I became acquainted with J.V. Fesko through his work on baptism from a Reformed perspective (Word, Water, & Spirit, Reformation Heritage Books, 2010). As I began working through that monograph, I could tell I had come across a man who was a rigorous theologian, careful biblical exegete, and a pastor at heart. Since then, I have read several of Dr. Fesko’s books and have never failed to come away edified and challenged to dig more deeply into the Holy Scriptures.
Dr. Fesko’s most recent offering is a short book on the first 8 psalms entitled, Songs of a Suffering King: The Grand Christ Hymn of Psalms 1-8 (Reformation Heritage Books, 2014). As one would expect, from the outset, the book is characterized by careful biblical exposition, a steady focus on the centrality of the person and work of Christ in biblical interpretation, and a pastoral emphasis on sanctification through savoring Christ Jesus.
After a brief introduction which covers the ordering and overall structure of the Psalter as well as a brief rationale for the Christ-centered interpretation of the Psalms, the book is divided into 8 brief chapters addressing each psalm respectively. While the chapters are brief, and read quite devotionally, they don’t fail to provide a good deal of information pertaining to historical and literary context, a clear explanation of how the Psalm relates to the person and work of Christ, and a brief, yet powerful application for the reader. The chapters also end with a metrical version of the psalm for signing and questions for further study. Given the style, structure, and substance of the book it would be an excellent resource for personal or group study (high school through adult).
As I read through Dr. Fesko’s devotional commentary on Psalms 1-8, I quickly realized that—really—I was reading a book about Jesus. The Christ-connections that Dr. Fesko made, especially in chapter 1, identifying Christ at the true Righteous Man of Psalm 1, brought a significant amount of insight and perspective to my reading of the Psalms that I had not seen before. It certainly minimized the tendency I had developed to read Psalm 1 (and others for that matter) as a mere moral imperative. In doing so, I was able to see that, just as Jesus taught in John 15:4-5, apart from resting in him as the true Righteous Man, I am hopeless to fruitfully grow in the instruction of Psalm 1.
As Dr. Fesko worked through these Psalms, I got the sense that he was not forcing a Christ-centered hermeneutic as will inevitably be the critique of some. Rather, he demonstrated that the Psalms “provide a divinely inspired window into the heart of Christ” (8). It is clear that Psalms 1-8, while echoing many of the emotions King David felt during his earthly reign, certainly fore-signify the life and ministry of Messiah.
While I could critique the book in several places, simply because I desired thoroughness a bit more, those critiques would be unfair due to the very nature of the book. As stated, this book is largely an expanded devotional study of Psalms 1-8. Yet, don’t let that dissuade you from including it on your bookshelf as a valuable pastoral commentary on Psalms 1-8. As with all of Dr. Fesko’s work, you will greatly benefit in heart and mind from his devoted study and gift of writing. I sincerely recommend it.
*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN 10: 1601783108
ISBN 13: 9781601783103
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