Book Review: Shalom in Psalms

Shalom in Psalms: A Devotional from the Jewish Heart of the Christian Faith

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – Longish (about 350 pages)

Summary
The subtitle more or less gets tells you what you need to know about this book. The intent is to be a devotional on the Psalms from Messianic Jews.  However, there are no days (40, 365, etc) or actual dates (a year in the Psalms). It is just a Psalm and then a devotional/commentary that follows which is written by one or two (usually Seif and Blank) of the authors. The goal of the devotional is to get to the Jewish roots and understanding of the Psalms, and to that end, the authors us the Tree of Life version(TLV) of the Bible; for which Sief and Blank are translators.

My Thoughts
The TLV is an interesting version, you can check out their website to read about their driving principles. Some are fairly innocuous, using Yeshua instead of Jesus (or Miriam and Jacob, instead of Mary and James). Though, when you don’t change all names, it leads to the feeling of that guy that studied abroad and now over pronounces the few words he knows. Likewise they use Adonia for LORD/YHWH, and use a few other words such as Shalom, which are somewhat familiar, though others I did not know and they never offered and translation note or explanation. This seems like a major oversight if your goal is to bring this view to those who don’t already know. Looking around their site I could ascertain whether their translation was literal or dynamic equivalent, though I suspect it was the latter. Overall the translation seemed readable and understandable, with the few exceptions of untranslated words.

As for the devotional part, it isn’t quite there. There are two problems (ish), the first one being, that often this worked more as a light commentary than devotional. I know the line can blur, and I actually prefer the commentary type more, but that isn’t always what people are looking for. Not necessarily a problem, but something for which to be aware. The second, much bigger issue is that the book is not broken into any type of daily format. They could have tried to fit it into 365, or picked some other random number (40, 200, etc.), but instead just offered their devotion/commentary after each chapter. So, that means one morning you may read a Psalm that is a few lines with maybe a paragraph of devotion. Then a week or two later, you’ll read Psalm 119 (the longest verse in the Bible, longer than books such as James or Ruth) followed by pages of commentary.

Again, this can work fine as a commentary, but a devotional is really set more for the 5-20 minute a day framework. This really fails as that model, which wouldn’t be such a big deal were it not for the subheading. If you are expecting a 10 minute morning devotional, broken into nice segments, you aren’t going to get it. Depending on the day, I would read two of the Psalms with both devotionals, if they were short (thing the 80’s and 130’s) or for longer ones, sometimes I’d read just the verse, then come back the next day and read the commentary. Overall, I think it worked to something like 200 or so days, which works fine if you have  Lent and/or Advent devotional to though in as well.

Overall, I enjoyed it, but the format should have been different. If you know that going in and plan to work around it, it can work well for a devotional. If you really like the Psalms, or are just looking for something different in a commentary, or especially if you are looking for a Jewish (or at least modern Messianic Jewish) perspective it is worth picking up.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: My Utmost for His Highest

My Utmost for His Highest

 

My review format is going to be a little different on this one because it is a daily devotional. It is 365 one-page devotions to be read each day of the year. They are all fairly short easy reads, spanning a wide array of topics.

The book was published in 1935 and was based on King James version of the Bible, but there are many options to purchase the devotional with updated language. My edition was edited by James Riemann, who has edited a number of older devotionals. You can find the book in old hardback, or newer paperback for as little as $5 most places, but I purchased the one pictured above, which will cost you about $20, because I’m a sucker for patent leather books.

I’ve read a number of year long daily devotionals, but I think I have to put this as number one. Which makes my more expensive purchase seem like a good choice, as I will probably come back to this every few years or so. As is typical for daily devotionals, you have all or part of one verse, then a brief mini-sermon that can sometimes be something like a commentary on the selected verse or it will be something a little more practical. Often, Chambers has a point he wants to get across, and the selected verse acts more as a proof text. Most of the verses come from the New Testament, and are concentrated mostly around the Gospels.

I think the pastoral nature of this devotional is what makes it so great. His style of writing, and the points he makes or doctrines discussed read less like they are preached from the pulpit and more like they are being spoken from the pastor directly to you.

I’m a big fan of daily devotionals as it is, because they are a great way to focus your mind before you start your day. Most cane be read in less than five minutes. I read them in the morning, even Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening, after I get dressed before I head out to start my day.

The strength of this book is the constant reminder of your need for Christ, what He has done for you, and how that should effect your daily life; what we should do in response to what He has done. That daily reminder of practical Christian living is what makes this devotional a must read.

I like having a book to hold and read, but if you want a digital option, you can actually sign up to receive the content via email from Utmost.org.