I might as well repeat what everyone else has been saying and say Dale Ralph Davis has done it again. The Bible tempted him (in a good way) to write up a few (or twelve) more expositions of the psalms (See? I told you it was a good temptation). Davis takes us farther into the psalms in this next work, “Slogging Along in the Paths of Righteousness” which is fitting as he again brings up worldwide Christian persecution, we are helpless sufferers who need a defender, and we are God’s special people.
There is muck that we slog ourselves through. It’s thick. The moving is slow. But we aren’t stuck there. We suffer, but we have a defender. He is the defender who will “answer us in the day of trouble” [Ps. 20.1]. He will preserve those who put their trust in Him [Ps. 16.1]. He “enlightens our darkness” [Ps. 18.28]. He “prepares a table for you in the presence of your enemies” [Ps. 23.5].
Davis has a way of writing about the Old Testament (of all things) and making it come alive. Almost as if it were written for me and you. Davis isn’t sentimental, always reminiscing about the good ol’ days and speaking about the pretty parts of the Old Testament. It’s as if I’m reading about real people who had real struggles and really called out to God just as many do today.
This psalm is a mystery to scholars as to what kind of psalm it is. While it’s understandable that they would want to know it’s background, Davis looks at it, say it’s like a mongrel mutt. It’s a little bit of everything. And what do you do with a mutt? “Love it, receive it, and – in the case of the psalm – listen to it. The message of the psalm is pretty straightforward: Mankind is universally depraved, yet there are a people who have been – and will be – delivered” (p. 27). This is encouraging because, looking at the world, it feels as if we’re getting the shaft. It’s all going downhill. But God has some who will be delivered. This world is not the end.
There are challenging psalms too. Psalm 15 is a cure for flippant worship. “…[I]t seems to say; how do you know you are one of the worshipers the Father is seeking to worship Him? (cf. John 4.23)” (p.42).
The psalm (v1) asks, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” And verses 2-5 gives us the answer (and they’re not easy). Psalm 15 is a stark contrast of Psalm 14. “There is one who dismisses God [14.1 – the fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’], but here (15:1) is one who desires God, who seems to think that nothing is quite so important as meeting the conditions for enjoying Yahweh’s fellowship. Sadly, is is a priority we easily lose sight of.”
How do we respond in the difficult, mucky paths of life? When it seems the Lord’s hand is nowhere to be found. Do we give in to a bout of depression? Will faith carry us across? We are to think about God’s Word as we read through it. How is each psalm put together? Do we skim over the difficult parts, or do we reflect on them, accepting that as the psalmist went through difficulties so it is for us to go through them too. And in them, we lean on the power of God.
Liberal scholars claim the Bible is ripe with inconsistencies throughout its pages. But Davis says, “the psalmist is trying to make us think” (p. 108). In his book Through New Eyes, James Jordan says, “A proper reading of any ancient text, including the Bible, would take the apparent contradictions as stimuli for deeper reflection” (p. 14).
Psalm 19.3-4 [translated literally from the Hebrew] says, “There is no speech [fro the heavens], and there are no words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone forth throughout all the earth, and their words to world’s end.” Wait, in v3 the psalmist said the heavens have no words, but in v4 they do. What gives?
They give us a mute testimony of the greatness of God. Like a wife tapping a husbands leg under the table saying, “It’s time to go,” the heavens speak of God’s glory through non-verbal communication.
Each chapter is 10-12 pages long with 3-4 main divisions that show the main idea and bigger picture of each psalm. Davis’ expositions stay sane, simple, and saleable. Not only that, but he makes it seem easy to study the Bible. Of course, it’s not so easy, and it does require diligence, but it seems possible when reading Davis. Not because he’s a simple mind. He’s a sharp mind who simplifies the text to be understood by any reader.
I have no negatives, except that near the end of the book I started to skip Davis’ stories. Some of them are really good. Other ones go over my head in names and old history. Not all applicable stories are about history. But if you’re familiar with Davis you know what to expect by now.
If you want a sane, devotional commentary on the psalms, get this one. He looks at the flow of the text, questions why it works that way, and makes a way to show it works. He’s a sharp tool to have on your bookshelf. Get his stuff. It takes work to live as a righteous man/woman. Reading this book will help a little bit with doing that.
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Christian Focus (January 20, 2014)
(Special thanks to Christian Focus for sending me this book for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book).