Lord’s Day 17: He Has Overcome Death

Catechism and Psalter

“Up from the grave he arose,” proclaims Robert Lowry’s gospel hymn, “with a mighty triumph o’er His foes!  He arose a Victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever with His saints to reign.  He arose!  He arose!  Hallelujah!  Christ arose!”

After commemorating the death of our Savior on Good Friday, what a joy it is to celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday.  Lest our worship be merely a time of superficial festivities, however, it is well to realize the critical importance of the resurrection and its impact on each of our lives.  That’s the task undertaken by the Heidelberg Catechism in the single question and answer of Lord’s Day 17—our focus in today’s installment of this URC Psalmody series.

45 Q.  How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?

A.  First, by his resurrection he has overcome death,
so that he might make us share in the righteousness
he won for us by his death.

Second, by his power we too
are already resurrected to a new life.

Third, Christ’s resurrection
is a guarantee of our glorious resurrection.

Selected Songs

For today’s study I’ve selected four songs, which roughly correspond to the three parts of the Catechism’s answer (two songs for the second part).  Although many excellent Easter hymns could be noted here—my own personal favorite being Psalter Hymnal #358, “The Strife Is O’er”—I’ve chosen to build today’s collection from the inspired words of the psalms.

267, “All Who, with Heart Confiding” (Psalm 125)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI, and Grace URC in Dunnville, ON)

“First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the righteousness he won for us by his death.”  It is hard to reconcile the psalms that speak of “the righteous” with the knowledge of our human depravity, until we realize that the righteousness being spoken of is ultimately Christ’s.  Thus, it makes sense that Psalm 125 should praise those who “trust in the LORD” as those who are truly upright in heart.

All who, with heart confiding,
Depend on God alone,
Like Zion’s mount abiding,
Shall ne’er be overthrown.
Like Zion’s city, bounded
By guarding mountains broad,
His people are surrounded
Forever by their God.

No scepter of oppression
Shall hold unbroken sway,
Lest unto base transgression
The righteous turn away.
Thy favor be imparted
To godly men, O Lord;
Bless are that are purehearted,
The good with good reward.

The men who falsehood cherish,
Forsaking truth and right,
With wicked men shall perish;
God will their sin requite.
From sin Thy saints defending,
Their joy, O Lord, increase,
With mercy never ending
And everlasting peace.

125, “O Lord, Thou Hast Ascended” (Psalm 68)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“Second, by his power we too are already resurrected to a new life.”  Its first line might seem to place it more squarely within the category of Christ’s ascension, but this excerpt from Psalm 68 illustrates with stunning clarity of the new life to which we have been raised.

Blest be the Lord who daily
Our heavy burden bears,
The God of our salvation,
Who for His people cares.
Our God is near to help us,
Our God is strong to save;
The Lord alone is able
To ransom from the grave.

All glory, might, and honor
Ascribe to God on high;
His arm protects His people
Who on His power rely.
Forth from Thy holy dwelling
Thine awful glories shine;
Thou strengthenest Thy people;
Unending praise be Thine.

160, “Lord God of Hosts, in Mercy”

Unable to choose between Psalter Hymnal 125 and 160 to match this portion of the Catechism, I ultimately decided to include both.  Number 160, an excerpt from Psalm 84, is chock-full of beautiful imagery as it portrays the transcending comfort of the Christian life.

In Thy blest courts to worship,
My God, a single day
Is better than a thousand
While far from Thee I stray.
Though in a lowly station,
The service of my Lord
I choose above all pleasures
That sinful ways afford.

A sun and shield forever
Is God, the Lord Most High,
To those who walk uprightly
No good will He deny.
His saints, His grace receiving,
Shall soon His glory see;
O Lord of hosts, most blessed
Are they that trust in Thee.

24, “Lord, Hear the Right” (Psalm 17)

“Third, Christ’s resurrection is a guarantee of our glorious resurrection.”  At first glance Psalm 17 might seem like an unlikely choice for a resurrection-themed song.  Although it begins as a desolate lament, however, it ends with the assurance only believers can possess: Our citizenship is in heaven.  The Psalter Hymnal’s versification of this passage is especially poignant:

Defend me from the men of pride,
Whose portion is below,
Who, with life’s treasures satisfied,
No better portion know;
They, with earth’s joys and wealth content,
Must leave them all when life is spent.

When I in righteousness at last
Thy glorious face shall see,
When all the weary night is past,
And I awake with Thee
To view the glories that abide,
Then, then I shall be satisfied.

With what better words could we end this post than those of Paul in I Corinthians 15:50-57 (ESV)?

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Behold! I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’  ‘O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


1 Response to “Lord’s Day 17: He Has Overcome Death”

  1. 1 Lord’s Day 18: There for Our Good | URC Psalmody Trackback on May 1, 2013 at 11:50 pm

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