I love the Psalms. Not only were they the prayerbook of God's people in the early church and synagogue, they contain the prayers Jesus and His apostles prayed in private and in corporate worship too.
Reading these prayer-poems in various translations gives us a broader perspective of their beauty and meaning, but the Tree of Life version (TLV) helps us to hear a uniquely Jewish voice, which Jesus Himself had. Since the TLV especially interested me for its roots in the Messianic Jewish movement, I requested a review copy, which Baker Books kindly sent.
I wasn’t disappointed. Besides better hearing the original voice of the Psalms, commentary by Jeffrey Seif, Glenn Blank, and Paul Wilbur follows each prayer-poem, adding information and insights we might otherwise miss.
As Paul Wilbur tells us in “A Worship Leader’s introduction to the Psalms”:
“This book of meditations on the Psalms has been compiled not only for your edification but with the sincere desire for you to receive revelation that will inspire and provoke you to love and good deeds.
“I pray that the Holy One of Israel who breathed these words into the psalmists so many years ago will revive them in your heart with insight and revelation so that you may finish strong!”
In “A Literary Editor’s Introduction to the Psalms,” Glenn Blank writes:
“The psalms teach us many different ways to pray. Many prayers are deeply personal, reflecting circumstances… to which we can still relate today. Others are corporate, calling us to honor our God as a community.”
The book of Psalms contains worshipful lyrics, poems of thanks and praise, prayers of petition, and wisdom, which “urges us to trust in God’s ways, confess sin and do good, seek answers to difficult questions such as why evil people prosper while good people suffer in this life, and reaffirm God’s faithfulness to those who wait patiently on Him.”
To give you an example of the devotional readings or commentary below each psalm, these words from Jeffrey Seif accompanied Psalm 4:
“People who pursue futility and practice deceit suffer tragic ends, do they not? But ‘prayer changes things,’ as the saying goes, so every human being, though guilty, is but a single prayer away from a changed life – from experiencing God’s graciousness. This psalm assures us that God is particularly predisposed to reach down and help those who reach up and pursue Him.”
Reviewed by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017
Shalom in Psalms, paperback