Book Review: A Musician Looks At The Psalms

A Musician Looks At The Psalms, by Don Wyrtzen

This book is not quite as good as I thought it would be.  I must admit as a musician and singer myself who deeply loves the Psalms [1] that I had high expectations when reading this book, and those expectations were not met.  I hoped, at least, that a book that was more than 400 pages long and that had an author who was proficient in music and involved with some of the most notable Christian institutions of the United States (Moody Bible Institute and Zondervan Press/Music) would have some depth to offer, but what I got mostly from this book was occasional insights along with some jokey pun-filled psalm titles and a lot of personal reference to the author’s life and his thoughts on grace and his reflections on his own mercurial and unstable nation and so on.  If you want to read a book about the author, and you happen to be fond of his music (I didn’t think his lyrics were anything special myself), then you will probably find something of interest here.  If you want to find out in-depth views of the Psalms, this book will probably leave you wanting more.

In terms of its contents, this book reads like a year-long devotional that happens to have as its subject matter the Psalms.  Some psalms are dealt with quickly–Psalm 117, for example, which only has two verses and takes a day–while other psalms are dealt with at greater depth, and there are scattered references to material outside of the Psalms to lengthen the material a bit and fill up an entire year.  The daily devotionals have a consistent format, with the day listed, a quote from the selection in the upper right of the page to take up space, some kind of picture, often song lyrics, and a tripartite structure of exposition of theme, development of theme, and then a personal prayer at the end of each daily entry.  Some of the devotionals are deeply moving, showing how the author was strongly affected by reflecting on the material.  At other times, though, there is a disconnect between the material and the author, such as the times when the author seems to reject imprecatory psalms out of principle because of a misguided view of God’s grace and a lack of appreciation of God’s justice.

Perhaps nowhere is the book’s material and its author less well-suited for each other is in the way that the author deals with Psalm 119.  The author has a separate entry for every single one of the psalm’s acrostic sections, but fails entirely to relate the material to a love of God’s law or a desire to obey it.  Seldom is a text more plain to the reader and so completely disregarded by the author, who repeats some thoughts about trying to avoid perfectionism over and over again while totally failing to grasp the meaning of the psalm, almost perversely.  Indeed, this book is an interesting testimony of the meeting of the largest book of the Bible and someone who seems to be a fairly superficial Christian of an almost Ragamuffinish type, and the result is as disappointing as one would think.  At least there are some worthwhile definitions, some of them repeated several times, and photos of the author with his family, all of which offers at least a little bit of interest to readers.  When it comes to insight about the psalms, the author unfortunately does not have much in evidence here.

[1] See, for example:

And many, many more….

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Book Reviews, Christianity, History, Psalms and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Book Review: A Musician Looks At The Psalms

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Daily Encouragement For The Smart Stepfamily | Edge Induced Cohesion

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