Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Review: Singing in the Reign by Michael Barber

Singing in the Reign: The Psalms and the Liturgy of God's Kingdom gives the reader a theology of the Psalms focused on the Davidic covenant and the longing for the restoration of Israel. The Psalms reflect the understanding and expectations of God's people throughout salvation history. First, the author looks at the covenants God made with Adam, Abraham, Moses, and David. Second, he shows David's as the culmination of the Old Testament covenants. David is entrusted to rule God's people. After the kingdom of Israel is divided and exiled, the later Psalms show the longing to return to the Promised Land and to be reunited (the northern kingdom was carried off, never to return; the southern kingdom eventually returned under Persian Emperor Xerxes circa 539 BC). Basically they long for the restoration of David's kingdom. Third, the author gives both a high-level analysis of the entire book of Psalms and a low-level look at the individual Psalms. Finally, he shows how Christ fulfills this desire to see God's kingdom restored. Christ explicitly claims He is restoring the kingdom, though not in the political or military way some expected. His Church is the fulfillment of that kingdom, inviting all nations and peoples to worship the loving Father of the Jewish covenants.

The book is a fairly quick read, though in the introduction Scott Hahn recommends re-reading this book several times to gain greater insight into the Psalms. The book is jam-packed with fascinating ideas that are well-grounded in the Bible and well-reasoned. The emphasis on David's covenant and the restoration of the kingdom is something I hadn't considered before. I've gained new appreciation of what the Psalms are saying and how they fit in to salvation history, a part of which is my own salvation. Finding that relevance is important. Praying the Psalms is not just a corporate act of the Body of Christ or a pleasant-sounding hymn on Sunday, but a real encounter with God, both presenting one's own expectations and listening to God's call for us to come to Him, to love Him as He loves us. Such a give-and-take is made possible by the greater understanding given by books like Michael Barber's Singing in the Reign. I plan to add this book to Thomas More's The Sadness of Christ as spiritual reading for Lent next year.

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