Lord’s Day 18: There for Our Good

Catechism and Psalter

Although we arrived at the Heidelberg Catechism’s section on Christ’s death and resurrection too late for Easter, the Catechism’s explanation of Christ’s ascension coincides nicely with Ascension Day, which our churches will celebrate next Thursday.  And so, continuing into the eighteenth installment in this URC Psalmody series, we turn tonight to Lord’s Day 18.

46 Q.  What do you mean by saying: ‘He ascended into heaven’?

A.  That Christ,
while his disciples watched,
was lifted up from the earth into heaven
and will be there for our good
until he comes again
to judge the living and the dead.

47 Q.  But isn’t Christ with us until the end of the world as he promised us?

A.  Christ is true man and true God.
In his human nature Christ is not now on earth;
but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit
he is not absent from us for a moment.

48 Q.  If his humanity is not present wherever his divinity is, then aren’t the two natures of Christ separated from each other?

A.  Certainly not.
Since divinity
is not limited
and is present everywhere,
it is evident that
Christ’s divinity is surely beyond the bounds of
the humanity he has taken on,
but at the same time his divinity is in
and remains personally united to
his humanity.

49 Q.  How does Christ’s ascension into heaven benefit us?

A.  First, he pleads our cause
in heaven
in the presence of his Father.

Second, we have our own flesh in heaven—
a guarantee that Christ our head
will take us, his members,
to himself in heaven.

Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth
as a further guarantee.
By the Spirit’s power
we make the goal of our lives,
not earthly things,
but the things above where Christ is,
sitting at God’s right hand.

Suggested Songs

Christ’s ascension might not be a topic we expect to find repeated throughout the psalms, but truthfully, the Psalter contains some of the most powerful declarations in all of Scripture of the lordship and rule of our Savior.  Certain psalms which we’ve already mentioned here beg to be included, such as blue Psalter Hymnal #33, “Now the King in Thy Strength Shall Be Joyful, O Lord” (Psalm 21), and #221, “The Lord unto His Christ Has Said” (Psalm 110).  A number of hymns from the blue book also expound upon Jesus’ ascension, but these same hymns also tend to contain misleading or doctrinally shaky statements.  For instance, although I love how “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!” (#366) sums up just about the entirety of Lord’s Day 18, phrases like “Faith believes, nor questions how” and “Earth’s Redeemer, plead for me” can be unnecessarily misleading.  I believe a hymn like this would go best only with a firm foundation in the Catechism, a generous helping of psalms, and perhaps a brief pastoral comment.

Meanwhile, it’s to that “generous helping of psalms” that I’d like to now direct your attention.

42, “Ye Gates, Lift Your Heads” (Psalm 24)

(Sung by the Protestant Reformed Psalm Choir)

“Christ, while his disciples watched, was lifted up from the earth into heaven.”  This simple answer from the Catechism elicits an equally simple yet joyful response from Christ’s followers.  The latter half of Psalm 24, versified in this arrangement, serves as a kind of call-and-response between the inhabitants of the royal city and the King himself, returning home in complete victory over sin and death.

The King of all glory high honors await,
The King of all glory shall enter in state.
What King of all glory is this that ye sing?
Jehovah of Hosts, He of glory is King.

87, “All Nations, Clap Your Hands” (Psalm 47)

Christ “will be there for our good until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.”  For the believer, the Lord’s ascension is cause for joy and thanksgiving.  As this rousing setting of Psalm 47 puts it:

Above our mighty foes
He gave us power to stand,
And as our heritage He chose
The goodly promised land.

On the other hand, for the nations who yet rebel against God, Christ’s ascension serves as a signal of the coming judgment.

With shouts ascends our King,
With trumpet’s stirring call;
Praise God, praise God, His praises sing,
For God is Lord of all.

Our fathers’ God to own
The kings of earth draw nigh,
For none can save but God alone,
He is the Lord Most High.

170, “Almighty God, Thy Lofty Throne” (Psalm 89)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“In his human nature Christ is not now on earth; but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit he is not absent from us for a moment.”  This small section of Psalm 89 focuses on God’s throne and the glorious attributes of the One who sits upon it.  Further than that, it recalls the Catechism’s emphasis on Christ’s promise to be with his people until the end of the age:

Almighty God, Thy lofty throne
Has justice for its cornerstone,
And shining bright before Thy face
Are truth and love and boundless grace.

With blessing is the nation crowned
Whose people know the joyful sound;
They in the light, O Lord, shall live,
The light Thy face and favor give.

124, “God Shall Arise and by His Might” (Psalm 68)

(Sung by Grace URC in Dunnville, ON)

“First, [Christ] pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of his Father.  Second, we have our own flesh in heaven—a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, his members, to himself in heaven.  Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee.”  For a psalm that explores the manifold glories of Christ’s ascension we need look no further than Psalm 68.  Connecting its verses with the nuances of Q&A 49 is beyond the scope of this post, but I’d like to single out a few stanzas that are especially applicable here.

But let the righteous, blest of yore,
Joy in their God as ne’er before,
Faith’s victory achieving.
Their joy shall then unbounded be
Who see God’s face eternally,
Their heart’s desire receiving.
Exalt, exalt the Name of God;
Sing ye His royal fame abroad
With fervent exultation;
Cast up a highway smooth and wide
That through the deserts He may ride,
Jehovah our salvation.

Sing praise, thou chosen Israel,
Who with the folds of sheep dost dwell;
Thou art God’s joy and treasure.
Like doves on golden-feathered wing,
In holy beauty thou shalt bring
Thy praise to God with pleasure.

When Thou, O Lord, in glory bright,
Ascendedst in the heavenly height
Our captive-bonds to sever,
Rich gifts from those who did rebel
Thou didst receive, that men might dwell
With Thee, O Lord, forever.

Let God be praised with reverence deep;
He daily comes our lives to steep
In bounties freely given.
God cares for us, our God is He;
Who would not fear His majesty
In earth as well as heaven?
Our God upholds us in the strife;
To us He grants eternal life,
And saves from desolation.
He hears the needy when they cry,
He saves their souls when death draws nigh,
This God is our salvation!

–MRK

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2 Responses to “Lord’s Day 18: There for Our Good”


  1. 1 The 3 R's Blog May 9, 2013 at 5:50 am

    Reblogged this on The Three R's Blog and commented:
    Fitting for our Ascension Day remembrance today, as well as for our commemoration of the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism, is this post by Michael Kearney from last week. As he continues his “HC” series this year from a musical perspective (especially the Psalms), he treated Lord’s Day 18 on the ascension using versifications of Psalm 24, 47, 89, and 68 – including the Protestant Reformed Psalm Choir on Ps.24. Let the words of the catechism enlightened by the words of these Psalms lead our souls to lift up in praise our ascended Lord Jesus!


  1. 1 Lord’s Day 19: This Glory of Christ Our Head | URC Psalmody Trackback on May 8, 2013 at 8:56 pm

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