Sometimes we miss what is right in front of us. Sometimes we are distracted by the abstract that we miss the obvious. Sadly this easily happens when we read Scripture. Jerome Creach, in his The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms, has drawn us back to see what’s in front of us, “it might well be concluded that the destiny of the righteous is the primary subject of the Psalms” (p1). When thinking about the Psalms, we often lose sight of the obvious: that it’s a collection of songs about the righteous, their struggles, their hopes, and ultimately, their destiny. This is seen in the introductory Psalm 1. The righteous will stand in the judgment, but the wicked will be like chaff in the wind.
The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms
The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms develops as follows. In Part 1 the character and destiny of the righteous is traced. First, their relationship with God by means of prayers (ch 1); the activity of the righteous, primarily prayers (ch 2); and the reward of the righteous (ch 3). Part 2 demonstrate the role of the righteous influence the shaping of the Psalter. Psalms 1-89 show the suffering of David, the anointed one (ch 4), while Psalms 90-150 encourage faith in Yahweh’s kingship and a future David (ch 5). Part 3 develops three important aspects of the righteous’ hope. First is David, both as an example of the righteous sufferer (ch 6) and a sign post of a future king (ch 7). Next, the glory (ch 8) and hope (ch 9) of Zion is forefront in the mind of the righteous. Finally, God’s instruction (Torah) is a source of protection and security (ch 10).
One is in danger of self-congratulation by adopting the label “righteous”, but Creach believes it is a mistake to conceive of righteousness as moral purity or superiority. True, one can be free of guilt in a given situation (Ps 17:1) but the Psalms do not disagree with Paul (Rom 3:10). In fact, to argue for unrighteousness of all, Paul uses the Psalms “as his main authority!” (p3). Righteousness in the Psalms refers to one who fulfills obligations in relationships. In other words, the righteous are those faithful in a loving relationship with Yahweh their God. Behavior flows from this relationship. Redirecting our focus to the centrality of the righteous in the Psalms will help the church form a “constructive understanding of divine judgment”, “dialogue with people of other faiths who are also concerned with issues of justice”, have “words to address to the consumer-driven society” and provide a resource for “theological reflection on the plight of the poor and oppressed” (p12-13).
There is much to commend in this book. First, it is a concise scholarly yet devotional treatment of this most prominent of the Psalter’s features. Second, the book is clearly laid out, with each theme being developed through exegesis of relevant Psalms. Third, Creach holds to a Davidic hope in the Psalter: “the Psalter creates the expectation of a new David who will stand with the lowly as their defender” (p9).
Most of all, the righteous (their character, hope, and destiny) is proven to be both fundamental to the Psalter and profitable for contemplation. Creach highlights why the Psalms are so beloved: one can find solace in the songs of other faithful believers. Hope for a righteous and future David, security in God’s instruction, and hope for His presence are all deeply resonant issues for the believer today. Through a thematic and comprehensive treatment on these themes, the reader profits from an enhanced wide-lens view of what the Psalter has to say. This is where the book shines most bright.
Ancient Songs for Today
The Psalter has for generations been the prayerbook of God’s righteous. Though grounded in scholarly research of Israel’s ancient songs, The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms is deeply devotional and relevant for building the faith of the church. In fact, Creach puts it well:
“Jesus does not make obsolete what the Psalter says about the righteous and their reliance on David, Zion and torah. On the contrary, the Psalms create the form and foundation of this faith of the church.” (p16).
In other words, the Psalter is ever “for us” today.
The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms is a book from which any believer would benefit. A lover of the Psalms would do well to read this book. It would also serve well as an introductory textbook to the themes of the Psalter. The character, activity and destiny of the righteous remains ever the same. A reminder of who we are, what we do, and for what we long is ever needed, it is so easy to lose sight of that which is most obvious.
Many thanks to Chalice Press for providing a review copy.