Ellen T. Charry commenting on lament, its place in worship, and its incorporation into the Psalter:
Pedagogically speaking, the laments are warranted for public worship because everyone eventually experiences personal defeat of some kind and comes face-to-face with the searing question of theodicy. The theological pedagogy of these poems both prepares and shapes the community to confront the questions of theodicy and empire openly in order to sustain Israel’s fundamental conviction that the God of Israel is the one and only God of the universe. That is, public worship is not an end in itself. Its design on the hearts and minds of the worshipers is to carry them faithfully through thick and thin…The poets know how difficult faithfulness can be, and their poems meet people where they are.
Psalms 1-50, p. xxv-xxvi
The Psalter contains lament, and more besides. Most look to Psalms to aid them in praise. But lament, too, has formative value. Even if one has not suffered, suffering will come. It is part of the human experience. If Christian fellowships incorporated lament as part of their discourse, perhaps more believers would be better prepared when the challenges and hardships of life arrive. They would know they are not the first to suffer, they will not be the last, and that like those who walked before them, they can offer their complaints in prayer to God and look, in hope, for divine help.
One mainstay of baptist piety that has stuck with me over the years is the daily quiet time. I begin each day with a reading from Scripture, a selection from the Psalms, a devotional reading, and prayer.
Thomas Nelson has released a new edition of Spurgeon and the Psalms [affiliate link], and with this volume, plus a cup of coffee, I have all I need to begin my day in meditation on God’s wonders and works.
In his preface, Charles H. Spurgeon said of the Psalms:
No one needs better company than the Psalms; therein we may read and commune with friends human and divine, friends who know the heart of people toward God and the heart of God towards people, friends who perfectly sympathize with our sorrows, friends who never betray or forsake. Oh, to be shut up in a cave with David, with no other occupation but to hear him sing and to sing with him! Well might a Christian monarch lay aside his crown for such enjoyment and a believing pauper find a crown in such felicity.
Spurgeon loved the Psalms and found much sweetness in them. We can, too.
This volume contains each of the one hundred and fifty psalms–the complete psalter–plus the brief reflections of Spurgeon on each psalm. Of his time in reflecting and writing on these portions from Scripture, Spurgeon wrote:
The delightful study of the Psalms has yielded me boundless profit and ever-growing pleasure; common gratitude constrains me to communicate to others the benefit, with the prayer that it may induce them to search further for themselves. That I have nothing better of my own to offer upon this peerless book is to me a matter of deepest regret; that I have anything whatever to present is subject for devout gratitude to the Lord of grace. I have done my best, but, conscious of many defects, I heartily wish I could have done far better.
That’s Spurgeon’s way of saying, “Thanks to God for the good relayed here and for the grace leading to my writing any truth found in these words. All errors remain my own.”
Charles H. Spurgeon lived from 1834 to 1892, and was the best known preacher of his day. He was a Baptist, and pastored New Park Street Chapel (more widely known as the Metropolitan Tabernacle) in London for thirty eight years.
Spurgeon and the Psalms contains readings from the New King James Version translation of the Bible. Spurgeon’s prose continues to sing out with melody, a fitting accompaniment to a Bible translation that both seeks to maintain the lyric nature of the KJV while making it more accessible to the modern reader.
You can find a copy of this book at Amazon, linked above, or by visiting the FaithGateway store. I received this volume for review, for free, as a member of Bible Gateway’s Blogger Grid. Bible Gateway continues to be a valuable resource for me in reading and researching the Scriptures.
I enjoyed holding, reading, and exploring this new volume of Spurgeon and the Psalms. I found one error, within, on a dog-eared corner of Psalm 129, folded prior to the manuscript being cut and then bound. It’s nothing scissors and a steady hand can’t fix–and, I trust, an anomaly in the printing process.
If you’re looking for a new daily devotional and a faithful guide through the psalter, consider this one.