Tuesday, February 12, 2019

"He doesn’t carry a club for nothing."

Slogging Along in the Paths of Righteousness: Psalms 13–24Slogging Along in the Paths of Righteousness: Psalms 13–24 by Dale Ralph Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dale Ralph Davis is my all-time-favorite Old Testament commentary writer.

His books are a perfectly delightful concoction of pungent wordsmithing, scholarly erudition, homespun storytelling, and warm-hearted piety. They are how devotional-level commentaries ought to be written.

Felicitously, this year, I’m slowly working through the Psalms each day, and I had not yet read Slogging Along in the Paths of Righteousness which tracks the second twelve Psalms in the Psalter. [Tell me that he’s writing on the next twelve!] So Davis has been my close companion for Psalms 13-24.

I don’t have time to write a full review, but here’s a taste from Psalm 23–a psalm that could easily be too familiar and overexposed to really hear. But Davis, while not introducing novelty is always fresh. He offers his own translation:

'Your club and your staff–they comfort me.' In part, the club and staff comfort because they are tokens of the shepherd’s presence–much as a hammer, saw, and tape measure imply a carpenter is near. But the shepherd also uses the club and staff; the staff to guide or control the flock, the club to beat the daylights out of the sheep’s enemies.
We may need a corrective here; we need to remember that a shepherd’s work was hard and dangerous, and shepherds had to be ‘tough hombres.’ In his encyclopedic "Treasury of David," C. H. Spurgeon includes a quotation from J. M. Porter, who described some nineteenth-century shepherds he observed, apparently in northern Transjordan:
"The shepherds themselves had none of that peaceful and placid aspect which is generally associated with pastoral life and habit. They looked like warriors marching to the battlefield–a long gun slung from the shoulder, a dagger and heavy pistols in the belt, a light battle-axe or ironheaded club in the hand. Such were the equipments; and their fierce flashing eyes and scowling countenances showed but too plainly that they were prepared to use their weapons at any moment."
Let this percolate in your gray matter. Let us realize that Jesus Christ, our Shepherd, is no emaciated weakling. Our shepherd is a warrior, as shepherds had to be. No one can snatch His sheep out of his hand. The muscles of Jesus’ arm are flexed to defend His flock; He doesn’t carry a club for nothing. He is obviously enough for whatever the valley throws at us.

[I have slightly slightly edited the long quotation, deleting the parenthetical references and adding some paragraphing for clarity on this page.]

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