Follow Him Podcast: Psalms 1-46 — Part 1: Dr. Shon Hopkin
Have you ever felt forsaken by God? Dr. Shon Hopkin explores the structure and purpose of the Psalms, the effect of music in worship, and how the Psalms prepared the Lord and the disciples for difficult times.
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Hank Smith: 00:01 Welcome to followHIM, a weekly podcast dedicated to helping individuals and families with their Come, Follow Me study. I’m Hank Smith.
John Bytheway: 00:09 And I’m John Bytheway. We love to learn. We love to laugh. We want to learn and laugh with you as together, we follow him.
Hank Smith: 00:19 Hello, my friends. Welcome to another episode of follow him. My name is Hank Smith. I’m your host. I’m here with my clean-handed and pure-hearted co-host, John Bytheway. John, you are clean-handed and pure-hearted. Did you know that?
John Bytheway: 00:36 Hand sanitizer has blessed my life, Hank. Yeah.
Hank Smith: 00:39 Anyone whose favorite television show is the Andy Griffith Show has clean hands and a pure heart.
John Bytheway: 00:48 Haha. Some’s got it, and some ain’t.
Hank Smith: 00:51 That’s perfect. That is clean hands and a pure heart. Hey John, that phrase comes from the book of Psalms. We brought a Bible scholar. Who’s joining us?
John Bytheway: 01:01 Well. We’re really excited to have Shon Hopkin back, because he was here when we talked about the Fall and Cain. And in fact, it’s one of our most listened to podcasts. It’s such a great topic because Shon did such a great job. So we have Dr. Shon Hopkin here. And just to refresh our listeners’ memories. He was born in Denton, Texas, son of Lorraine Hopkin and Arden Hopkin. He attended Southwest high school in Fort Worth, but graduated from Orem high school, received a bachelor’s degree and master’s from BYU in Near Eastern Studies with a focus on the Hebrew Bible. Received a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in Hebrew studies with a focus on medieval, Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish literature.
John Bytheway: 01:47 Hank, it just blows me away the people that we bring on here and how widely read and educated they are. Before coming to BYU, he taught in the seminaries at Timpview, Provo, six years at the Austin Institute of Religion. He served as chair of the Book of Mormon Academy, chair of the BYU Religious Outreach Council. He’s one of the principal organizers of the ongoing Jewish & Latter-day Saint Academic Interfaith Dialogue Project. He and his wife have four children, one grandchild.
Hank Smith: 02:17 We have that in common. We just had one grandson a couple of months ago, which is so fun. Every day I’m texting my daughter, “Bring the kid over.” Welcome back. We’re really happy to have you again.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 02:28 Thank you. I don’t remember most of those things you said in the bio. Did that happen? I am a grandpa of a beautiful grandson. He’s about three now and we are expecting, and I say we, in very general sense a granddaughter now in September. So for father’s day, I got the card with the photo and the little-
John Bytheway: 02:52 Oh, how fun.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 02:52 … traced hand, and I’m like best Father’s Day ever.
John Bytheway: 02:57 Oh, Grandpa Shon.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 02:59 Grandpa Shon.
Hank Smith: 03:00 For those of you who maybe didn’t listen to the first episode we did with Shon this year, he’s also, John and I’s direct supervisor. So if we sound a little more shaky and nervous, this is our boss at BYU, but oh, what a boss he is.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 03:14 I’m very intimidating. I have a very intimidating personality, yeah.
Hank Smith: 03:17 Shon, we are in the book of Psalms today and anybody who knows Latter-day Saint scholars knows that you’re the best of the best when it comes to Psalms. Talk to us. How do our listeners approach this awesome book?
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 03:30 It is interesting, as often happens, as you’re reading the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, you get to books like this and you think, “Wait, this is reading differently than what I’m used to.” The chronology disappeared, this storyline kind of approach is gone and we can feel a little bit lost. There are a number of good Hebrew Bible scholars and Old Testament scholars and teachers in our department, Hank and John, a shout out to them. And then I have to give a shout out to my dad. He and I wrote a paper together. He was a vocal performance faculty member at BYU, and we wrote a paper together on, I think we called it The Psalms Sung. We talk about the power of the Psalms as music, so I think I might be interested in starting there if that’s okay.
Hank Smith: 04:18 We will link this article in our show notes. It’s called The Psalms Sung: The Power of Music in Sacred Worship, J. Arden Hopkin and Shon D. Hopkin. Just go to followhim.co. Followhim.co, you’ll find our show notes. Tell us more. What’d you and your dad find there?
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 04:36 This entire scintillating article. But we loved working on this together, because he brought this musical acumen to the project. And it was really fun for father and son to be able to look at the Psalms together. I want to talk about these as music for a moment, because these were designed to be set to music. So the verse I’m looking at is 2 Samuel 6:5 “David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.” So these are put to music and these would’ve been really touching, really powerful, really comforting, really motivating to those who are reading them. And so we get the benefit and the power of the language. But then I want you to think of these moments when you have been in distress and how often music has healed your soul.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 05:32 And I want you to think about the Psalms in that way for just a moment. David, if you remember, he played the harp for king Saul. The scriptures say there was an evil spirit that would be upon Saul, and David would come and play and the evil spirit would pass from Saul. And so, David understood the power of music. It’s not just the power of the word. Along those lines, let me make a connection between these as music, and then the reality that these were often used, and many of them were used in temple worship. And there’s a lot of scriptural evidence in Chronicles and elsewhere that there’s singing Psalms. There’s a section in the Talmud. Let me just quote this for a moment.
