Nine Things I Learned from a Milestone
I’m not often given to tears, but my eyes definitely welled up this last Saturday (December 10, 2016) as I finished teaching notes on Psalm 150, completing a commentary work through the whole book. For me, it was quite a milestone.
The work on Psalms began more than 15 years ago, when I was a pastor in Simi Valley, California. Through unexpected events, in 1996 I found what I prepared for myself as teaching notes was helpful for some others as Bible commentary. Around the year 2001, I felt like I should start working the Psalms, whether or not I was actually able to do the teaching, I could still prepare the notes.
This is my estimate of how the work progressed:
- From the year 2001 to 2002, I finished work on maybe 15 Psalms.
- From 2003 to 2010 (our years in Germany) I did maybe 10 more, but including Psalm 119, which I did in 2009.
- From 2010 thru 2014 I finished work on about 10 more. It was time to get serious.
- In 2015 I dedicated myself to the task in a new way and finished work on about 45 more Psalms.
- In 2016 I finished the remaining 70 Psalms, dividing the work into monthly goals.
All in all, here is the work as preserved in a Word Document:
- Total Pages: 1,343 (averaging almost 9 pages per Psalm)
- The longest is Psalm 119 – which was 124 pages (176 verses)
- The shortest is Psalm 117 – which was 3.5 pages (2 verses)
Through my work on the Psalms, I used about 16 different commentators – 11 of them through the whole book. From quick calculations, I read about 9,000 pages written by these commentators. The list of these commentaries is below.
What is posted online at enduringword.com should really be regarded as a first draft. I know there are a good many spelling, punctuation, grammatical, and editorial errors. I think what I have posted is good enough to be of use, but I do hope to take the time in the coming years to make it better.
- I learned that the Psalms are magnificent. The Psalms show us God in a remarkable way. The vision of God in the Psalms is so personal and intimate, while at the same time being unbelievably majestic. The Psalms also show us ourselves. There really is nothing we can feel as human beings that isn’t given voice in the Psalms, and eloquent voice at that. The highest highs and the lowest lows are all included.
- I learned how powerful the prayers of God’s people are. This year I set a remarkably ambitious goal – to finish Psalms, meaning 70 or so in one year. So, I set a goal for each month and soon slipped behind. Every time I would get behind and discouraged in the work I would ask those on the Enduring Word prayer support list to pray, and God answered miraculously. If you would have asked me in September if would finish in 2016, I would have thought, “No way.” But many of you prayed, and God answered.
- I learned that I will never invest as much time and work in another book of the Bible as I did in the Book of Psalms. The next largest for me is my work on Isaiah, which stands at 521 pages. That’s far less than half of my work on Psalms.
- I learned that when you read a lot of someone’s writing, you really feel that you get to know them. I have spent so many hours with the commentators listed below, and I feel that I know them so much better. There was a lot to understand and weigh from their observations, but it was a good experience.
- I learned that this kind of sustained, intense work can be exhausting. From time to time I’ll read of some scholar or commentator from 200 or 400 years ago who worked so hard at their studies that they fell into poor health. I used to think those accounts were very strange; now I can relate to them. In theory, if I gave the work of my commentary on the Psalms my full attention for 40 hours a week, I could have gotten it done in a year. But that would have been impossible. I could not have sustained that kind of intense work for that many hours for so many weeks and months.
- I learned something about having a long obedience in the same direction. That’s what Eugene Petersen titled his book on the Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120-134), and that’s what it took to complete this first draft of a comprehensive work on the Psalms.
- I learned that my work of writing and distributing Bible resources will never be finished. There will be certain milestones along the way, and finishing Psalms is one of the milestones. The next major milestone is to finish the books of Proverbs, Ezekiel, and Lamentations. This is my goal for 2017, and God willing I will meet the goal. But when in God’s will that milestone is reached, there will be endless work of revising, updating, correcting, and improving the work. For me, this is truly a life work – one that will never be finished.
- I learned that it is something of a miracle that I don’t have carpal tunnel syndrome or some other repetitive motion disorder, considering all the keystrokes and mouse clicks.
- I learned that the greatest reason why I love this work is because it draws me closer to Jesus. In a way I can’t fully explain, I have beautiful fellowship with Jesus Christ in and through His word. I meet Him there. This calling in my life didn’t originate with my plan, but I am so happy it was God’s plan for me.
If you would like a detailed description of how I prepared these teaching notes for each Psalm, click here for an example, using my work on Psalm 28.
Adams, Reverend John The Lenten Psalms (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912)
Boice, James Montgomery Psalms, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1994)
Boice, James Montgomery Psalms, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1996)
Boice, James Montgomery Psalms, Volume 3 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1998)
Bridges, Charles Psalm 119: An Exposition (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974)
Chappell, Clovis G. Sermons from the Psalms (Nashville, Tennessee: Cokesbury Press, 1931)
Clarke, Adam The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, with A Commentary and Critical Notes, Volume III – Job to Song of Solomon (New York: Eaton and Mains, 1827?)
Harris, Arthur Emerson The Psalms Outlined (Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1925)
Horne, George Commentary on the Psalms (Audubon, New Jersey: Old Paths Publications, 1997 of a 1771 edition)
Keller, Phillip A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1970)
Kidner, Derek Psalms 1-72, A Commentary (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973)
Kidner, Derek Psalms 73-150, A Commentary (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975)
Maclaren, Alexander The Psalms, Volume 1 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1892)
Maclaren, Alexander The Psalms, Volume 2 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1892)
Maclaren, Alexander The Psalms, Volume 3 (New York: A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1903)
Meyer, F.B. Our Daily Homily (Westwood, New Jersey: Revell, 1966)
Morgan, G. Campbell Searchlights from the Word (New York: Revell, 1926)
Morgan, G. Campbell An Exposition of the Whole Bible (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Revell, 1959)
Poole, Matthew A Commentary on the Holy Bible, Volume 2 (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1968)
Spurgeon, Charles Haddon The Treasury of David, Volume 1 (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson)
Spurgeon, Charles Haddon The Treasury of David, Volume 2 (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson)
Spurgeon, Charles Haddon The Treasury of David, Volume 3 (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson)
Spurgeon, Charles Haddon The New Park Street Pulpit, Volumes 1-6 and The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volumes 7-63 (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1990)
Trapp, John A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Volume 3 – Proverbs to Daniel (Eureka, California: Tanski Publications, 1997)
VanGemeren, Willem A. “Psalms,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 5: Psalms-Song of Songs (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1991)