We’ve been progressing through the Heidelberg Catechism here on URC Psalmody since the beginning of this year, and now we come to two of the most powerful and beloved Lord’s Days in the entire confession. Lord’s Day 9 explains what it means to believe in God the Father; Lord’s Day 10 goes on to consider God’s creation and providence in more detail. Today, the first of these.
26 Q. What do you believe when you say: “I believe in God the Father, almighty, maker of heaven and earth”?
A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who out of nothing created heaven and earth
and everything in them,
who still upholds and rules them
by his eternal counsel and providence,
is my God and Father
because of Christ his Son.
I trust him so much that I do not doubt
he will provide
whatever I need
for body and soul,
and he will turn to my good
whatever adversity he sends me
in this sad world.
He is able to do this because he is almighty God;
he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.
Where can we find more fitting words for this wondrous confession than in the psalms? Countless verses from the psalms, like the Catechism, connect the objective reality of God’s existence with our personal awareness of him as Creator and Father—think of phrases like “O LORD, our Lord” (Psalm 8:1) and “O God, you are my God” (Psalm 63:1). Here are just a few selections from the Psalter Hymnal that echo the themes of this Lord’s Day.
183, “O Come before the Lord, our King” (Psalm 95)
“[I believe] that the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them…” Psalm 95, one of the most familiar songs of praise in the Psalter, brings out many of the points of Lord’s Day 9, but most specifically God’s might as manifested in creation:
Almighty power the Lord maintains,
Exalted over all He reigns,
He holds the valleys in His hand,
He makes the mighty mountains stand;
To Him belong both land and sea,
Creator of the world is He.
The natural response to our realization of God’s greatness is a call to worship.
O come and let us worship now,
Before our Maker let us bow;
We are His sheep and He our God,
He feeds our souls in pastures broad;
He safely leads us in the way;
O come and heed His voice today.
260, “To the Hills I Lift Mine Eyes” (Psalm 120)
“…[He] still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence…” Appealing to God’s power as manifested in creation, Psalm 121 assures its singers that the Lord is our ever-watchful Guide and Helper.
To the hills I lift mine eyes;
Whence shall help for me arise?
From the Lord shall come mine aid,
Who the heaven and earth has made.
He will guide through dangers all,
Will not suffer thee to fall;
He who safe His people keeps
Slumbers not and never sleeps.
102, “O God, Give Thou Ear to My Plea” (Psalm 55)
“I trust him so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul…” The footnote in the Catechism itself points us to Psalm 55 as a prooftext for this bold statement, and for good reason. The third and fourth verses of this setting afford the believer unspeakable comfort:
Nay, soul, call on God all the day;
The Lord for thy help will appear;
At eve, morn, and noon humbly pray,
And He thy petition will hear.
Thy burden now cast on the Lord,
And He shall Thy weakness sustain;
The righteous who trust in His word
Unmoved shall forever remain.
244, “Thou, Lord, Hast Dealt Well with Thy Servant” (Psalm 119)
“…and he will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world…” Due to its length, perhaps we aren’t always as familiar with Psalm 119 as with the other psalms. But if we take the time to study it, we’ll find that this mammoth “wisdom psalm” brims over with sage words for the growing Christian. This selection, from verses 65-72, sets forth in simple language some of the benefits of divinely-ordered affliction in stanzas 2 and 4.
Before my affliction I wandered,
But now Thy good Word I obey;
O Thou who art holy and gracious,
Now teach me Thy statutes, I pray.
Affliction has been for my profit,
That I to Thy statutes might hold;
Thy law to my soul is more precious
Than thousands of silver and gold.
137, “In Doubt and Temptation” (Psalm 73)
“He is able to do this because he is almighty God.” The latter half of Psalm 73 counters the weakness and faithlessness of our human nature with the constancy and steadfastness of our mighty God. This versification captures the idea beautifully with a well-chosen refrain: “My God, I will extol Thee and ever bless Thy Name; each day will I give thanks to Thee and all Thy praise proclaim.”
In doubt and temptation I rest, Lord, in Thee;
My hand is in Thy hand, Thou carest for me;
My soul with Thy counsel through life Thou wilt guide,
And afterward make me in glory abide.
In glory Thou only my portion shalt be,
On earth for none other I long but for Thee;
My flesh and heart falter, but God is my stay,
The strength of my spirit, my portion for aye.
All they that forsake Thee must perish and die,
But near to my Savior most blessed am I;
I make Thee my refuge, my Lord and my God;
Thy grace and Thy glory I publish abroad.
205, “The Tender Love a Father Has” (Psalm 103)
“He desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.” No psalm speaks more eloquently of the fatherhood of God than Psalm 103. Psalter Hymnal number 205 focuses specifically on this section:
The tender love a father has
For all his children dear,
Such love the Lord bestows on them
Who worship Him in fear.
The Lord remembers we are dust,
And all our frailty knows;
Man’s days are like the tender grass,
And as the flower he grows.
The flower is withered by the wind
That smites with blighting breath;
So man is quickly swept away
Before the blast of death.
Unchanging is the love of God,
From age to age the same,
Displayed to all who do His will
And reverence His name.
Those who His gracious covenant keep
The Lord will ever bless;
Their children’s children shall rejoice
To see His righteousness.
What a glorious assurance is ours! How great are the riches of God’s mercy toward us, as this Lord’s Day describes! How marvelous it is that the almighty Lord of creation “is my God and Father because of Christ his Son”!