Shalom in Psalms: A Devotional from the Jewish Heart of the Christian Faith by Jeffrey Seif, Glenn Blank, and Paul Wilbur is more of a light commentary than a devotional.
The Tree of Life Version
The real treasure of the book is the translation of the Psalms. The Tree of Life Version was translated by Jewish Christian scholars. The translation was easy to understand. At the same time, the word choice called to attention the first audience of the book. I don’t often hear from Hebrew scholars when learning about the Psalms. My understanding of the Psalms was deepened because of the explanations of the meanings of the original Hebrew words.
I liked that the Scripture was printed right along with the devotional. And each devotional varied in length and by author so that they were not rigid in form, but felt like the author was just explaining the Psalm to the reader.
But this also means that the devotionals were little more than explanations of the Psalms. 90% of the applications were broad, sweeping, general application questions that only require Sunday School answers like “when I sing praise to His name I feel strength. How about you?” or “it’s good to remember God’s works on our behalf, isn’t it?”. Shalom in Psalms lacked the deep, convicting applications with specific call to action I expect in a devotional.
There were two exceptions.
What is Shalom?
One devotional explained the meaning of the word “Shalom.” I knew Shalom meant peace. Hearing “shalom” conjured up a calm sea or quiet sunset in my mind’s eye. But the author says “Shalom is more than just an emotional state of mind. Shalom also means that the abused will get justice, wrongs will be made right, menacing foes will be refuted.” This Shalom was not a pastoral scene. This Shalom was actively pursuing justice and restoration. Although it was not expressed in the devotional, I pondered what true Shalom would look like at home and have now redefined what a peaceful day with my kids looks like.
Holy Spaces and Places
In Psalm 48 the sons of Korah praise God in Mount Zion and consider the physical appearance of the temple in connection to God. The author points out how quick we are to understand the passage as referring to eternity in heaven without reflection on the earthly temple. In evangelical Christianity, we don’t think much about holy spaces and places. The author challenged Christians to take a trip to Jerusalem to experience the energy and meditate of his lovingkindness in the very place that inspired the sons of Korah to lift their praises to God.
If you are looking for an easy, breezy reading of the Psalms with an emphasis on Jewish culture and the Hebrew language, this book is for you.
If you are looking for a simple Psalms commentary for teaching a short Bible lesson, this book would also be helpful.
But if you are looking for a deeply personal devotional full of hard-hitting conviction, you will be disappointed.
[Note: This post contains Amazon.com affiliate links. Read disclosure policy here.]