Recommended Resources on the Psalms, Part 2: Commentaries for Preachers (Timothy Raymond)
In my first post in this series on resources on the Psalms, I directed our readers to some excellent videos and MP3s, all available for free on the internet. There really is a wealth of wonderful, conservative evangelical scholarship in existence on the Psalms and those of us who preach and teach would be wise to take advantage of this. In today’s post I’ll be drawing attention to the commentaries I’ve found most helpful as a pastor in turning the ancient Psalms into contemporary sermons.
But before I do so, a word of explanation is in order. As I’ve explained before, I’m thoroughly convinced that preachers ought to be using both exegetical, scholarly commentaries and pastoral, applicatory commentaries in sermon preparation. If we only ever read exegetical commentaries, such as the NICOT, our sermons will be grammatically precise but most likely deadly boring to the normal Christian. Likewise, if we only ever use pastoral commentaries, such as Matthew Henry’s, our sermons will connect with the person in the pew, but will likely model a sometimes fanciful exegesis. By utilizing both pastoral commentaries and exegetical commentaries we’ll engage in careful exegesis and explore how a text feeds the souls of the sheep entrusted to our care. But enough of that soap box…
Here are my four favorite pastoral, applicatory commentaries on the Psalms with a few brief comments as to why:
The Treasury of David by Charles Haddon Spurgeon – Pride of place goes to Spurgeon’s magisterial exposition of all 150 Psalms, originally in 7 volumes. As you would expect, Spurgeon is always clear, profound, deeply-reverent, theological, devotional, practical, Christological, and often humorous. If I could only have one commentary on the Psalms, this would be the one. The section “Hints to the Village Preacher,” found at the conclusion of each psalm, is a goldmine for sermon outlines. The one drawback of this set is its wordiness. Apparently people weren’t so pressed for time in the 19th century and seemed to reason, “Why say something in 100 words when you could use 1,000?”
A Guide to the Psalms, by W. Graham Scroggie – This lesser known tome is a treasure. Scroggie (1877-1958) was a later successor of Spurgeon’s at the Metropolitan Tabernacle and his Guide to the Psalms is sort of like an abridged Treasury of David. If my house was burning down and I couldn’t carry out all seven volumes of Spurgeon’s Treasury, I’d grab A Guide to the Psalms instead. The most helpful aspect of this work is how Scroggie provides incredibly clear, memorable outlines of the psalms. Once you’ve seen his outline, you’ll be asking yourself, “Why didn’t I see this before?” Unfortunately this volume is currently out of print, so buy the used copies while they’re available.
The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life: Psalms 1-12 by Dale Ralph Davis – For several years now Dale Ralph Davis has been pumping out excellent Old Testament expositional commentaries and this little one on the first twelve Psalms is a homerun. As is typical for Davis, it’s clear, well-illustrated, built on careful exegesis, applicatory, and frequently hilarious. Davis is a master of the punchy, pithy sentence. One feature which I’m not too terribly fond of is how he feels compelled to illustrate every major point with a fairly substantial story. After a while, I just skim over these and get back to the exposition. I hope he goes on to finish the Psalter.
The Psalms, Three Volumes by James Montgomery Boice – Pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for over three decades, Boice (1938-2000) is well known for his expositional commentaries which are essentially transcripts of his sermons lightly edited for publication. These volumes on the Psalms are wonderful examples of a loving pastor who worked through the entire Psalter in a local church context, taking 8 years to go through them all. Boice is similar to Spurgeon in emphases, but perhaps more concise and certainly less humorous.
Lord willing, in my next post I’ll recommend a few academic, scholarly commentaries on the Psalms. I’ll close by reiterating my invitation. If there are resources on the Psalms (i.e., lectures, commentaries, books, etc.) you’d like me to review or would recommend yourself, leave them in the comments below and I’ll consider including them.
Timothy Raymond is an editor for Credo Magazine and has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation.