Book Review – Walk His Way: Following Christ through the book of Psalms

Book Review

Shead, Andrew G. Walk His Way: Following Christ through the book of Psalms. London: IVP, 2023.

Is there a book on the Psalms that won’t bury you in too much information, that will motivate you to dive into the Psalms again, that will instruct you in seeing their ultimate gospel significance? An Australian biblical scholar has written a delightfully deep yet easy to read overview that delves into the details of eight carefully selected psalms. He helps you understand that the book of Psalms tells a sequential story, that its poetic devices not only add emotional impact but are indispensable to its message, and that the message is ultimately Christ. The psalms stretch us and teach us how the Old and New Testaments fit together, how God’s law truly is beautiful, why corporate confession of sin is so helpful, and how the forgiveness of our sins drives us to get involved in God’s mission.

If the 150 psalms have seemed to you to be a random set of angry poems, Shead will help you see the logic behind the five sections of the book. Psalm 2 introduces us to four characters who populate the rest of the Psalter – God, the Messiah, the enemies, and refugees. But Shead isn’t merely writing to educate you. This book is written for people who have suffered and are tired of Christian cliches. It’s written for people who are deeply involved in ministry and wonder if all their sacrifices are worth it. Whoever arranged the psalms in order, did so not to gloss over the tension between God’s over-the-top promises and our rather thin experience of intermittent blessing, but to explore that tension, to acknowledge it, and ultimately to point forward to its resolution in the coming King who is also the Suffering Servant. This book is also written for people who are wondering what life is for: “If for a hundred years you ate, slept, worked, loved – if you changed the world! – but did not praise God, you never lived.”

Shead helped me see that the king on the pages of the Psalms is desperate, poor, needy, and most of all – prayerful. He helped me bridge the gap between David’s desperate prayers in the pit and Jesus’ fervent cries in Gethsemane. This is an earthy book that turns our gaze to heaven. Introducing us to lament psalms in which real people are suffering physical pain, social rejection, and palpable loneliness, Shead writes, “The Psalms can help keep us from over spiritualizing the idea of salvation.” The psalmist is often praying for physical help. But in Psalm 88 the enemy seems to be God Himself. Almost all of us have noticed that the book of Psalms is honest and sometimes raw. That’s a big reason people love the psalms. Shead helps you appreciate the theological significance of these honest prayers. David’s enemies are often physical, but behind the scenes there is real spiritual war: “We get to be God’s agents in the world, not just passing safely through the dangers that lie between us and our heavenly destination but overcoming and destroying them with his strength. ‘Trample’ (Ps 91:13) doesn’t mean ‘step on’; it means ‘crush and destroy’.” This book is not a systematic theology text, but it provides a profound set of meditations on suffering, the problem of evil, and the unsteady but certain progress of the Christian’s life. Shead is the type of scholar who can help you see the resurrection of Jesus foreshadowed in the details of Ps 118, and by the end of the book you feel like you need to stand up and shout, to join the uncountable multitude of saints who are cheering and worshiping the King that the psalms are longing for.