Hank Smith: 06:18 Shon, remind our listeners what the Talmud is when you bring that up.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 06:21 The Talmud is written a few hundred years after any of our biblical texts. So it’s a Jewish text describing and talking about Israelite views and biblical views and that kind of thing. But the way they are understanding what’s going on in the temple, they talk about the most sacred day of the year, the day of atonement or Yom Kippur, these sacrifices, these powerful sacrifices that are going on at the temple and they connect it to and actually say, “Look, while this is happening, people are singing.” Let me read this to you from the Talmud. “They gave him wine for the drink offering, and the high priest stood by each horn of the altar with a towel in his hand.” So you’ve got the high priest on this very sacred day at this very sacred occasion, standing by the altar. And two priests stood at the table of the fat pieces with two silver trumpets in their hands.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 07:11 So there’s portions of the sacrifice there. That’s what those fat pieces are. And they’ve got two silver trumpets in their hands. “When he stooped and poured out the drink offering, the lead priest waved the towel and Ben Arza clashed the symbols and the Levites broke forth into singing. When they reached a break in the singing, they blew up on the trumpet, and in every blowing of the trumpet, a frustration, their bowing down.” This was the right of the daily whole offering. This was the singing, which the Levites used to sing in the temple. The fascinating thing there is, we think this strange animal sacrifice thing. And then we’ve got the Psalms and linking those together and showing how there’s music… These were supposed to evoke feelings of supplication to God and comforting his people, and there’s music that’s building and connecting with this temple worship that they’re doing under the mosaic covenant.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 08:05 And you get a very different sense of the temple experience at that point. Let me just connect that for a moment with our modern day hymn singing. Because we think, “Oh, you go to church, you sing hymns. If it’s a hymn I’m comfortable with and I love it. If it’s one of those annoying ones that the song picker picks, because she thinks we need to sing every hymn in the hymn book, then I’m annoyed.” So we’ve got these hymn singing experiences, and notice, what we’re doing there, we’re demarcating sacred time and space. We’ve dressed to the best of our ability. And however, each of us are different this way, but we’ve dressed to worship. So we’re distinguishing our worship behavior as a little bit different than our daily behavior. We’ve come to church. We’re talking, we’re milling around. And then there’s this moment, boom, where the music starts and we are united.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 08:59 And there’s something about singing, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it this way. The Old Testament talks about how right before Solomon basically enters into the presence of the Lord, the Lord’s presence descends upon the people. They are singing in this unified way, and then they enter into the presence of the Lord, so to speak. We’ll read that verse in just a moment. But if you think about unified prayer at the temple, seeking to enter into the presence of the Lord, and then you think about what hymn singing does for us. You’re saying words and feeling things in your own little space. So there’s no other place in life we do it like this. The person all the way across the room is singing with their hearts and you are giving exactly the same message, and then heavenly choirs. That’s the idea’s that you’re joining in with heavenly choirs.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 09:54 And so it’s heaven, and each of us as a congregation saying the same message, pleading with the Lord and boom, sacred time has begun, and now we’re focused. Now we’re in holy space. And the notice we do it again before the sacrament, now we demarcate more holy space, and then that prepares for the sacrament ordinance. And it happens with unified prayer, unified singing. We are seeking to enter into the presence of the Lord. But we don’t think of just how powerful this unified language is that unites us with heaven and unites us with each other. This is worshiping each of us individually, but all of us with one heart and one mind. There’s nothing better than music to do that.
Hank Smith: 10:42 We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven. That’s that idea. We’re all unified.
John Bytheway: 10:49 I was thinking as a kid, the reason we have an opening hymn, is for all the late people to get here before we actually start. And the reason we have special musical numbers before firesides is to get all the late people here before we start. But I have never thought of it this way. They bookend the worship experience. I love that idea.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 11:13 So you’ve got it at the beginning, like you’re saying John, you’ve got it, and then you sort of undemarcate, so to speak, sacred space. Now we’re done and we’ve got someone who’s speaking the prayer there at the pulpit, and we’re all joining in, but we pray with music and then we pray in this united way and that ends the service as well. And now we come back into more what the biblical languages or the religious studies languages, more profane space, right? Sacred space back into profane space. Let me just read these from 1 Chronicles. And it’s actually David. 1 Chronicles 15 shows David leading a procession in song in dance, as they brought the arc of the covenant, the most central symbol of God’s presence in Israel back among the Israelis to reside in the tabernacle.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 11:58 As the Levites made holy sacrifices and entered into the tabernacle or temple, David delivered a Psalm of Thanksgiving. It’s a song and urges people, sing unto the Lord, sing Psalms unto Him, glory ye in his holy name. And then listen to this language, seek the Lord and his strength. Seek his face continually. So they are praying unitedly seeking the face of the Lord. And so, he’s connecting music with temple activity, with seeking the face of the Lord. They’re in the background, the Levitical priests are ministering before the arc of the Lord. And this is 1 Chronicles 16 is where this comes, that goes on then to this incredible experience.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 12:38 And then it is Solomon, as I had mentioned before in 2 Chronicles 5, that as this is happening, the trumpeters and singers were as one to make one sound, to be heard and praising and thanking the Lord when they lifted up their voice, that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord. And God’s presence enters in as they’re preparing through unified prayer as Doctrine and Covenants 25 says. “The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me.” Even though we don’t do a lot with singing in our temple worship today, if you would think of these unified symbolic actions we do in our covenant making in the temple as a song and a prayer and a little bit of this divine dance almost of preparing to enter into the presence of the Lord. There’s some really powerful, I think the ancient prepares us to understand what’s going on today a little bit better.
