Lift Us Up Where We Belong

An Appeal to Worship Leaders and Writers of Worship Songs

I’m a little envious, I have to admit, of the kind of ecstasy I see people experiencing around me in the worship time at church. It looks amazing. If it’s legal, I don’t mind getting some myself. But no, I would gladly concede, ecstasy is one emotion that’s appropriate for people drawing near to God, though arguably there might be times when abject penitence or a sort of shock might be equally apt.

But whatever the strong emotion, it isn’t how I arrive at church. Like many others, I have to rouse three or four bodies as sleepy as mine out of bed on a Sunday morning and make sure they get in the car at home and back out at church before the sermon’s over. It doesn’t induce a state of meditation, let alone ecstasy. And if my eyes are shutting, that might not be ecstasy either, though I don’t mind if people think so. Sometimes I just can’t keep them open.

We want to worship. Please remind us why it’s so right. What was it again, that God has done? Continue reading

A Sample of Australian Psalms Scholarship

The college for which I teach, Melbourne School of Theology (MST), publishes a rather new journal called Paradosis, devoted to biblical and theological topics. Its second volume, published in 2015, was dedicated to the Psalms, and is now available on our college website.

Paradosis 2 Psalms Thumbnail

The best-known authors featured from a scholarly point of view are probably John Olley (Vose Seminary, Western Australia) and Michael Theophilus (Australian Catholic University, Melbourne). Also featured are articles by Edward Woods, author of the Deuteronomy volume in the Tyndale OT commentary series and editor of the volume, Katy Smith (Bible College of South Australia), John de Hoog (Reformed Theological College, Geelong, Victoria), Gillian Asquith (also MST), David Cohen (Vose Seminary) and myself.

So there’s no Susan Gillingham or J. Clinton McCann, but you might find it a worthwhile read, particularly if you’re looking for insights on a particular psalm. Specially featured psalms include 89, 119, 137 & 148. Why not have a browse?

An Attempt at a Master Diagram of Interesting Features of the Psalms

I’m not entirely happy with this yet, and in fact it isn’t complete, but it’s at a stage of “proof of concept”. It’s a master diagram of Psalms in Prezi arranged like one of those broken-up-world globe map projections:
Psalms Master Prezi Screenshot

For those interested in technical production details, I produced the world template in one Inkscape document and the coloured content in another. Inkscape is a free, open-source vector graphics program. But Prezi doesn’t recognise the normal vector graphics (SVG) format, so I had to open the finished product in Adobe Illustrator (very new for me, and maybe not permanent, though a better-known vector graphics program, probably the best-known of all). Then I exported it in Adobe Flash format (SWF), which Prezi recognizes, and opened the file from within a new prezi, adding nothing else bar the title. The convoluted process is thanks to Inkscape’s usefulness as a graphics editor, whereas Prezi is very limited that way, and the fact that vector graphics do not lose resolution no matter how far you zoom into them, and are ideally suited to a zooming interface like Prezi.

But, if the result doesn’t help anyone comprehend (in this case) Psalms, all the playing around is in vain. So critical feedback is welcome!

A Sermon on Music in Worship: “Worshipping in Song”

Some of this is more suggestive than detailed text, but it will give you some idea of what I spoke about at my home church, Kilsyth South Baptist Church in eastern Melbourne, this morning.

I feel I need to add a caveat. Speaking in church about worship is a bit like speaking in church about prayer. You’re normally going to have a sense of your own shortcomings in the same area. Certainly true for me on this occasion!

The link for the prezi online is:

If you’d like a downloaded form, the pdf may be found at Here’s the embedded form:

I haven’t forgotten the creation book series…more to come on that.

A Stable and a Shaken World: A Sermon Outline and Study of the Hebrew Word ‘mwt’

I spoke on this ‘shaking’ idea in the Psalms recently, focusing on occurrences of the Hebrew verb ‘מוט (e.g. Psa 46:3)’.  Some of the folk present have asked for access to the PowerPoint resource, so here ’tis.


  1. The second slide acts as a master, with each of the nine boxes linked to more specific content centred around a relevant passage from the Psalms or Isaiah.  Every slide has a small icon to permit navigation back to this master slide.
  2. The screen concerning Psalm 104 and comparing it to verse 1 contains a link to a Word document which outlines the full text of Psalm 104.  I will include this separately, below.

Here is the Word file of Psalm 104:

Mini-Book Review: Gerald Wilson, The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter

Far from recently published, this is one of those books that leaves your teaching institution’s library (where it’s certain to reside, normally) and stalks you in the dead of night, saying, “Read me, read me,” and just occasionally, if you haven’t done it, “Put the cat out!”  It doesn’t matter that it was published in 1985 (ooh, that reminds me, here are the details:)

Wilson, Gerald. The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter (SBL Dissertation Series 76; Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1985).

…we sometimes don’t get around to reading these things for a while!

If you have read any of Wilson’s more recent essays, he has pretty well stayed on key with this book since, so you probably have a good idea of his thrust in this book, but this was the one that set the tone for the whole discussion about Psalms being an intentional editorial whole with a kind of underlying narrative thrust.  That thrust, in his view, is that Books I-II of the Psalms celebrate the Davidic kingship (kicked off in Psalm 2), until in Book III that dynasty appears shattered, especially in Psalm 89, and then in Book IV there is a rediscovery of Israel’s (or really, Judah’s) roots in Mosaic and Aaronic terms, and a fresh focus on Yahweh as king.

There are little things you might disagree with, and if you would like to compare a contrasting position, check out the general scepticism of R. N. Whybray about an overall canonical coherence to Psalms:

Whybray, Norman. Reading the Psalms as a Book (JSOTSup 222; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1996).

But it is probably fair to say that Wilson managed to persuade many students and scholars of the virtues of at least a healthy dose of this perspective on Psalms, and in so doing brought some of seeds of his mentor Brevard Childs’ suggestions on Psalms to fruit.  Wilson died in late 2005, at an insufficient age…biblical scholars have a tendency to do this, for some reason.  See some of the details here:

I should add: debates over the Qumran psalms manuscripts and particularly the critical 11QPs a are important to this work, as the question is asked whether that manuscript implies a different canonical psalm sequence at Qumran, or the incomplete formation of our biblical psalm sequence at that time.  Plus, any question you ever had about the Psalm titles probably comes up.  And this was a Yale doctoral thesis in its early life (1981), so it’s a little technical and lacks colour illustrations.