Lord’s Day 36: With Reverence and Awe

Catechism and Psalter

The author of Psalm 135 writes, “Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant!  For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession.”  The name of God is a prominent theme throughout the Scriptures, as exemplified in the content of the third commandment.  Today’s installment of this URC Psalmody series brings us to Lord’s Day 36 of the Heidelberg Catechism, which applies the third commandment to the Christian life.

99 Q.  What is God’s will for us in the third commandment?

A.  That we neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God
by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths,
nor share in such horrible sins
by being silent bystanders.

In a word, it requires
that we use the holy name of God
only with reverence and awe,
so that we may properly
confess him,
pray to him,
and praise him in everything we do and say.

100 Q.  Is blasphemy of God’s name by swearing and cursing really such serious sin that God is angry also with those who do not do all they can to help prevent it and to forbid it?

A.  Yes, indeed.
No sin is greater,
no sin makes God more angry
than blaspheming his name.
That is why he commanded the death penalty for it.

Suggested Songs

12, “O Lord, Our Lord, in All the Earth” (Psalm 8)

“That we neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders.”  Too often the name of God in modern culture has been assigned an ordinary and casual status.  While we should not view the Lord’s name as superstitious or unspeakable, we ought to use it “only with reverence and awe”—which requires our hearts to be in the right place.  Psalm 8, which begins and ends with the exclamation, “How excellent is your name in all the earth,” teaches us how we ought to approach this holy God who has so condescendingly revealed himself to us.  The Psalter Hymnal versifies it this way:

O Lord, our Lord, in all the earth
How excellent Thy Name!
Thy glory Thou hast spread afar
In all the starry frame.

When I regard the wondrous heavens,
Thy handiwork on high,
The moon and stars ordained by Thee,
O what is man, I cry.

O what is man, in Thy regard
To hold so large a place,
And what the son of man, that Thou
Dost visit him in grace?

Thy mighty works and wondrous grace
Thy glory, Lord, proclaim.
O Lord, our Lord, in all the earth
How excellent Thy Name!

56, “Jehovah from His Throne on High” (Psalm 33)

“In a word, it requires that we use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe, so that we may properly confess him, pray to him, and praise him in everything we do and say.”  The Lord’s name is more than an empty word; it is the rock upon which we build our faith and hope.  In vivid imagery, the second half of Psalm 33 exhibits the reliance we can place in the name of God.

Jehovah from His throne on high
Looks down with clear and searching eye
On all that dwell below;
And He that fashioned heart and mind
Looks ever down on all mankind,
The works of men to know.
Not human strength or mighty hosts,
Not charging steeds or warlike boasts
Can save from overthrow;
But God will save from death and shame
All those who fear and trust His Name,
And they no want shall know.

His eye is on all those who fear;
To those who hope, the Lord is near
According to His word.
Death cannot touch those in His hand,
Nor famine conquer in the land;
We wait upon the Lord.
Our hope is on Jehovah stayed,
In Him our hearts are joyful made,
Our help and shield is He.
Our trust is in His holy Name,
Thy mercy, Lord, in faith we claim,
As we have hoped in Thee.

304, “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah” (Psalm 148)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“No sin is greater, no sin makes God more angry than blaspheming his name.”  A significant number of psalms speak of God’s contempt for those who defy his name (for example, think of Psalm 139:20), but to wrap up our study of this Lord’s Day I’ve instead chosen a psalm of praise: Psalm 148.  As versified in the Psalter Hymnal this jubilant ode exhorts all earth’s inhabitants to give praise to the Lord, while declaring that “his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven.”

Only those redeemed through Christ’s blood and restored to fellowship with God can use his name to his glory.  The true point of the third commandment is not that we should fear to speak the Lord’s name.  No, we should be eager to call upon the name of God in all times and situations—but only that he might be honored and glorified.

Hallelujah, praise Jehovah,
From the heavens praise His Name;
Praise Jehovah in the highest,
All His angels, praise proclaim.
All His hosts, together praise Him,
Sun and moon and stars on high;
Praise Him, O ye heavens of heavens,
And ye floods above the sky.

Let them praises give Jehovah,
They were made at His command;
Them forever He established,
His decree shall ever stand.
From the earth, O praise Jehovah,
All ye seas, ye monsters all,
Fire and hail and snow and vapors,
Stormy winds that hear His call.

All ye fruitful trees and cedars,
All ye hills and mountains high,
Creeping things and beasts and cattle,
Birds that in the heavens fly,
Kings of earth, and all ye people,
Princes great, earth’s judges all;
Praise His Name, young men and maidens,
Aged men, and children small.

Let them praises (Let them praises) give Jehovah,
For His Name alone is high,
And His glory (And His glory) is exalted,
And His glory (And His glory) is exalted,
And His glory (And His glory) is exalted,
Far above the earth and sky.

–MRK

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