John Bytheway: 13:33 Oh, I love this. My mission president taught me once I was talking to my companion at the beginning of some meeting, I was sitting next to my mission president about something during a hymn. And my mission president Menlo Smith lives in St. Louis, “Elder Bytheway, you wouldn’t think of talking during a prayer, would you?” “No president.” Well, section 25 says the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and I’d never forget that. So do that later and sing and participate. And I’m glad you brought that up. That reminded me of that.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 14:07 Well, and you can all think of, we all have different kinds of music that we enjoy, and that helps us prepare emotionally.
Hank Smith: 14:14 I will say that I’ve gone through dark times myself, and it seems sometimes, Shon, the only thing that can speak to you in that kind of darkness is music. It reaches beyond the spoken word. It’s pretty incredible. I’ve had many experiences where I’ve felt, man, I’m in a really, really dark place and music was able to reach me there.
John Bytheway: 14:38 I bet. I listened to It Is Well With My Soul, the Tabernacle Choir singing that every Sunday, that is so beautiful. I love thinking of it as a prayer and a part of worship.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 14:51 Yeah. And then you’ll find places in the Psalms that just speak to you in those times when you desperately need peace and reading beautiful chapters like 2 Nephi 2 or 2 Nephi 9, these doctrinal discourse is not, your brain just isn’t in a space to do that. But then you’ve got the pleadings, the way that it evokes and describes our own sentiments. And if you go to the Book of Mormon, you’ve got 2 Nephi 4, the second half of that, which many have called Nephi’s Psalm and he’s mourning, and then he turns to rejoicing. And you can see this progression that it’s pulling us, meeting us where we are, and then helping us express our needs, and then expressing confidence in the Lord. And it helps us walk through the grieving process. And I would say, if you don’t have places you can go when you are devastated, when you are unable to connect the more cerebral portions of thinking about the gospel, find a favorite Psalm and just let David’s own angst, let the Psalmist’s own sense of the challenges of mortality, because they felt it too.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 16:03 And then think of this temple sacrifice and think of the Psalm as a backdrop. You are bringing and offering to the Lord in your own weakness and brokenness and you have this pure lamb there, and you’re offering the lamb, and the tension of that, and then the tension builds, and then it resolves into this triumphant. The Lord has accepted your offering. He sees you. He loves you. He accepts you as his own and think of this full bodied experience. And then I think that can help us think about our own sacrament meeting worship, Sunday worship, but also our own temple worship in a little bit different ways.
Hank Smith: 16:40 Shon, let me ask you something, would you say for our listeners, this is something that if… We’ve had a couple of guests say this, that a lot of this was not meant to be read. It was meant to be heard. Is that how it is with the Psalms? When I’m reading this week, should I be reading out loud for my own ears to hear the words? Do you think that makes a difference?
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 17:01 Well, what we should really do is have you sing it out loud as you… Yes. So the ideas are beautiful, but it’s the beauty of the expression. So there’s a few Psalms that are what are called acrostics, where you can either start with the same letter every time, or it can spell something with the first letter, or sometimes it’ll work through the alphabet. That helps people remember, because it was this very, not always reading things, but remembering and then performing them in the place. But it also just creates this beautiful, poetic, repetition, where it has power as you speak it out loud. And this is the King James version. As most of us are a little biased towards the King James version. It is so poetically beautiful, but it can also help to read other English translations as well, and just hear things a little bit differently. And you may have your own favorite version that you find.
John Bytheway: 17:59 Everything you just said reminds me of a really nice paragraph from the Come, Follow Me manual. It says as believers today, all over the world, we still use these words in our worship of God. The writers of the Psalms seem to have had a window into our souls, and seem to have found a way to express how we feel about God, what we worry about, and how we find peace. And what you had said about these Psalms, that’s a great paragraph. This does talk about what we worry about. The variety we’re going to see in these is really interesting.
John Bytheway: 18:33 Another thing that the manual gives us, I love it when you’re giving me a way to read it. Not just read it again, but read it and look for something. The Come, Follow Me manual for individuals and families says watch for the following. Write down what you discover. Invitations to trust the Lord in the Psalms, words that describe the Lord in the Psalms, words that describe the peace, strength and other blessings the Lord provides, and words that describe those who trust the Lord. I thought what a great way to look at it and to take it apart and see all of those different things. That was a good recommendation.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 19:12 Love that. Before we start looking at some individual Psalms, let me give you some things that are structural and overview kinds of things, what we’re seeing in the book of Psalms. So first, let me read this statement by a biblical scholar. The book of Psalms is unique in the Bible, because it is a collection of literature, of prayer, praise and meditation. If the Bible’s narrative materials relate what God has done, and the prophetic literature reports what God has said, the Psalms present the response of the people to the acts and words of God. So we should be able to connect to this and feel it because this is how we feel as we interact in mortality with all of our weakness, with the divine with our Heavenly Father. As a book of the people, the book of Psalms has been especially valued for both public worship and private devotion among Jews and Christians. That comes from the anchor Bible dictionary.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 20:08 There are five main sections in the book of Psalms, which is known as Tehillim in the Hebrew. If you think about those five divisions, traditionally then, that would mirror the five books of the Pentateuch or the Torah, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Psalms one through 41 division 1, 42 through 72 division two, if you like marking things in your scriptures or whatever. Psalm 73 through 89 is three, 90 through 106, and then 107 through 150, those are the five divisions, and each of them end fascinatingly enough with a short, what is known as a doxology, a hymn of praise. It’s just very short. You can find that in 41, 72, 89 and 106 and then Psalms 150 provides the concluding doxology for the fifth section, and for all of Psalms. It’s beautifully organized and that is maybe unnecessarily detail-oriented, but those kinds of things can help as you’re reading through the Psalms and looking for that organizational pattern.
