My review of Eugene Peterson’s wonderful daily Old Testament devotional, “Every Step an Arrival”.
Eugene Peterson, translator of the popular Message translation (mixed reception across the Christian board aside) is known for his deep pastoral reflections and interactions with the text. While some may not appreciate the Message translation, there is still a lot to be learned from a man so steeped in the Scriptures after spending a lifetime learning them and translating them. We see glimpses into his reflections and interactions with the text in this 90-day devotional, Every Step an Arrival.
Goals of the Book: Devotionals are usually short, pithy looks at a biblical text to get your day started having spent a little time in the Bible. Peterson’s reflections are short, sure, and focus on a little bit of Scripture, but bring us to a new avenue to read devotionals: the Old Testament. I have been personally encouraged by Peterson’s reflections in When Kingfishers Catch Fire, but more specifically in the Old Testament in Run with the Horses.
Why Should You Care?: A few reasons, but the first reason I would give is in the form of a question: when was the last time you read the Old Testament? How much time have you spent in it lately? It comprises about 60% of our Bibles, yet it seems frequently downplayed and undervalued. When we do read it, we cherry pick our favorite verses or stories and don’t let the weight of the text penetrate our hearts. When a pastor like Peterson pens a devotional on the Old Testament, a lot of the church would do well to receive it as a gift that would help us hear 60% of God’s revealed word to us!
Strengths/Weaknesses of the Book: As I said before, devotionals are usually short, maybe too brief to really do any sort of real work in our hearts. Peterson, who has translated the entire Bible before, is far more intimately familiar with the Bible than most devotional writers seem to be. This means that even these brief, daily interactions with the text feel more weighty than most. I would never recommend only doing a devotional, but if you were looking for one, this would be high on the list.
It is hard to note weaknesses of a devotional. They are generally short enough that it doesn’t matter if they’re altogether too engaging. Even a boring devotional should be able to capture your attention for a single page! But it is easy to tell when a devotional is useless, and I have already noted that this one definitely is not. While I know plenty of people (maybe even specifically my readers) have pre-conceived notions of Peterson, his theology, and the Message, I think it would do a lot of us well to spend some time interacting with this devotional.
I haven’t had this long, much less the entire 90 days to read each entry daily. But the entries I have read are deep. If you allow yourself, in prayer with the Spirit, to be impacted by these, I think you’d be pleased with the life change therein!