The Psalms have long been a source of encouragement and inspiration for believers. With that said the pouring out of the heart of the Psalmist during times of trial and times of rejoicing provide the reader with more than a feel good set of Scriptures. They direct the believer to a much greater theological and practical truth, namely serving to point to Christ. In his latest book, Songs of a Suffering King, J. V. Fesko explores how the Psalms make a beeline to the person and work of Christ.
An important element of the Psalms is realizing the message relayed by the Psalmist, and for that matter David, as the anointed king of Israel served as a foreshadow of the Messiah, King Jesus. Fesko rightly notes this reality stating, “What the Psalms say of David as a messiah…is prophetic of Jesus as the Messiah.” As he engages the first eight Psalms, Fesko continually drives home this reality, repeatedly noting how “The motif of the suffering king unquestionably plays out in David’s life on numerous occasions” and how that motif is revealed perfectly in the life of Christ.
As noted, this book focuses on the first eight Psalms in an attempt to assist the reader to grasp the progressive narrative found throughout the overall message found in the book of Psalms itself. Fesko aptly comments in this regard that “Ultimately, the Psalter as a whole trumpets the person and work of Christ, and we can examine a small slice of the Psalter’s grand Christ hymn in Psalms 1-8.”
The manner in which Fesko put this book together is quite useful for both personal devotions or even for a small group study on Psalm 1-8. Each short chapter is replete with sound biblical exposition and personal application, driving home the important message found in Psalm 1-8. It is this focus on the personal application driven by sound exegesis that is the true highlight of this book. There are a plethora of commentaries on the Psalms that explore every minutia of the Hebrew and that go into great detail on matters of theological exposition. While there is certainly a place for such commentaries, there is also a much needed place for books that take those grand theological themes and provide the “so what” to the reader, especially the “so what” when it comes to the person and work of Christ.
An example of this excellent focus on application can be found in Fesko’s exegesis of Psalm 1. A familiar aspect of Psalm 1 is the verse 2 which states “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” At times, some believe the law of the Lord is an outmoded element of Scripture, not realizing that it is the Lords instructions and guidelines found throughout Scripture on how we are to love God and love others. The righteous man delights in God’s instructions and constantly meditates on them, allowing the Word of God to guide him in all of life. Fesko takes that reality and directs the reader to the life of Jesus who perfectly kept His Father’s commands, noting “Christ was the One who did not walk, stand, or sit in the counsel, path, or seat of the wicked. Christ delighted Himself in the law of His heavenly Father; not only was He completely obedient to it but he also meditated upon it day and night.” Since that is the example set by Jesus, it is one we must follow and Fesko aptly reminds the reader of that important fact.
Another excellent aspect of this book was Fesko’s exploration of Psalm 4:6-8, specifically the Psalmist’s confidence that when he cries out to God in prayer, he knows God will listen and will hear his cry. David was a man who was often hounded by his enemies who seemed to have little good to say about him. Fesko rightly states “David’s confidence and boldness do not hinge on what his enemies say about him but rather what the Lord says he is.” This was because David was not afraid to approach the throne with his needs in the midst of his suffering. The righteous are able to approach the throne of grace boldly not because of anything they have done, but rather because of the work of Christ. Fesko comments, “God hears the cries of His people because of the perfect righteousness, or obedience, of His only begotten Son, Jesus…Because of the redemption that comes through Christ, God hears those who are found in Him.”
I also appreciated the “Questions for Further Study” at the conclusion of each chapter as they provide the reader with some additional food for thought to dig just a bit deeper into the topics engaged in that chapter. Of additional interest is the approach of singing the Psalms. These are after all Psalms originally meant to be sung, and doing so is a valuable way to lift up the word of God in song, allowing the message of the Psalms to be declared through the vocal cords. Singing the Psalms in the venue of public or even private worship is indeed valuable and I appreciate Fesko providing that tool for the reader along with providing some excellent resources for the singing of the Psalter.
Songs of a Suffering King by J. V. Fesko is an excellent resource for studying the Psalms and I highly recommend it for all believers. It is a valuable tool for personal or small group Bible study and most importantly, it will draw you closer to the Messiah, the Suffering King whose nail scarred hands, broken body, and shed blood gives us hope, deliverance, provides for forgiveness of sin, and provides us a reason to glorify God.
This book is available for purchase from Reformation Heritage Books by clicking here.
I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”