praying them for people in the world who DO have such enemies, people who are oppressed in other nations. Gordon disagrees with those would completely remove these from their prayerbooks.
There is a Greek word that Wenham addresses in the next to last chapter, and that word is “hesed.” This is a word that, out of all the times found in the Old Testament, more than half of them are in the Psalms. It simply means “steadfast love.” And perhaps the best example of the usage of that word is in Psalm 103. Gordon provides us with an in depth look at that Psalm in chapter 7.
Finally, he addresses “The Nations in the Psalms.” This topic turned out to be more complex for him than he realized it would be.
All of these chapters were given as lectures at various places in the world, and, I believe, edited slightly for book form.
This is a wonderful overview of Psalms, and I recommend it for anyone who is as fascinated with the book as I am. I do plan on reading this one again, more slowly and taking note of each individual Psalm that is referenced throughout the book.