Overall, this book is a fine introduction to the Psalms and the singing of them. It is thorough in its scope, readable in its language, and practical for both worship and piety. And maybe most importantly, it directs the reader to the Psalms themselves. As Johnston notes again in the preface, you cannot love a classic piece of art by reading books about it. You have to go to the original and take it in. Therefore, the final question in each of its seven sections has as its answer a Psalm. The answers are full of references to individual or groups of Psalms to go read and sing. The questions and answers are constantly pointing us to the Psalms as the Word of God so that we might love them and our Triune God more.
In an age of TikTok and Christian pop music, the Psalms can seem like a dusty relic in a poorly visited part of a museum. Sure, many modern choruses are snippets of Psalms or rough paraphrases of them, but their tunes and musicality can be so incongruous from the actual Psalm, it is like putting pickle brine in your orange juice. The central role that the Psalms have occupied in the worship of the saints, ever since they were written, has been largely jettisoned in the past fifty to seventy years. For this reason, efforts to increase the church’s use and knowledge of the Psalms in worship and devotions are welcome and needed, and it is at this target that this book–150 Questions About The Psalter: What you need to know about the songs God wrote–is aimed.
Brad Johnston is the pastor of Topeka Reformed Presbyterian Church, a congregation of the RPCNA (Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America). For those unaware, one of the distinctives of the RPCNA is exclusive Psalm singing without musical accompaniment (a cappella). Hence, the publisher Crown and Covenant is the denominational publishing house. As relayed in the preface, these 150 questions were developed and tested in the family devotions of the author and others. The questions are not intended to be memorized, but to be used along with singing the Psalms to increase both one’s knowledge and love of the Psalms.
The nature of the questions range from the devotional to the pastoral to the academic. There are background questions like who wrote the Psalter (#5), how it is arranged (#48), and what are the Songs of Ascent (#67). The questions are aimed at the heart as he asks why should we sing the Psalms (#92) and Psalms to sing when our faith is weak (#102). The author also includes a whole section on how Christ is present in the Psalter (#21-40). Other topics he covers deal with the various genres of the Psalms, how the Psalms connect to other parts of Scripture, the arrangement of the Psalms, and advice on how to sing the Psalms.
The general strength of the book, though, is hampered by a curiosity and a weakness. These questions were developed in family catechism and is intended for family devotions, but the questions are not fitting for all ages.