Welcome to the third installment of URC Psalmody’s Heidelberg Catechism series, in which we utilize this historic confession to connect the truths of Scripture to the music of the Psalter Hymnal. Today’s study brings us to Lord’s Day 3, a concise summary of man’s creation and fall into sin.
6 Q. Did God create man so wicked and perverse?
God created man good and in his own image,
that is, in true righteousness and holiness,
so that he might
truly know God his creator,
love him with all his heart,
and live with him in eternal happiness
for his praise and glory.
7 Q. Then where does man’s corrupt human nature come from?
A. From the fall and disobedience of our first parents,
Adam and Eve, in Paradise.
This fall has so poisoned our nature
that we are born sinners—
corrupt from conception on.
8 Q. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?
A. Yes, unless we are born again,
by the Spirit of God.
13, “Lord, Our Lord, Thy Glorious Name” (Psalm 8)
“God created man good and in his own image.” Psalm 8 begins where any study of Biblical doctrine ought to start: the glory of God. “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!” After describing the wonders of God’s creation in land, sea, and sky, the psalmist turns his attention to the one creature made in the Lord’s very own image: man.
What is man that he should be
Loved and visited by Thee,
Raised to an exalted height,
Crowned with honor in Thy sight!
How great Thy Name!
With dominion crowned he stands
O’er the creatures of Thy hands;
All to him subjection yield
In the sea and air and field.
How great Thy Name!
1, “That Man Is Blest” (Psalm 1)
“God created man…in true righteousness and holiness, so that he might truly know God his Creator, love him with all his heart, and live with him in eternal happiness for his praise and glory.” In its first three verses, Psalm 1 presents the quintessential picture of the righteous man who fulfills these characteristics.
That man is nourished like a tree
Set by the river’s side;
Its leaf is green, its fruit is sure,
And thus his works abide.
“[The] fall has so poisoned our nature that we are born sinners—corrupt from conception on.” Sadly, Psalm 1 also teaches us the nature of the unrighteous, and their eventual fate. “Unless we are born again by the spirit of God,” each one of us falls within this second group.
The wicked like the driven chaff
Are swept from off the land;
They shall not gather with the just,
Nor in the judgment stand.
70, “Thy Tender Mercies, O My Lord” (Psalm 40)
“[W]e are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil…unless we are born again, by the spirit of God.” Psalter Hymnal #70 is a heart-rending excerpt from Psalm 40; the psalmist recognizes the depths of his sin and his desperate need for a Savior. At the same time, his confidence in God resounds throughout this psalm—a confidence that the Christian can share.
Thy tender mercies, O my Lord,
Withhold not, I implore;
But let Thy kindness and Thy truth
Preserve me evermore.
For countless ills have compassed me,
My sinful deeds arise;
Yea, they have overtaken me;
I dare not raise my eyes.
My sins are more than I can count,
My heart has failed for grief;
Be pleased, O Lord, to rescue me,
O haste to my relief.
Be those who seek to hurt my soul
Dismayed and put to flight,
And they themselves be put to shame
Who in my woe delight.
Let all who seek Thee now rejoice,
Yea, glad in Thee abide,
And, loving Thy salvation, say,
The Lord be magnified.
My lowly state and bitter need
The Lord has not forgot;
Thou art my Savior and my help,
Come, Lord, and tarry not.
As we read this section of the Heidelberg Catechism and reflect on the “lowly state and bitter need” of every human being, may our prayer echo the psalmist’s: “Be pleased, O Lord, to rescue me, O haste to my relief.” Thankfully, the Catechism does not end here; it will go on to show us God’s ineffable answer to that prayer. May He be magnified!