Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: Slogging Along in the Paths of Righteousness

Are you wanting to read and understand the Old Testament? Your first port of call should be Dale Ralph Davis. I've previously written about some of his books, especially his The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life, on Psalms 1-12. Having read that, I was hoping that the next chunk of Psalms would appear in due course. Now, here it is: Slogging Along in the Paths of Righteousness.

As in the first book, this is a series of sermons preached by Dale Ralph Davis on Psalms 13 - 24. Continuing the tradition, this is a great example of expository preaching at its best. The introductions draw you in, the exegesis is clear and helpful, and the application is pastoral and challenging. The way he breaks down the passage always seems to make sense, so that you wonder how you missed it when you previously preached it!

Here are a few of the stand out lines from the book:

On Psalm 13, reflecting on his own tendency to exercise damage control on his family's reputation, he wonders what would happen if the the compilers of scripture had edited out David's cry? 'David may well teach us to pray and show us something of the path from anguish to assurance.' Even in his 'triple trouble', David continues to pray, as an instinct of faith.

Psalm 14 is portrayed as a 'mongrel Psalm', looking as if a couple of themes have been thrown together. But he shows the coherence of the whole. With the Psalm's insistence that foolishness isn't 'a particular case but a universal condition - the whole race consists of rebels... we find ourselves facing a crisis bar none.' Yet Psalm 14 brings us to a most remarkable wonder. 'It forces you to posit the wonder of grace.'

On Psalm 15, 'Anything that brings you to your knees and shows you how pervasive your sin is and how much you need atonement and forgiveness is gracious.'

In Psalm 16, on a positively sheltered life, 'he ponders what anchors him, and also what alarms him.'

Psalm 19 is described as what we should see, hear and say - seeing the weightiness of God in the unspeaking always speaking sky; hearing the wonderful law torah of God; saying 'sin may be present but we may not identify or perceive it.'

Psalm 21's memorable line is: 'We are not particularly particular about particularising thanksgiving.' Although he also has this to say: 'Jesus' hesed love is not simply love - it is love with superglue on it.'

Psalm 23 is summarised as shepherd geography, where the shepherd takes the sheep. 'Now we can look back over the journey. The grassy pastures may be the normal place, the valley of the shadows the fearful place, in front of the enemies the dangerous place, and the house of Yahweh the abiding place.'

If you want to get to know the Psalms better, this little book would be a good place to start, for this collection of twelve Psalms. You could use it as a devotional, taking a psalm a day, or a psalm per week, drinking in its truth as shown by his teaching and application. Pastors will also find it helpful in raising possible structure and application in their sermon prep. Here's hoping that another collection is published in due course, and even that the whole Psalter is eventually covered! Slogging Along in the Paths of Righteousness by Dale Ralph Davis is available for Kindle.

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