Skip to content ↓

Poetry of Redemption

Poetry of Redemption

There have been times in the history of the Christian faith in which poetry played a key role in believers’ devotion to the Lord. There were eras in which the work of Christian poets was respected and even lauded. But that was then and this is now. While we still value poetry in the form of songs, most of us pay scant attention to reading or writing poetry. There could be any number of explanations for this, though I am inclined to blame the decline of formal verse (i.e. defined forms of poetry) and the rise of free verse (i.e. neglecting rhyme and meter), much of which is enough to cause the best of us to give up on poetry altogether.

Yet as we dig through the archives of our faith we can find vast troves of lovely, meaningful, skillful, devotional poems. In Poetry of Redemption:An Illustrated Treasury of Good Friday and Easter Poems, Leland Ryken has compiled some of the best of these poems and themed them around the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “This book is an anthology of poetic devotionals on the events of Holy Week and their meaning,” he explains in the opening pages. “Although the entries can be read in the days before and during Holy Week, the book is not organized according to a schedule of daily readings tied to the calendar. One can read this anthology anytime, using any timetable, covering as many of the entries at a single reading as one chooses.”

The poems are divided into three categories which he labels psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. By psalms he means passages that have been excerpted from the Bible and are printed in the verse form of biblical poetry. By hymns he means the familiar songs we sing around Easter time. “We need to remind ourselves that every hymn begins its life as a poem, becoming a hymn only when it is paired with music and sung.” And by spiritual songs he means classic literary poems written by some of the masters of the craft. For each entry he has written a devotional a couple of pages in length.

The theme of the poems progresses throughout the book. The first collection considers God’s eternal redemptive plan and is comprised primarily of poems drawn from Scripture. Next are a number related to Christ’s journey toward the cross and here we encounter works by Theodulf of Orléans, William B. Tappan, and George Herbert. Then comes the accomplishment of redemption upon the cross (Jennie Evelyn Hussey, Isaac Watts, Robert Herrick) and appropriate responses to it (Jacob Revius, Christina Rossetti, John Donne). And so it goes through the application of redemption, life with the cross at its center, the resurrection, and life everlasting.

Poetry of Redemption has value as a devotional work that most people will make use of around the Easter season. But I like it most as a collection and explanation of some of the best of Christianity’s poetic treasures. If you have yet to explore Christian poetry or if you would like to explore it anew, this is the perfect resource.


  • Lets Hear It For the Second Parents

    Let’s Hear It For the Second Parents

    While today we tend to associate step-parents with divorce, in previous centuries they were almost exclusively associated with death and with either widow- or widowerhood. In an era in which lifespans were shorter and, therefore, a greater number of parents died while their children were still young, there was a distinct and honored role for…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 17)

    A La Carte: Honor good fathers and bad fathers alike? / Don’t give up, dad / How I respond to pride month / 5 myths about the pro-life movement / A seminar on biblical counseling / How do I know if I’m one of the elect? / Kindle deals / and more.

  • The Glorious End without the Difficult Means

    The Glorious End without the Difficult Means

    Just as Olympic athletes cannot realistically expect to win a gold medal unless they strictly discipline themselves toward victory, Christians cannot hope to prevail in the Christian life unless they take a serious, disciplined approach to it. Yet lurking in the background is always the temptation to hope that we can have the result of…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    Weekend A La Carte (June 15)

    A La Carte: Learn to rest in God’s justice / 3 reasons why your small group is not a church / How can I be a godly father? / Gender in the void / Are images of Christ OK? / The getting of wisdom / and more.

  • Making Good Return

    Making Good Return

    I don’t think I am overstating the matter when I say that this has the potential to be one of the most important books you will read. It’s a book that may shape years of your life and transform the way you carry out one of the key roles God assigns to you…

  • A La Carte Friday 2

    A La Carte (June 14)

    A La Carte: 3 steps to find your voice / 7 things good dads say / One day leads to another / Let’s stop hyper-spiritualizing counseling / Enjoying the many flavors of the Word / What I wish you understood about the ethnic-specific church / and more.