Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms by Benjamin Wayman
The Psalms have been used since the beginning as an early guide to the faith for Christians. The early church Father Athanasius has given us a guide to these psalms to help us in our journey of faith. Benjamin Wayman, professor of religion at Greenville College in his introduction outlines the major points of Athanasius life, including the fact that in 367 he penned the earliest guide to the Psalms. With intractable wit and devotion, Athanasius is a sure guide in helping us through the Psalter.
In the introduction, Wayman points out that, “Athanasius instructs us to personally apply the Psalms, the practice of which conforms our lives to Christ. Through praying the words of the Psalter “as our very own,” we learn a new language that makes possible a new life in Christ. Thus, we become what we pray (xxii).” The range of emotions the psalmists deal with, the depths of suffering, the joys of worship, all these things lead the Christian to hold onto the psalms as our very own.
The Psalms are divided into different sections; ones for suffering, betrayed, harassed, reflection, daily life, etc. Athanasius provides a brief description or way to use the psalm in worship that is both encouraging and illuminating. For Psalms 14 and 53, Athanasius writes, “Whenever you hear people speaking profanely against Providence, do not join them in their disregard for God, but intercede with God, saying Psalms 14 and 53 (90).” These psalms point to those who denounce God but also to the psalmists trust that God is Israel’s refuge, that he is our refuge as well. Furthermore, these psalms point to a restoration of Israel’s hopes. Athanasius is wise to point us to these psalms as a way of contrast between those who fear God and those who revile Him.
The translation by Wayman gets to the heart of Athanasius message of how the Psalms are to be used in worship. This book is one that will be used again and again as a way to pray to God in times of abundance and times of little.
Thanks to Paraclete Press for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.