Hank Smith: 21:15 They didn’t just throw a bunch of hymns together saying, “Yeah, just put them in there.” They put them into five specific sections.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 21:21 They organized this. Who wrote the Psalms would be a question we should ask. There are superscriptions above many of the Psalms, some of those may have been added later. And so, they are of interest. David was a Psalmist. Did David write all the Psalms? No, he was a Psalmist. And so, we have in the Psalms a record of the kinds of things that he wrote, and things that he wrote, but not all of them are written by David. 73 are ascribed to him, 12 to someone who’s mentioned in 1 Chronicles 16. I was just reading from 1 Chronicle 16 with you, to Asoph, two to Solomon, one to Moses, that’s Psalm 90. And then there’s a bunch of unknown ones.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 22:06 If you go to 2 Samuel 23, you can read a Psalm of David. So right there in the scriptural account, you’re reading through, and it’s a history, it’s a storyline. And then pause and hear. It’s like Nephi’s Psalm, right, where you’re reading through, and all of a sudden Nephi breaks into song or into this beautiful poetic language. And so, that I just wanted to give you a little bit of overview of what we’re looking at here with the Psalms. Three most quoted books in the New Testament, Isaiah, Deuteronomy and Psalms. Jesus loved the Psalms.
John Bytheway: 22:43 Oh, can I bring up something right there? That’s actually one of the verses that says to look at in the manual, and I have appreciated this when I’ve taught New Testament, because what you just said, I think that’s an aha. They’re referred to a lot. Look at in the last chapter of Luke. Okay. So here’s the resurrected Christ, Luke 24:42. “They gave him a piece of a broiled fish and of an honeycomb, and he took it, and did eat before them.” Verse 44, “And he said unto them, these are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses and in the prophets and in the Psalms concerning me.” And I love that. Here’s Jesus saying, “Hey, look at the Psalms. I’m in there.” I’m glad you brought that up. Say that again. The ones that are most quoted in the New Testament.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 23:35 Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Psalms.
John Bytheway: 23:39 Wow.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 23:39 And a couple of examples, you just gave us a really nice one. And by the way, they sing a Psalm at the end of the last supper. If you think of singing Psalms to prepare for challenging moments and also to seek to enter into the presence of the Lord, so to speak, and then what Christ is going to be doing shortly thereafter, you can see that he is using music to help prepare others, to help prepare himself for the challenging things ahead. A couple of fascinating places.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 24:07 One of them is Jesus. So John 10:33, Jesus answered them. Is it not written in your law? I said, ye are gods. He is quoting from Psalms right there. If he called them gods under whom the word of God came and the scripture cannot be broken. He’s saying, why are you criticizing me for calling myself the Son of God, if the Psalms themselves. And so, he’s using the Psalms to support what he’s teaching that I’m the Son of God. So why are you critiquing me that I’m declaring that I’m the Son of God? If your very own scriptures say, ye are Gods. Don’t take up stones to throw them at me.
John Bytheway: 24:43 Is that Psalms 82-
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 24:45 It’s 82:6
John Bytheway: 24:46 82:6. “I have said, ye are gods. And all of you are children of the most high God.”
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 24:55 And he’s saying, “Why are you bothering me for talking about being the Son of God if your own scriptures call all of you, the children of God.” Which is pretty fascinating and fascinating for us as Latter-day Saints to consider that message there. Because there are certainly those who might critique some of the way we think of ourselves as the children of God.
Hank Smith: 25:15 I was going to mention, I loved how you said Jesus loves the Psalms, because this is the same Lord who July 1830, the church has been around for a whole two months, three months calls on Emma Smith to create a book of hymns. It’s the same Jesus. He said, “You know what we need in my church, we need songs. We need music.”
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 25:40 We know God loves music because of the way it resonates with us. And we, as his children, were built that way. And I don’t know that we fully know why, but we are built to love and be changed by and be comforted by and be strengthened by these kinds of things. John, you talked about the song that you sing. There’s an arrangement by Dan Forrest, who’s a more current composer. I heard somebody sing it in church and I fell in love with it. And then my poor kids are like, “Dad, you got to stop listening to that song.” It just spoke to me. It just comforted me.
