Book Review: Faith on Trial, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Synopsis: Although the ancient psalmists of Israel were holy men of God, who wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they were also deeply human, and were not above honestly describing their struggles and temptations, as well as the truths they discovered and the hopes that they clung to, in order to find victory at last in the grip of a sovereign and merciful God. In Martyn Lloyd-Jones' masterful study of Psalm 73, this truth comes to the fore; and what worked for the psalmist is painstakingly distilled and analyzed, and put into a modern context, where Lloyd-Jones is certain that it will work for readers today, who face the same overwhelming problems of perplexity and despair in suffering. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, by common attestation, was a skilled physician of the body; but in this work, the reader will encounter indisputable truth that he was also a physician of the soul, whose skill to apply sure remedies to deeply hurting souls is perhaps unrivaled in today's world.
Faith on Trial, Lloyd-Jones' study of Psalm 73, is an admirable example of that vital spiritual discipline of meditation on a given passage of scripture. This is not just a technical, exegetical commentary, although it evinces solid exegesis; it is not simply heartfelt devotional writing, although it has some of that as well; it is most fundamentally a rigorous, careful thinking through of all the truths and inferences that can be gleaned from a whole-orbed view of a psalm which is itself a portion of a unified body of inspired Christian writings; a piercing psychological analysis of the elements and maladies of the human soul that may still be found even today; and a practical, compassionate, step-by-step application of truth to the multifarious problems that wrong ways of thinking have given rise to.
The psalmist begins with the voice of hope and conviction, declaring to all that â€œTruly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heartâ€; but how did he get to this point of firm faith and reliance? Lloyd-Jones traces the steps of his spiritual journey, as he deals with a temptation so overwhelming that it had almost cast him down utterly. First, the very â€œbottom rung,â€ as Lloyd-Jones terms it, is simply the recognition that, if he spoke the bitter thoughts that he was feeling, he would give cause for offense to the children of God who were around him. It wasn't much, but it was a foothold at least, a place to stop sliding, and to begin the long journey out of the pit of despair. In the same way, when we are overwhelmed with our troubles, it doesn't matter so much how deep we go, or how discouraged we become, just so long as we find a bottom rung, a place to pause, and consider.
After this first rung has been discovered, one step at a time, Lloyd-Jones analyzes the process by which the miserable psalmist regains his faith and hope, and remembers God's unfailing faithfulness. Throughout, the writing is incisive and down-to-earth, and as the reader sees the spiritual wisdom and godly stratagems by which he realizes his wrong ways of thinking, repents, and learns to trust God for his character and steadfast (if sometimes veiled) mercy, he will likewise be instructed and emboldened to undertake the same spiritual journey from despair and confusion to the â€œneverthelessâ€ of God's abiding presence, even in the darkest of times.
In conclusion, let me simply echo the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones himself, from the preface to this study: â€œMay it prove to be a 'door of hope' to many another whose feet are 'almost gone' and whose steps have 'well nigh slipped'.
Available at Monergism Books.