Encountering God in the Psalms

By Wilbanks, Pete F. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Encountering God in the Psalms


Wilbanks, Pete F., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Encountering God in the Psalms. By Michael E. Travers. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2003, 313 pp., $15.99 paper.

Michael Travers has planted a refreshingly God-centered and application-oriented book in the landscape of Psalms studies. His purpose in writing is devotional-to challenge the reader to know and love God more and to apply the Psalms in daily life. Although the work is devotional in nature, Travers has not omitted scholarship. He examines the major features of the study of Hebrew poetry: communicated experience, terseness/intensity, parallelisms, macro/micro structures, and figures of speech (simile, metaphor, image, symbol, personification, metonymy, and synecdoche). These features are critical for understanding the message of the Psalms. As an English professor, Travers has sophisticatedly supplemented the work with poems from non-canonical authors (e.g. Milton, Tennyson) when appropriate. The title of the book is true to its substance.

This work contains an introduction and two major sections. In the introduction, Travers encourages the reader to see the contemporary relevance of the Psalms and to encounter God in the Psalms through prayer and praise.

Chapters 1-3 comprise the first major section and outline Travers's methodology (chaps. 1-3) . He holds that the Psalms are inspired in both genre and content; thus, understanding certain aspects of poetry is essential. He holds the following as the major aspects of poetry: communicated experience; heightened or concentrated language; structures and patterns; and figures of speech (chap. 1). He next addresses the five basic psalm genres-hymn, lament, royal, thanksgiving, and wisdom psalms (chap. 2). Finally, Travers presents his approach to the Psalms (chap. 3). He asks four guiding questions: (1) What is the overall effect of the psalm?; (2) What is the structure of the psalm?; (3) What are the figures of speech in the psalm, and what effects do they have?; and (4) What are the themes and theology in the psalm? Respectively, these questions address the impression the psalm gives to the reader, the major sections and individual parallelisms contained in the psalm, the understanding gleaned from the use of figurative language, and the exegetical truths from the text. Following these questions, Travers applies the truths to modern life. He specifically applies these questions to the selected psalms in chapters 5-12

Chapters 4-13 comprise the second major section and focus on the application of methodology. Chapter 4, which could be placed in the first major section, is the precursor for Travers's theocentric methodology. In it, he highlights Moses' encounter with God as a basis for seeing who God is and what God does. …

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