Lord’s Day 2: The Law of God Tells Me

Catechism and Psalter

Welcome back to our weekly series celebrating the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism!  Last Wednesday we considered the Catechism’s first Lord’s Day and reflected on a few suggested songs to accompany it.  Today we’ll do the same with Lord’s Day 2.

When studying the Heidelberg Catechism, it might be tempting to stop after its very first question.  We have comfort through Jesus Christ—end of story.  But the Catechism itself reminds us in Q&A 2 that there are, in fact, three things that we must know to live and die in the joy of this comfort: (1) how great our sin and misery are, (2) how we are set free from sin and misery, and (3) how we are to thank God for this deliverance.  Thus, it is critical that we understand the significance not just of Lord’s Day 1, but also of Lord’s Day 2—and each Lord’s Day following it.

3 Q.  How do you come to know your misery?

A.  The law of God tells me.

4 Q.  What does God’s law require of us?

A.  Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22–
You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
This is the great and first commandment.

And a second is like it,
You shall love your neighbor
as yourself.

On these two commandments depend
all the law and the prophets.

5 Q.  Can you live up to all this perfectly?

A.  No.
I have a natural tendency
to hate God and my neighbor.

Suggested Songs

With the second Lord’s Day, we move out of the Catechism’s preface (Q&A 1 & 2) and into its first section: Man’s Misery.  This is never a pleasant topic to discuss, much less to sing; nevertheless, we absolutely must understand our total depravity before our holy God before we can begin to grasp the glories of his salvation.  And if we believe the content of this part of the Catechism, we ought not to be afraid to sing it!

29, “Jehovah’s Perfect Law” (Psalm 19)

Questions 3 and 4 set forth the role of the Law of God, a theme to which the Catechism will return in its third section.  Here, however, the role of the Law is to convict and condemn mankind for his sin.  Although Psalm 19 is primarily a song about the life-giving qualities of the Law of God when obeyed perfectly (“The Lord’s commands are pure,/They light and joy restore”), it also acknowledges man’s depravity and his need for God to cleanse him:

His errors who can know?
Cleanse me from hidden stain;
Keep me from wilful sins,
Nor let them o’er me reign;
And then I upright shall appear
And be from great transgressions clear.

45, “Grace and Truth Shall Mark the Way” (Psalm 25)

(On YouTube)

This paraphrase of Psalm 25 also views the Law of God through the lens of salvation.  Its eight verses present a vivid picture of the human dilemma: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19 ESV).  While the psalmist declares that “grace and truth shall mark the way” in which the Lord leads those who obey his Word, he also feels the corruption of his soul, and pleads:

Turn to me, Thy grace impart,
I am desolate indeed;
Great the troubles of my heart;
Save Thou me, O Lord, I plead.

Look on mine afflicted state,
Freely all my sins forgive;
Mark my foes, their cruel hate;
Keep my soul and let me live.

19, “The God Who Sits Enthroned on High” (Psalm 14)

“I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.”  Let’s face it—Psalm 14 seems awfully depressing.  “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’  They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good” (v. 1 ESV).  Yet this is precisely what the Catechism is trying to teach us: Mankind has rebelled against God.  He naturally tends to hate his Creator and his fellow creatures.  This is the deplorable condition of the human race apart from God.

From heaven the Lord with searching eye
Looked down the sons of men to try,
To see if any understood
And sought for God, the only good.

From righteousness they all depart,
Corrupt are all, and vile in heart;
Yea, every man has evil done;
Not one does good, not even one.


1 Response to “Lord’s Day 2: The Law of God Tells Me”

  1. 1 Lord’s Day 3: Unless We Are Born Again « URC Psalmody Trackback on January 16, 2013 at 7:04 am

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