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A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

Updated: Feb 21, 2020

As I preached through these Psalms of Ascents myself, I read several commentaries. This particular work provided some keen insights into the text. But it was flush with helpful direction for application. Peterson has a fruitful imagination for following what the text says to what that means for us as believers. As one who has a tendency toward the abstract, this work proved very helpful to me in this regard.

Peterson’s exegesis of the text is often helpful, though I did not find myself agreeing with his interpretations at every point. However, even where I did not agree with the direction Peterson took, I still found his work helpful in compelling me to think more fruitfully about application. His writing is engaging. He is able to constantly show us that notwithstanding the gaps in time and culture, we are basically like the pilgrims who sang the Psalms on their way up to Jerusalem.

A further value of this book is that it structured around seeing the Psalms of Ascent as forming a kind of blueprint for the life of Christian discipleship. The life of discipleship is the pilgrim’s life. In his first chapter Peterson observes, “This world is no friend to grace.” He knows that the disciple’s path is founded upon grace. But he knows that the world, the flesh and the devil threaten to obscure the foundation of grace in Christ.

In Peterson’s estimation each Psalm of Ascent contributes something important to help shape our understanding of what it means for us to be disciples. They show us the life to which we are called: repentance, worship, service, joy and obedience. But they also show us the basis for that life: providence, help, security, community and blessing. Throughout, Peterson maintains a helpful balance between what is true (the indicative) and what to do (the imperative). The next time you undertake a study of the Psalms of Ascent, pick up this book. I believe you will find it to be a helpful companion.

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