Mark D. Futato
Reviewed by: Robert E. Tarullo
Date posted: 08/27/2006
Joy Comes in the Morning: Psalms for All Seasons, by Mark D. Futato. Published by P&R Publishing, 2004. Paperback, 111 pages, list price $9.99. Reviewed by Pastor Robert E. Tarullo.
Joy Comes in the Morning is packed with insights on how to read the Psalms. Its author is Professor Mark Futato of Reformed Theological Seminary. The introduction places on the table the tools of the trade, while the remaining three chapters provide an opportunity to see those tools at work. Futato orients the reader especially to the concept of genre. He defines genre, explains its practical importance, and shows how it relates to Jesus Christ.
Futato defines genre as "a group of writings that have characteristics in common with each other" (p. 7). The Psalms fall into the genres of praise, lament, and thanksgiving. He explains throughout the book how the different genres relate to each other and how they relate to the ebb and flow of the Christian pilgrimage (p. 4). Thus, the subtitle to the book, Psalms for All Seasons, refers to "all seasons" of the believer's spiritual journey.
Futato explains genre's practical import in two ways. First, it guides our expectations. Just as the words "Once upon a time" guide the reader's expectation that what follows is a fictional story, so also there are indicators within the Psalms that guide one's expectations. Second, it provides another level of context for interpretation (like the literary, historical, cultural, and theological levels). This is Futato's weakest point, but he effectively demonstrates the practical importance of genre in the subsequent chapters.
Futato also argues that "genre is a window though which you can look more deeply into the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ" (p. 13). "When reading a psalm," Futato says, "it is helpful to read that psalm as speaking about Christ and to read it as being spoken by Christ" (p. 14). He applies this insight, as well as the others in his introduction, in his explication of Psalms 104 (praise), 13 (lament), and 30 (thanksgiving). While there will be disagreements as to how Futato applies his method of interpretation, his explanations are helpful and edifying.
Some readers will find Futato's practical elements helpful and insightful; others will find the personal elements overly individualistic. Nevertheless, readers will find Futato's pedagogical skills in explaining difficult interpretive concepts illuminating. I commend this book as a primer on genre and basic interpretive methods for the book of Psalms.