John Bytheway: 26:15 I think of a Book of Mormon reference when in Alma 5, he was chief judge. He steps down. I got to go talk to my own people. He’s saying, “Do you remember, I’m paraphrasing when you were first felt to sing the song of redeeming love? Can you feel so now?” It’s like, there was a time when you just wanted to sing. And he seems to be asking, are you sloping upward or sloping downward? And I love that he would compare that to a song. What you felt when you came into this, you wanted to sing. Do you feel that way now? Reminded me of that.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 26:52 That really is great. When I hear that in Alma 5, I think of the Victoria song that is sung after they’ve come through the red sea. So Miriam’s song and Moses’ song, which is considered very ancient literature, all biblical scholars would say this is some of the earliest literature that we have, God saying, “I have freed you. And then you exalts, in the speaking as Christians, the freedom that comes through the atoning love of Jesus Christ has made us free. Why are you going back? But you won’t stay free. You want to bind yourself back up with chains of pride and rebellion and rejection of the God who is trying to free you. Can you still sing or did you lose the song? You were free and then you burst forth into song. But now you’re back where your heart doesn’t sing anymore.”
John Bytheway: 27:46 Like Alma.
Hank Smith: 27:48 I wrote a book on happiness. It sold dozens of copies. In the research for that book, one thing I found is, one of the habits of the happiest people is they’re deliberate about their music. They’re very deliberate on this music makes me feel this way. They don’t just kind of, “Hey, whatever comes on, I’ll listen to.” It’s, I have a happy playlist. And I even read one study where those who listen to an hour of uplifting music every day, versus those who got an hour long massage every day for 90 days, those two groups, the music group reported being happier, less anxious and less depressed. There’s just something about music that touches us in a way that just nothing else can. I think you’re right, Shon, the Lord loves music. It rings true to our souls. There’s something inside of us that maybe even remembers our heavenly home when we hear the language of music.
John Bytheway: 28:46 Yeah. I feel like music is an otherworldly thing. It’s from someplace else. It can do everything we’ve just been talking about. I love what you had said, Shon about, it’s a universal language and we all unite together at the beginning of a meeting. It’s a uniting thing when we can all sing the same song together.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 29:06 That idea of praying unitedly and there has to be this unity of feeling, a unity of heart, and thinking of myself sitting in a worship, a sacrament worship service, and maybe there’s a neighbor from a few houses down, who I’m not close with, but then he cares about the same things I care about. There’s a five-year-old, who’s singing at the same time and the community of God joining together, putting it all aside, and we are of one heart and one mind, and the way that can change us, I think that’s what the Psalms are trying to accomplish.
Hank Smith: 29:41 Oh, I just remember one of my high school teachers saying, “Who here loves movies?” And we all raised our hands and he said, “It’s not movies that you love. It’s music.” You watch a movie without the music, Harry Potter without the music, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, all of these movies-
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 29:58 So true.
Hank Smith: 29:59 … speak to our souls not necessarily because of the movie, because of the music.
John Bytheway: 30:04 I watched a YouTube the other day or had it going while I was cleaning up my office of John Williams movie soundtrack classics that he had written Raiders of the Lost Ark comes up and you’re [sings along], and then Star Wars and all the ones you’ve mentioned and brings back all those, some of them some triumphant feelings and everything else we’re talking about.
Hank Smith: 30:26 Beautiful. Thanks for letting us go off there, Shon for a minute.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 30:30 I love it. I love it. So fun. Before we actually, and we should dig into some of these Psalms, the text, but before we do that, just one other thing I need to just communicate here. And that is that there are different kinds of Psalms that are here in the Tehillim. They’re for different purposes. They were for different times and different needs. And so, let me just give a list of the different kinds that you can find, and then you could recognize them when they’re there and say, “This might be more useful for me in a certain kind of setting.” So Psalms of lament or prayer, and these are powerful. We’ve already talked of them. There’s this threefold movement of expressing vulnerably how I feel. When we’ll look at Psalm 22 in a little bit, and when Christ quotes it, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 31:23 He’s quoting from the first lineup, but that first section of a Psalm of lament, that then moves into a plea for help, and then an expression of confidence that God will help almost like he already has. And you can think of these, again with temple sacrifice. You’re bringing the sacrifice, the death of the sacrifice as visceral, literally visceral of an experience as that would’ve been. And that turns into a plea, and then you’re pouring out, or the priest is pouring out, the blood upon the altar, but then that acceptance of that sacrifice by the Lord. So you can see that mirror there. Psalms of lament, Psalms of praise is another grouping. Psalms of Thanksgiving, and those are similar, but the Psalm of Thanksgiving comes after the blessings have been received and you’re coming up to the temple to praise the Lord in song. Royal Psalms are sung on specific feast days.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 32:19 And there are good scholars who believe that the Psalms actually hold echoes of earlier, what might have been closer to our understanding of Melchizedek priesthood temple worship that you can find embedded in the Psalms, the concept of the anointing of the king, of the death and resurrection of the king, and potentially even of the death and resurrection of God, that those may be embedded that earlier temple worship that existed for ancient Israelites. Certainly, that’s debatable. Not everybody would believe that, but some have proposed that possibility. Songs of Zion and then these liturgies. And you started, Hank, it was really fun. John’s clean hands and pure heart. But many believe this was a temple recommend. Well, who’s going to ascend? and well those with clean hands and pure heart. And you’re singing that as you ascend, potentially those temple steps.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 33:17 And for those of you who have stood on the Southern temple steps that have been excavated, they’re in Jerusalem. You’re walking up those uneven steps that mirror ascending a mountain, and you’re singing, “Well, who’s going to ascend into the mountain of the Lord. And you’re preparing those with clean hands and a pure heart.” And you’ve probably, depending on the different timing, have had a ritual bath. You’ve immersed yourself in a Mikva and you’re then ascending, maybe carrying the lamb. Is my heart pure? Are my hands clean? Am I ready for this? And there might even be times that there’s a call and response sometimes with the Levitical singers, that one side will sing something and then another side will respond. So there’s all kinds of different moments that these Psalms would’ve been powerful.
