No. 4: And I will Praise Him
The primary goal of this book, by Dallas Theological Seminary professor Ronald Allen, is to open up the Psalms as a guide to worship. The preface opens with a list of focuses that evangelical churches have pursued over the years: evangelism, bible teaching, compassion. We “merely assumed worship would happen,” he says.
And we have done well. Not that we have done all that needs to be done, but we have been about our Father’s business…Yet we had not made much of worship. (11)
To Dr. Allen the Psalter is the finest guide to worship we possess, and he does a fine job of demonstrating this to be true.
And I Will Praise Him is a simple and helpful guide in how to read the various types of psalms and how they can be used to enhance our worship; in fact, how they can be used as the basis and most basic example of worship. He broadly explains the types and structures of the psalms and the language used therein. After giving the bird-eye view, he selects a few representative psalms—113, 19, 13, 138, 142, 65, and 146—for in-depth analysis.
Allen’s most significant contribution to my reading of the psalms, and my reading of the Old Testament, is his explanation of the Hebrew concept of praise. Most of the texts he uses throughout are his own translations directly from Hebrew. For the words that are often translated “praise”, he uses “publicly acknowledge.”
Thanksgiving occurs when one breathes a prayer of thanks to God for His mercy and goodness; praise occurs when one tells someone else about it.(61)
In Hebrew, and therefore in the Psalms and the rest of the Old Testament, praise is something we do out loud and in front of people to bring glory to God. The most moving example I can think of is David dancing before the Ark. Though he didn’t use words, his dancing was like a shout in front of his people, one of unencumbered joy before God.
The most moving part of the book comes after the discussion of the Psalms. Dr. Allen wrote all but the last chapters while living in Manila, and shortly after arriving back in the States his daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. In heartwrenching detail, he relates the story of the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and waiting. She was too young to speak, too sick to be home, and in too much pain to even be held at the hospital.
Through it all he tells of his resolve to praise God regardless of the outcome, and to avoid asking why it was happening. “These words suggest an implied arrogance that God (who is Master and Lord!) owes His people explanations for His deeds and for those things He allows. Pots are not made to challenge the Potter. (227)
Thankfully God allowed her to go into remission, and the Allens didn’t have to experience the loss of a child. Through the story I kept thinking of my own daughter, and how I might feel if I were to experience the same thing. Would I praise God? Would I crumble? I hope and pray that God spares us from that kind of pain, but those are some thorny questions…questions that I can’t answer right now. I hope that through my reading of the psalms I can find experience that depth of trust and joy in God and lead my family there as well.
This book could be valuable to those who feel overwhelmed by the psalms, or who would like to experience them, and God, more deeply.