The Case for the Psalms (Wright)

In many ways this might be Wright’s best work ever. I had always suspected something like his thesis when I read the Psalms (more on that below) but I couldn’t articulate it. The psalms give us a musical ontology. Wright says the Psalms transform the reader (better yet, the chanter and singer) because they place him or her at the intersection of Space, Time, and Matter–the very place where Jesus of Nazareth is.

The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential

People who pray the psalms will be learning to live in God’s time, space, and “matter” (the stuff we are made of) as well as our own (Wright 27). The psalms resonate with Jesus because he was the one who stood at the intersection of God’s time/space/matter and ours (30).

The threshold of God’s Time:

The ebb and flow in the Psalms teach us an eschatological balance. The theme of time helps us with those instances where we are called to sing of the enthronement of Yahweh’s king (44). And we shouldn’t shrink back from the royalist overtones in our democratic age, for we are called to be his vice-regents.

More specifically, Yahweh also called Israel to care for the world (Genesis 12:3). But given Israel’s failure, God narrows his focus to the House of David. Therefore, the intersection of God’s time with our time–and always with the Davidic King in the foreground–comes into focus in Psalm 89.

Where God Dwells

The “Temple” is where God’s space and our space intersect. If the world’s Creator lives in Jerusalem, then it stands to reason (Ps. 2) that he will rule from Jerusalem.

“The temple turns out to be an advance foretaste of Yahweh’s claim on the whole of creation…It is a sign that the creator God is desiring…to recreate the world from within” (91).
1. The temple is a heaven-and-earth reality, a microcosm of creation.
2. Psalm 24: Yahweh takes up residence in his temple.
3. Temple and Torah are connected and both point ahead to God’s new place.
4. Temple Psalms and Pneumatology: the new Temple is indwelt by the Spirit.
5. Covenant renewal generates fresh idea of sacred space.

All the trees of the forest sing for joy

Western modernity sees matter as lifeless matter. The Psalms, however, see creation throbbing with the potential glory of God. God’s glory either already fills the whole earth or it will fill the earth (124).

This ties in with Covenant and Kingship: the true King will bring justice and peace to the earth, which will renew creation (Psalm 72).

Wisdom and Creation

Psalm 104:19-24 combines themes from Genesis 1 and Proverbs 8. Paul picks up this Wisdom-Creation tradition and places it in Jesus (Colossians 1:15-20, 2.2-3).

Summary of Theme

Time: the past of creation, the future of Judgment, and the present of celebration are drawn together.
Space: what was promised for the Temple is now promised for the whole world.
Matter: we are standing at the fault line of the original material of creation and the glory-filled material of the new creation (144).

Conclusion and Nota Bene:

The book is simply magnificent. I honestly can’t think of a single flaw.

Nota Bene

Wright says at one time in his life when he was witnessing to Gaia-worshiping pantheists, he felt an oppressive darkness and Yahweh gave him deliverance by bringing Psalm 97 (which happened to be the next Psalm in the prayerbook reading) to mind, “Yahweh is King. Let the Earth rejoice!” p. 175


About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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2 Responses to The Case for the Psalms (Wright)

  1. Trent says:

    I guess I am going to buy this for my kindle.


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