Hank Smith: 34:04 Wow. That’s great. Shon, I want you to break into song here at any moment. I’m just feeling it.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 34:12 I had a really fun experience where I was talking with Psalms sitting next to Yahosh Bonner. And of those of you who have heard any of the Bonners and I said, “Hey, could you sing that?” And he just, and I thought, “oh, that’s what the Psalms are supposed to sound like.” So you were saying, should I read these aloud? And I’m like, “Yeah, but have Yahosh Bonner come over and have him sing some Psalms to you. And then that’ll give you the sense of it, I think. Maybe it behooves all of us, I don’t know, that we’re all suited for this. I don’t know that I am, but to be a little bit of Psalm writers and express ourselves through journaling or whatever the case may be. Let me just read you a few statements from Joseph Smith.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 34:56 It’s not to music, but he’s writing in his journal. “Oh, how marvelous are thy works oh Lord and I thank thee for thy mercy unto me thy servant. Oh Lord, save me and thy kingdom for Christ’s sake. Amen.” Now that’s a prayer, but that’s beautiful poetic language. Here’s another one. “My heart,” this is 1835. “My heart is full of desire today to be blessed of the God of Abraham with prosperity until I will be able to pay all my debt. For it is the delight of my soul to be honest. Oh Lord, thou knowest right well. Help me, and I will give to the poor.” Isn’t that beautiful? The expression of the heart. One more from Joseph Smith. “I say in my heart, I will trust in thy goodness and mercy forever for thy wisdom and benevolence, oh Lord, is unbounded and beyond the comprehension of men, and all of thy ways cannot be found out.”
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 35:45 So we talk about David the Psalmist, here’s Joseph, the Psalmist. There’s a beautiful one. If you want to go to October 1973 general conference report, read Elder McConkie’s Psalm that he writes. I’ll just read the last couple of lines. “Oh, praise ye the Lord. Seek ye the Lord. Seek him who rules on high. Seek him whose will we know. Exalt his name and seek his face. Oh, seek ye the Lord.” And then if I can just do one more from President Hinckley. This is beautiful. And this was performed at his funeral.
Hank Smith: 36:21 Yeah, I remember this one.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 36:22 “What is this thing that men call death? This quiet passing in the night? ’Tis not the end but genesis of better worlds and greater light.” And those of you who remember with fondness President Hinckley, can imagine him writing this, “O God, touch Thou my aching heart. Calm my troubled, haunting fears. Let hope and faith transcendent, pure, give strength and peace beyond my tears. There is not death, but only change with recompense for vict’ry won, The gift of him who loved all men, the Son of God, the Holy One.” So what would the expression of my heart look like? What would the expression of your heart look like in the Psalms?
Hank Smith: 37:01 So we’re encouraging everyone, give it a try, get your journal out and see if the pen of heaven doesn’t come to you. I know it has for me before. Shon, you’re reminding me that I haven’t done it in a long time. I haven’t sat and written out a prayer, because it turns into a Psalm.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 37:16 Good. What would you like to do? Hank and John? What should we do next? Do you want to look at some powerful Psalms?
John Bytheway: 37:23 Yeah, let’s do. Let’s start going through some.
Hank Smith: 37:26 This is the first third of the book. We can’t look at all today, so we’re counting on you to show us where we need to highlight.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 37:33 One of the things I really want to do is spend some time in Psalm 22. We’ll get there eventually. And then, we’ve got to spend some time in Psalm 23, of course. We’ve already talked. We danced around Psalm 23 a little bit, because it’s such a powerful one for so many including me and I assume both of you. Psalm 24, we’ve already referred to that one, but we should read that together again. There are some sweet spots in the Psalms. And let me just mention some of these to you. And then let’s just read some of them, enjoy reading the Psalms together. So the theme, the Lord will protect, defend and deliver his people. Psalm 4 has beautiful messages, Psalm 5, Psalm 7. So let’s just go to Psalm 4. John, why don’t we have you do verses 1, 3, 5 and 6 from Psalm 4.
John Bytheway: 38:24 “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put your trust in the Lord. There be many that say who will shew us any good. Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.”
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 38:54 So you can see this connection with, I have a need. I’m bringing and expressing that need before thee, and I’m expressing confidence in the Lord. And then this concept of seeking after the face of the Lord in his holy temple. If you think of when we pray beside our beds, we do this as well. We demarcate sacred time and sacred space, and we use the sacred name of the Son of God to enter into the presence of God. And you could almost picture him hiding behind a veil or hidden behind a veil. And you could think of the veil of Solomon’s temple. Think of the brother of Jared, where he’s praying, and then he looks up, and God’s hand pierces through that veil. And he’s like, “Whoa, God has a hand? If he has a hand, he must have a body. If he’s willing to show me his hand, maybe he’s willing to show all of himself to me.”
