Week Thirty Three: Psalms 1–2; 8; 19–33; 40; 46
I enjoy reading stories with a beginning, middle, and end. When a book ends in a cliff hanger, I often feel cheated because I want that sense of conclusion. Even a textbook is ordered into chapters and sections that each have a complete structure, with an introduction to the subject, specifics, and then an overview of what I should have learned at the end.
Something that may be difficult as you read the Psalms and Proverbs is that there does not seem to be a beginning, middle, and end. The Psalms and Proverbs chapters are not topical, but often seem to go from one thought to another thought without a lot of organization.
As you read these books of scripture, it may be helpful to remember the topics represented by the acronym PAST – Prophets, Atonement, the Savior, and Truth, as well as the literary devices of parallelism, analogy, symbolism, and time. As you read, you can shape the Psalms and Proverbs into your own personal organization of thoughts and insights.
Try picking a topic or two that are meaningful to you right now. Then, as you read the Psalms, make a list of the verses that apply to that topic. As you read these verses together, you will receive individual spiritual insights that will g you deeper understanding of gospel topics. You may also want to add to your study conference talks that use those verses to gain additional understanding.
For example, in my reading of Psalms 25, 26, and 27, I specifically looked for the gospel topics of mercy and light.
In studying the topic of mercy, the Psalmist gives me these insights:
“Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord…The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.”[i]
This section of the Psalms sounds like a prayer to me. As a matter of fact, when I have gone to the Lord with a contrite heart, I have felt to say similar words and express similar feelings.
What can I learn about meekness from this passage of scripture?
First, since the beginning of time, the Lord has cared for His children with tender mercies and loving kindnesses. Understanding that the Lord will treat me with tender mercies gives me hope during times of trial, including those trials that I have brought upon myself because of my own choices.
One of Elder Bednar’s first talks given in General Conference focused on the phrase “tender mercies of the Lord. He said, “We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live.”[ii] Elder Bednar explored the point of who the Lord chooses to bestow tender mercies on. Is a particular blessing limited to a few or can I personally receive His tender mercies in my life?
“God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added… Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determine whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen.”[iii] So enjoying the tender mercies of the Lord in my life is my choice.
Second, the Lord will guide the meek in judgment and teach the meek his way. If I am meek, then I become teachable. I will listen to him and follow his way rather than my own.
Third, as I learn His way and keep my covenants with Him, the Lord will pardon my iniquity. The hope I receive through meekness is that I will be forgiven of my sins. I can look forward to the day when I will enter the presence of the Lord free from sin because of my meekness.
The Psalmist rejoiced in that understanding: “Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the Lord; therefore I shall not slide… For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth.”[iv]
May we find joy in the Lord this week as we read the Psalms and find personal spiritual insights.
[i] Psalms 25:6-11
[ii] David A. Bednar, “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” GC April 2005.
[iii] David A. Bednar, “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” GC April 2005.
[iv] Psalms 26:1, 3