Thursday, March 04, 2010

Book Review: Journey: Psalms for Pilgrim People

Alec Motyer has now published his second devotional commentary on a section of the Psalms. Journey, on the Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120-134) follows on from his Treasures of the King (Psalms from the Life of David). Motyer brings a great love for God's word, and a passion for communicating its message, which has been his characteristic mark through a long ministry in parish ministry as well as being Principal at Trinity College, Bristol. However, retirement hasn't stopped him, and his post-retirement books are truly treasures to be savoured.

Sadly for me, this book came out just slightly too late to be of maximum value. Last summer we preached through the Songs of Ascents on Sunday evenings, and the book came out in September/October time. Of course, the next time I preach them I'll have the help of this book for added guidance!

Motyer is a master of Bible study, noting the patterns, repeated phrases, drawing out the correct emphasis of the Psalm, and identifying the key verses. The Psalms in question are truly exposited - Motyer drawing out what the text is actually saying, and not imposing from outside what he wants it to say. In this, it's a great working example of exegesis with some textual comments and helpful notes at the end of each chapter.

Motyer also excels at putting the Psalms in context, both within the Songs of Ascents, but also within the wider Bible context, illustrating the points made with helpful and appropriate pictures from other parts of the Scriptures. There are some memorable turns of phrase, the best one coming from his comment on Psalm 132:

"David's sworn promise to the Lord (verses 2-5) is transposed by grace into the Lord's sworn promise to David (verses 11-14)."

Transposed by grace - how magnificent!

As noted in my previous post, Motyer is fairly critical of the NIV and the way it can sometimes obscure what the Hebrew text is actually saying. This however is a helpful thing, I think, as it again communicates Motyer's passion for God's word being transmitted and understood properly.

All in all, a great book, and one that could helpfully be used as an extended devotional, taking a chapter per day for at least a fortnight.

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