The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms
By Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller (Viking: New York, New York, 2015, 372 pp.)
Those wanting to nourish their souls and dig deeper into the riches of God’s Word will find the Kellers’ devotions on the psalms a rich feast. In the introduction, Keller says, “We are to be immersed in [the psalms] so that they profoundly shape how we relate to God. The psalms are the divinely ordained way to learn devotion to our God” (p. vii). He describes the Psalms as “a medicine chest for the heart and the best possible guide for practical living.” “Most of all the psalms, read in the light of the entire Bible, bring us to Jesus. The psalms were Jesus’s songbook . . . It is the book of the Bible that he quotes more than any other” (pp. viii–ix).
Keller and his wife, Kathy, go through every verse of the Psalms in 365 devotionals. Each devotion begins with a reading from the Psalms (from the NIV), usually six to eight verses. Longer psalms are spread over two or more days depending on their length. The Kellers then give a one-paragraph reflection on the passage. Keller acknowledges his debt to Derek Kidner’s commentary on the Psalms. He also recommends Alec Motyer’s work in the New Bible Commentary 21st Century Edition and Tremper Longman’s commentary for help in reading the Psalms from the perspective of the New Testament. The Kellers quote hymns of John Newton and the writings of C. S. Lewis and others. Each day’s meditation ends with a short prayer to help the reader begin praying the psalm.
As an example, the meditation on Psalm 29 speaks of God’s power through His Word:
“Do not underestimate, then, how much the power of God can do in your life through the Bible. The voice of the Lord can break down even our strongest defenses, defuse our despair, free us from guilt, and lead us to him.
Prayer: Lord, if I want your power in my life, I must listen to your Word. Enable me to ‘read, mark, learn and inwardly digest’ the Scriptures and therein encounter you, my living Lord. Amen.” (p. 53)
Kathy Keller writes that this book was “the most difficult book to write” and also “the most personal and intimate” (p. 366). The meditations come from their walk with God and the prayers from their hearts.
As I used The Songs of Jesus, I read the passage along with the study notes in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible (D. A. Carson, general editor, 2015). David M. Howard Jr. contributed these notes on the Psalms and they are worth a careful study.
The Songs of Jesus is a devotional that I will be using again and giving to others. It would be great to see this book translated into Japanese.