Book Review – The Message of Psalms 73-150 (Michael Wilcock)

I read the first volume of this commentary on the Psalms a couple of years ago. Many of the comments made about that volume apply to this one also. Michael Wilcock is very interested in historical background, the structure of the Psalm and also its placing within the Psalter. He also is a keen appreciator of older hymns and liturgical forms of worship, and will often discuss various hymns based on that passage. All this information can be fascinating, but it seems a little out of place in a series like Bible Speaks Today, which is focussed on the application of Scripture. The end result is that there is rarely space for key individual verses to be discussed, and those who do not make extensive use of liturgy or hymns will also find some of the material a bit alien.

Having made those criticisms, it is worth pointing out that there is still some very valuable material in this book, particularly for those planning a Bible study on a Psalm, and wanting to get a feel for its structure and setting (both historical and its place within the Psalter as a whole). He encourages a Christian application of the Psalms, seeing relevance for the church as the people of God in references to Israel. He quotes Bruggemman in a number of places, and talks of the “nonspecific” troubles of the Psalmist being able to speak into our situations.

He understands book 4 of the Psalms to be an “exodus collection”, and the Psalms of ascent are explained in the light of having a background in the Nehemiah story. He takes some time to discuss a Christian approach to the ‘imprecatory’ Psalms. There is a long section dealing with Psalm 119, and his exposition of Psalm 139 was one of the best in the book – he describes it as a theology of omniscience and omnipresence made simple and personal.

Overall, I would say its not the most thrilling of books to read cover to cover, but it still has something to offer. Each Psalm has on average two or three pages of comments, and would be helpful reading as background material to stimulate ideas for preparing a talk or study. It is common for Christians to quote parts of Psalms without having any real feel for their historical setting, or structure as a whole, so at least this book provides some useful corrective to that. It also encourages those preparing worship based on a Psalm to consider appropriate related Bible readings they could make use of.

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  1. Pingback: Commentary Series Review – Bible Speaks Today « wordandspirit

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