Songs of a Suffering King, J. V. Fesko. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014. Paperback, 123 pp. [Reviewed by Rev. Martyn McGeown.]
For one who loves to preach, read, and sing the Psalms, this is a delightful little book. However, this book is not only—or even mainly—for scholars and preachers. In fact, it is written for the ordinary believer who loves to read and sing the Psalms.
The greatest value of this book is the clear teaching that the Psalms—all of them—are Christocentric, that is, all of them center on Christ. Fesko explains his approach in the introduction:
Each chapter explores the psalm in its original historical context. In other words, what was occurring in the life of David to occasion the psalm? After establishing the original historical context, we can consider the connections to Christ. In what way does the Psalm speak of Christ? Last, after establishing the connections to Christ, we then consider the connections to the church, those who are united to Christ (9).
Fesko offers a short commentary on the first eight psalms, because the first eight psalms are a unit, with the first psalm functioning as an introduction to the whole Psalter. In several of these psalms, David is suffering, because Absalom or Saul is pursuing him. Thus the Psalms lead us to the suffering king, the Lord Jesus, for “David’s cries become those of Christ” (8). Jesus is the righteous man of Psalm 1, the Anointed of Psalm 2, the suffering King of the “lament psalms,” and the Son of Man of Psalm 8. Fesko offers an interesting perspective on the place of “lament psalms” in the church, and especially in her public worship:
Often we hear of praise music and the praise team, but we never hear of a lament team. In other words, too many churches try to make worship fun, exciting and joyful, which from one vantage point is understandable. But many people in the church suffer, lack joy, and feel as though they are out of place, because of how they feel. But if churches regularly included personal laments from the Psalms in their worship, whether in preaching or congregational singing, it would signal to those who suffer that they too have a place in the church (122).
This little book is full of helpful, Christocentric exposition, clear illustrations, and pointed applications. Rather than quote further, I invite the reader to discover the book for himself. Fesko also includes further questions for discussion groups and musical arrangements so that the reader or study group can sing the psalms.
My only complaint is this—the little book leaves the reader longing for more. If Fesko can so beautifully explain and apply the first eight psalms, I certainly look forward to subsequent books, if they are planned, and I hope they are!