Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Review: The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life

Dale Ralph Davis is probably best known as the Old Testament scholar who has written some excellent commentaries on Judges, 1&2 Samuel, and 1&2 Kings. The latest book from his pen continues in the Old Testament, but from a slightly different angle - the preacher rather than the commentator.

The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life is a slim volume comprising twelve sermons Davis preached on the first twelve Psalms. At the start of each chapter, he provides his own translation of the psalm in question, highlighting the structure, key words and emphases. Then it's straight into the sermon on each psalm.

These sermons, indeed the book that has come from the sermons, is an excellent example of expository preaching at its best. The way into each is interesting and grabs the attention quickly; there are great illustrations and stories woven through helping to communicate the points being expounded; the application is relevant and grounded to connect with the original hearer and the reader.

As is Davis' aim in all his writing, God is made great as the text of Scripture speaks for itself. As he does this, Davis employs some great turns of phrase:

On Psalm 3: 'The very God, who, his enemies say, wants nothing to do with him, is the One to whom he cries.'

On Psalm 4: 'Biblical prayer seems to ponder God a good deal more than we are prone to do.'

On Psalm 6: 'Pushing ourselves to bring reasons for our requests may help us see how shoddy some of our petitions are - or it may encourage us if we seem to muster a cogent case.'

On Psalm 8: 'What seems inconsequential has overwhelmed what is mighty.'

Again: 'When David asks "what is man?" in verse 4 he is not cynical; he doesn't ask it with a curled lip; he asks it in wonder.'

On Psalm 10: 'Faith is perplexed and yet goes on pleading.'

On Psalm 11, and God hating the wicked and violent: 'The God of the Bible is not a formless blob of celestial protoplasm, not some sort of cosmic jello with a sickly smile. He has a nature, a character, positive and negative.'

These are only really a taster of the whole book as it explains and applies Psalms 1-12. You may like to use this book over twelve days, taking a psalm every day, because the chapters are short enough to read at the start or end of your day; or even take each psalm over a week and use this as your guide every Sunday as you begin a new psalm to pray through that week.

Highly recommended.


  1. Thanks for this heads up... Working through the Psalms myself at the moment... will check this out

  2. It's good to be able to share resources, David, and this is certainly going to be a help on structure and application in particular. Thanks for the comment!