27 Jul 2006

Performing the Psalms: Thoughts on a Book

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Books, Exegesis, Hebrew Bible, Preaching, Psalms, Spiritual Disciplines

Performing the Psalms: Thoughts on A Book

On July 25 a backhoe operator spotted a highly unlikely object buried in the mud. Amazingly it turned out to be a leather bound codex of the Psalms dating to between A.D. 800 and A.D. 1000. Here is a news link if you missed the story: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14030255/ The discovery is testimony to how important the Psalter has always been to God’s People, even in the nadir of the “dark ages” the Psalms guided the faithful.

Psalms is among my canon within a canon. I read the entire book every month allowing its cadences and rhythm’s to mould and shape my worldview (hopefully!). Over a period of time this has also pushed my conception of the faith to a more gritty and earthy comprehension. In my preaching and teaching I have tried to share my appreciation of the Psalms with others. As I plan out my sermon calendar I always include a series from the Psalter.

As I have studied the Psalms I have read and purchased a number of books. Indeed now have nearly a shelf of books related to nothing but the Psalms. Among my favorites are William Holladay’s A Cloud of Witness: The Psalms Through Three Thousand Years; Bernard W. Anderson’s Out of the Depths; Walter Brueggemann’s The Message of the Psalms; and J. Clinton McCann’s Psalms as Torah: A Theological Introduction to the Psalms.

I recently read another book that is rising in my esteem called Performing the Psalms, eds. Dave Bland and David Fleer (Chalice Press, 2005). If you are a preacher, and a lover of the Psalms, this is a book for you. Both Brueggemann and McCann have very insightful chapters in the book (WB’s article on Psalms as Narrative Performance is worth the book alone). Dr. John Mark Hicks has a rich introduction to the laments and why they matter to us today. The book has a number of sermons as well that take into account the “coaching” from these biblical scholars. One such sermon, by Mark Love, is based on Ps 89 and is called “Going to Church in the Psalms.” It is magnificent.

The book as a whole invites us a ministers of God’s Good News to construct an alternative vision (or reality) with the material of the Psalms. An alternative world that is fundamentally God oriented that ironically invites us to be “truly” human. To be as human as God created us to be.

This is a book I will be coming back to. It is a book that has earned a right to be on my shelf rather than in my give away box.

Bobby Valentine

18 Responses to “Performing the Psalms: Thoughts on a Book”

  1. Stever Says:

    Another great psalms book is Spurgeons: The Treasury of David.

  2. Stoogelover Says:

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ve starved for good books on the psalms, so I’ll be looking into these.

  3. Ty Says:

    I think Bruggemann’s Psalms in the Life of Faith was the turning point in my prayer life.

    (also, Dave Fleer was my preacher, when I was a kid, I’ve heard few who can compare, and among those few is Mark Love)

  4. Blogging by Tina Says:

    Off topic: Read your kind comment on my blog . . . your wife and kids are lucky to have you to brag on them!! 🙂

  5. Mark Says:

    I’m also a fan of C.S. Lewis’ book on the Psalms. I have Anderson’s, though I haven’t been able to really spend any time with it. The Psalms provide a very real picture of the psalmists’ emotions and thoughts. I didn’t realize that Bland had this book out yet, and I will definitely pick one up. I’ve been wanting to use some Psalms in my preaching, but have had kind of a hard time figuring out how best to approach them, as they are rather vast. (People aren’t generally fans of 150-week series) ;-). Thanks for the helpful post.

  6. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    There are several new names here for which I am grateful. Stever and Ty thanks for coming by my blog. I hope you will become a familiar name to us. I do like Spurgeon’s sermons and gain a great deal from him.

    Ty WB is probably my favorite biblical scholar. I have read over a dozen books by him (own more than a dozen) and I never fail to be enriched by him. He has done more to make the Hebrew Bible have a voice once again than anyone else I know. I agree on Fleer, he is an incredible expositor of the word.

    Tina thank you for the kind words. We are always honored by your presence.

    Mark. I do appreciate C. S. Lewis and think his small wk on the Psalms is valuable. My only complaint about his work is that I think he fails with the laments (as do many other scholars of that time period). But that is not a significant part of the book.

    Bobby Valentine

  7. Alan Says:

    Thanks for the book suggestions and your comments. So many books, so little time.

  8. Velcro Says:

    I heard about this and thought that the find was interesting.

    I aspire to be like King David in my prayer life. Even though he committed adultery and murder, he was repentant.

    The thing I like the most about King David is that his prayers were real. Some were raw and very uncut. You don’t find fluff in the Psalms. Good Post!

  9. cwinwc Says:

    Can’t think of a better place to start my mind each day.

  10. Candle (C & L) Says:

    Thanks for the reminder of the powerof the Psalms. Linda & I have been doing a 365 daily Biblereading that takes us through OT, NT Proverbs and Psalms X 2. I’ve often been”surprised”that the thought in the Psalmof the dayrelates to whatever else we have been reading.

    BTW – Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment on my “Feeling like a King? entry.

    God Bless

  11. Jim Martin Says:

    Good post. I am working through another Bland/Fleer book right now. Your comments regarding their work in the Psalms made me want to read that one as well.


  12. Lee Hodges Says:

    Thanks for the reviews. Always looking for great books – I am short in works on the Psalms.

  13. Darin L. Hamm Says:

    Thanks. I will have to look into these books.

  14. Falantedios Says:

    You mentioned in your email about the Irish Psalms codex that the book was opened to Psalm 80. Where did you read that? The two articles I’ve read most recently say that it was either Psalm 83 or 84, due to a difference in numbering between the Vulgate and the KJV. Also, have you heard about the big babble being raised by the “National Israel” crowd? Supposedly, the archaeologists published that the codex was opened to Psalm 83, which is a cry for God to destroy the enemies who are overwhelming Israel. AND… since Hezbollah attacked the nation of Israel this month and they’re having a big hullabaloo now, God must have had the bulldozer operator dredge up the codex as a warning against international terrorists. Or something. That’s what MSN’s articles are talking about, anyway.

    in HIM,

  15. Steve Puckett Says:

    I often recommend the Psalms to my church family as a prayer book. I had a women ask me recently if you could be emotional in your prayers. I told her to check out the Psalms. There very few if any emotions absent in the Psalms which gives credibility to their real life nature.

    Your posted Hebrew text is little difficult to read without the vowel pointings! Knowing it is Psalm 23 helps though.


  16. preacherman Says:

    Excellent comments.
    I love reading your blog.
    Thought provoking and inspiring.

    I got your book.
    I am going to start reading it this week.

    Can’t wait.
    God bless you.

  17. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Nick, I simply had a misprint. But the numbering of the English and Latin Psalter is the same. The Hebrew numbering and the LXX are at times off both in chapter and versification. The Hebrew text v.1 always begins with the superscription if there is one.

    I have not heard about the rant of our dispensational friends about this discovery. But I am not surprised.

    Steve it is Psalm 23.

    Preacherman good to see you back.

    Bobby Valentine

  18. Dwayne Says:

    It’s been a while since I flipped the pages of a Hebrew Bible…yes, the Psalms are not only a delight to the soul, but can be fresh (and challenging) air when breathing seems tough.

Leave a Reply