Film and Book Reviews

Devotional guide will help us praise 'glorious, powerful, loving God'

BookPsalms: Songs from the Heart: Undated Devotions Through Psalms 1-150 (3 volumes), by Graham Hooper (10Publishing, 2018)

By Paul Barker

November 1 2019Informed, regular Bible reading ought to be a staple for all Christians. In an age where biblical literacy is in general decline, even among Christians, finding good resources to help all Christians read the Bible with understanding is important. Too many daily devotionals jump all over the Bible, concentrate on just one verse, often ignore context, and often major on moralistic or warm-feeling stories.

Graham Hooper, a layperson within the Diocese of Melbourne, has contributed three small volumes on the Psalms to a series published in the UK. In total, these volumes amount to 152 daily readings with a page for each day of simple, straightforward comment and suggested reflection and application. Almost every day is devoted to a single psalm, though some psalms are combined and Psalm 119 covers a few days. Psalms 53 and 70 are omitted because of their similarity with earlier psalms.

The comments major on understanding the text, drawing the reader to see God and understanding addressing God. Personal illustrations are limited. Each day has also a reflection for consideration. The language is simple and the target audience is any Christian. Each volume has the same three-page introduction to the Psalms as a whole. The idea is for a short and easily manageable reading for each day that is not too time-consuming or onerous. The approach is evangelical though that ought not in any way limit the readership to evangelicals. Christians of any tradition will benefit. Scholarly issues are not explored and no knowledge of Hebrew is assumed. For Anglicans in particular, used to reciting psalms within our liturgy, this book will be very useful.

We ought to linger with the psalms, letting their imagery, imagination, poetry and language reverberate through us. Thus a reader ought not skip over the reflection comment or question each day but ideally take time to think, feel and respond, and return through each day to the psalm and the points of connection and reflection.

If I have one quibble it would be a little more could have been said and shown of the impact and effect the poetic language ought to have on a reader. Many psalms are written with parallelism, repeating ideas in the next line, in order no doubt to slow down a reader or speaker to think and feel. Psalms in general evoke emotion and seek to draw emotions to God. Laments, bewailing circumstance and strife, almost always lead to trust and faith by the end of the psalm.

One of our diocesan goals relates to lament: lament at our sins and failures as a church and as individuals. Our society doesn’t lament; it complains. Biblical laments have much to teach and train us in bringing concerns not to grumble and complain but to God in prayer. This useful devotional guide will help us bring concerns rightly to God.

In a world of so much war, terror, anxiety, stress and pressure, our praise of God is often muted. Too often we are quick to be anxious and slow to praise. Again, this useful devotional guide will help us praise a glorious, powerful and loving God.

I am pleased to commend this book in the encouragement of informed, daily Bible reading, for the deepening of our faith and spirituality.

 

Bishop Paul Barker is Bishop of Jumbunna Episcopate.

Disclaimer: Bishop Paul Barker has contributed to this same series a volume of devotions on 1 Kings which was published in March.


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