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 39:52 And then he pushes through the veil and stands in the presence of God. It’s very, very powerful. And this is what we’re doing here. This is prayer that you’re seeking after the presence of God, and this symbolizes all of our prayers. Maybe not the ones where I’m just exhausted, laying in bed like a cocoon. Maybe, maybe not, although I think God probably is compassionate even in those moments, but where we’re truly seeking to come to know God, and you can see that God will come and protect you and save you. Why don’t we go to Psalm 6? “The Lord will give them mercy and forgiveness.” And Hank, John read it really poetically. So, no pressure, Hank.
Hank Smith: 40:35 I’ll do my best. I’ll do my best.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 40:38 Do verses 1-9. And then those that are listening, I hope you’ll just enjoy some scripture being read here.
Hank Smith: 40:44 “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O Lord, how long? Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake. For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.”
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 41:35 Oh wow. I mean, it’s got to be a new favorite spot. That is just… The next time you’re just beside yourself because something difficult has happened, you’ve had a disagreement with someone that you care about, or you’re in the midst of conflict and you’re being misjudged, or maybe not misjudged correctly judged or whatever the case may be, or something financially has gone wrong. Something’s broken, so to speak. This expresses the heart cry before God.
John Bytheway: 42:10 I did a study once of all the different places we find that question at the end of verse three. How long? It’s not, I don’t believe in you anymore. It’s, you’re there, but how long do I have to go through this? Can you think of some of them with me?
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 42:25 Well, you’ve got Joseph Smith.
John Bytheway: 42:26 Yeah. That’s a Joseph Smith Liberty jail. How long? Where’s the pavilion that covers the hiding place in that. When Isaiah receives his call, Alma in prison, how long? When Isaiah receives his call and hey, how long is this going to be this hard? Well, until the earth is wasted without inhabitant. That’s not a very good answer. Those are fun to see. And I like that the question is not, why have you abandoned me? Or, is God real? It’s I’m going through something hard. How long do I have to go through? I think there’s a testimony in there. Do you hear what I’m saying? It’s not that I don’t believe in God anymore. It’s just, how long will you help me through this?
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 43:09 Yeah. And, in fact, how often is this? I mean, it really does reflect our issues. How many times have you been asked to comfort someone? Someone was in need of comfort. And really, the question of the soul is when? How long? It’s a timing thing. And you have confidence that this is all going to work out, but that person is in the valley of the shadow of death and they just can’t see it. And that’s the cry. It’s not that I don’t believe. I’m trying to believe. How long is this going to last? Can I handle this? And so, to hear that reflected in Joseph Smith’s cry to hear that reflected in the Psalmist cry over and over again is really powerful.
John Bytheway: 43:50 Yeah. It’s great.
Hank Smith: 43:51 Shon, sometimes I think we say in our heads, oh, I can’t complain to God. It’s sinning to complain to God. But just read a Psalm then, because they complain enough for you. This is getting old. I love that. It waxeth old because of my enemies. God, this is getting old. I don’t like this. So if you feel like, oh I could never complain to God. Just go ahead and read a Psalm and just say, I’m just reading scripture, because wow.
John Bytheway: 44:15 Yeah. That opening paragraph in the manual, this is a window into our souls. How we feel, what we worry about.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 44:21 Let me take just a little bit of a different tact and approach for just a moment. And then maybe let’s move to Psalm 22. There is both in Isaiah, you’re saying, if you think that we’re not supposed to complain, ever read the Psalms, or you could read some prophetic literature from the Hebrew Bible. Jeremiah, he’s feeling it, and he talks to God. He’s not like, “Well, I got to be careful.” He’s like, “No, God knows how I feel. And I’m going to express myself here.” And there’s something healing about that. There’s something healthy about God helping us work through the mourning process. And it’s not, no, you got to shut it down and just put on a smile all the time. God is the one that he can hear you. He already knows what’s in there, so let it out with God.
Hank Smith: 45:03 Yeah. He already knows. Might as well talk about it.
John Bytheway: 45:06 You know what that reminds me of is, some of you might know brother John L. Lund, he’s a marriage family guy, right?
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 45:14 Yeah, John Lund.
John Bytheway: 45:15 And one of the things he talks about is that we tend to take our frustrations to our family and our love to God. We only talk to him about how much we love him. And he says, can we switch that and take our love to our families and take our frustrations to God, which is such an interesting idea is what we’re talking about right now. Take your love to your family. Take your frustrations to God and letting him help you with them. That’s what these sound like.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 45:43 And wow, you see that here and you see a mourning because of sin. These are the ones that are often ascribed to David, where he just, “I have sins nigh unto death, please give me a right heart again. Please heal me.” Now, let me hit a little bit of a different topic. We’ve talked a lot about how God connects with our hearts. There are a few verses that I want to point out where, and we’ve talked about the ancient temple imagery here, that, and the way these were used in the temple. But there is some really powerful hand imagery in Psalms where God is reaching out. And if you think of an image where God is reaching out to grasp you and pull you into a relationship and save you maybe from drowning or whatever the case may be. Let me point to just a few of these powerful verses.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 46:35 This may get us a little bit out of our first third of Psalms. Look at Psalm 48:10. Let’s look at that one for a moment and look at how they’re understanding the relationship with God. Psalm 48:10, “According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth:” And then this moment “thy right hand is full of righteousness.” So notice how it’s saying God blesses and lifts. He has a right hand that is full. And in Hebrew, the letter kaf is shaped like this. And it’s also the poem of the hand. And the idea is that hand is full of blessings of power, of strength, and then it turns over and pours those blessings out upon God’s people. That’s the first image, thy right hand is full of righteousness. Let me show you another one in Psalm 73:23.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 47:41 “Nevertheless, I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.” Now God, whose hand is full of strength, power, goodness, and righteousness is reaching out and holding us by our right hand. And he’s pulling us into … So the Supreme power, so to speak of all things, the one who can hold all things in his hands, then meets us face-to-face and holds us, and think of this beautiful image of holding hands with someone you love, or you’re maybe an older person holding the hand of a little child and walking with them and keeping them safe and communicating your love, and this beautiful imagery in verse 23, you have held me by my right hand. This is how well the Psalmist knows God.
