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Take a deeper look at Psalms, prof’s book invites readers

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Michael E. Travers’ latest book, “Encountering God in the Psalms” (Kregel Publications, 2003), encourages readers to begin with God as the focal point of the Psalms and challenges them to see themselves in relation to the truths in the texts.

Travers, a professor of English at Southeastern College at Wake Forest, N.C., said he wrote the book with the two purposes in mind. The first: to help readers know God better by examining His attributes and actions as seen in the Psalms. The second: to help readers know the Psalms more deeply than the cursory look they often give them.

“The Psalms say so much to us for our daily lives precisely because they tell us so much about the God who made us and redeems us in Christ,” Travers said. “I turned to the Psalms because of how much they tell us about God. As I re-read the Psalms, the need for this book burned in my soul. I simply had to write it.”

The book’s first section deals with how to read the Psalms, with Travers explaining to readers how they can best understand the book as a work of poetry.

“We can’t read poetry the same way we read prose,” Travers said. “Poetry places more emphasis on individual words. It is more intense and concrete than prose and it uses figures of speech to carry the weight of theology more often than prose does. Encountering God in the Psalms ‘demystifies’ poetry, making the Psalms more accessible to the American Christian and opening up the riches in the poetic language of the Psalms.”

In the second section, titled “God in the Psalms,” Travers discusses different attributes of God evident in several different genres of Psalms, such as messianic and imprecatory Psalms. This section includes an analysis of a number of individual Psalms with a view to their overall effect, their structure, the figures of speech they employ, their themes and theology and, finally, the points of application they contain for the reader’s own relationship with God.

Travers’ insights in the work reflect his commitment to understand God rather than man as the subject and focal point of the Psalms.

“I think modern Christians tend to read the Bible to see what it has to say to them,” Travers said. “They go to church with the same idea in mind — what can they get out of it? Encountering God in the Psalms encourages us to begin with God and see ourselves in relation to Him. That’s the biblical way: God first, ourselves next. We will never understand ourselves until we understand who God is and how we relate to Him. The Psalms show us [this].”

Travers’ treatment of the Psalms is accessible so that any evangelical Christian can benefit from its devotional use. Yet, the work also serves as a valuable resource for pastors and seminary students who wish to incorporate its insights into their preaching and exegesis.

Travers said his hope for the book is that it encourages readers to read the Psalms more slowly and carefully to understand the intended meaning in the text.

“I hope [the book] puts literary tools in the hands of its readers so that they can know how to read a Psalm the way it was written,” Travers said. “I hope it puts glasses on its readers’ faces so they can see that the primary subject of the Psalms is God — who He is and what He does. If the book will accomplish these two goals, it will have done what its author intended it to do.”

“Encountering God in the Psalms” can be purchased online at:

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  • Kyle Smith