My walk as a Christian is a very faltering one indeed. Therefore a daily devotional reading, I reason, is helpful in keeping my steps on more or less the right path. ‘More or less’ the right path. What a typically British thing to say. As if to say”keep my feet on the right path” was too definite and impolite. But no. As I said, my walk is faltering, and as a flawed human being I know that rather than some angelic Roman road, I’ll be weaving in a zig-zagging, inebriated fashion.
I bought this book as a daily devotional to help me for the above reason, and also because the Psalms are the amongst the most the human and relatable writings in the Bible. Cries of hatred and rage, deep wails of despair, and dialogues of depression that sound like the speaker is having to tear the words from their throat, sit alongside jubilant songs of praise, wonder and gratitude.
I have read C S Lewis’s excellent “Reflection on the Psalms,” which is a helpful book, packed with wisdom and insight.
In this you get a Psalm, or sections of a longer Psalm (related in their Biblical order) along with a short commentary and prayer. That’s the format, day in, day out. The translation used is that of the NIV.
Just a word on the writers. Tim Keller is an American Pastor, theologian, writer and apologist. He is Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City. This is a large and influential Church with a congregation drawn from mainly NY young professionals. So far so US Conservative mega-church? Not so, according to Tim Keller, who says that the Church defines itself less on an oppositional, hostile take to the Secular world but more that of one of neighbourliness, focusing strongly on the person and mission of Jesus Christ. Tim’s wife, Kathy, is the book’s other writer.
Nevertheless, the theology in the book has a strongly Conservative taste to it. I don’t mean that as a criticism. What is more of a criticism is that there is little in this book that seems to be taking risks, really breaking into the Psalms and making them bleed into our daily lives. There is little history or grappling with the language or translation issues. It lacks that kind of kick-start energy that inspires you and has you thinking on the train into work.
The book is peppered with references, although most of them draw on a commentary of the Psalms from someone called Derek Kidner. Then there’s some references to traditional hymns, a few references to the poetry of George Herbert, and more eclectically, one relating to Superman Returns, the movie, and another to Tolkien’s The Two Towers. But on the whole the references are not very varied, and add to the conservative feel of the book.
What is interesting is that, in an Afterword to the book, Kathy Keller states that the early manuscripts of the books were scrapped for being far too dense and complex. It looks like they went too far the other way.
But look, this book has kept me company all year, it has given me some focus and brought me back to the Psalms, and for that I’m grateful. It may well work better for others, it’s not a bad book at all. It has integrity and sincerity of purpose. But personally I wanted more.