Hank Smith: 48:35 What Psalm is that again, Shon?
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 48:37 That’s Psalm 73:23. I think we’re now out of our first third. Just go one Psalm over. Let’s just do one more. Psalm 74:11. This is a little bit of a different approach. And this is someone saying I want to restore that relationship with you and look what he’s saying. Well, let’s start verse 10. “O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?” This is the, how long question. I want to restore this relationship. I want this restored. And look at the way he describes this, “Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom.” So the image here is God, give me your hand again. Let me return to that relationship, that covenant relationship with you. Really evocative language, if you think about relationship and connection and this covenant of love that exists between God and his people. I love what the Psalmist is doing there.
Hank Smith: 49:37 Give us those three one more time. What are they again?
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 49:39 So take a look at Psalm 48:10, 73:23 and 74:11. In fact, let me just, since we’re talking about it, this is not Isaiah, of course, that we’re talking about. We’re talking about the Psalms, but let me just mention to you the powerful one that we’re most familiar with from Isaiah, which is, “I have engraven you upon the palms of my hands” anciently there were those who were not necessarily Israelites, but there are others who would put the name or the image, something representing the God they worshiped on their hand. So they could show that so people could look at that. They could show it, here’s who I’m devoted to. And God seems to be reversing that I am eternally devoted to you. And that symbolism of your name is on my hand. I am devoted to you. It reverses almost that relationship. And then let me just read a little statement about this idea of the hand that I’ve been referring to.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 50:45 So we’ll point to this in Isaiah, and then we’ll leave this hand imagery topic alone for a little bit. But if you look in Isaiah 49:15-16, first of all, the nursing mother may forget, yet I will not forget. And sometimes we just take that as well. Mothers love so much that they wouldn’t forget, but there’s something more there. Physically speaking, the nursing mother cannot forget. It’s physically painful for the nursing mother to be separated from her nursing child. And so, God starts by saying, I am pained like a mother. If a nursing mother is pained by her separation from her child, more so, eternally more so am I pained by my separation from you. The nursing mother might forget. I will never forget you. I’ve engraven you upon the palm of my hand. In the Hebrew Bible, when someone is consecrated to an office, what we would say they’re set apart to an office.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 51:40 The English word that the King James version gives is they’re consecrated. They’re set apart, that kind of thing. But the Hebrew doesn’t say that, actually that’s just the way we translate it. The act is to male etihad to fill the hand. I filled the hand of the priest, and that’s what’s happening in the Hebrew. So the idea is God is placing in our hands, his power, his strength, his blessing. He’s filling our hands, maybe with symbols, with signs. So if it’s a priest, maybe you’ve got consecrated oil, maybe you’ve got the blood of the sacrifice, the pieces of the sacrifice, that which you need to do to function. And so, if you think of being set apart, then those hands are pouring out upon you, blessings, power and authority, and you are receiving that so that then you can pour it out upon others. And so, we’re receiving power from God and then pouring it out.
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 52:33 So let me read this from a non Latter-day Saint biblical scholar. To consecrate means to fill the hand, especially which that is the sign and symbol of office. I.e. To fill the hand with a scepter was to consecrate to the office of king. So you’re king now. And what do I do? I put in your hand, the symbol of the office so that people know who you are, what authority you have. To fill the hand with certain parts of sacrifice was to set apart for the office of priest and to confirm their right to offer both gifts and sacrifices to God. Whenever the word refers to official appointment or separation to a work or dignity, it is the sovereign act of God. The accompanying symbolic act was the filling of the hand of the person so appointed with the sign, which marked his office. May feel like I’ve gone off on a tangent, and I maybe have a little bit, but I want to go back to this image of Jehovah saying, “I’ve engraven you, my hand is filled with you.”
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 53:27 And then when he drinks that bitter cup in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross, his hands are filled and then he drinks it, that’s what he needs to do to express his eternal and infinite love, his healing love for us, that then will conquer death and sorrow and sin. There’s all kinds of things embedded in this hand imagery. My right hand is full of goodness. The right hand of God is full of goodness. And you’re going to grasp me in this loving connection by my right hand. And there’s this transference of love, of power, of authority, of a covenant relationship.
John Bytheway: 54:06 Is that a study Bible?
Dr. Shon Hopkin: 54:08 The bulliger B-U-L-L-I-G-E-R number in scripture, so it’s the work that’s talking about symbolic language in the Hebrew Bible. That’s page 145. So that’s where you can find that if you’re interested in going and doing some studying and looking that up.
Hank Smith: 54:26 It’s just, this is mind-blowing stuff.
John Bytheway: 54:32 Please join us for part two of this podcast.