Lord’s Day 37: Promoting Truth and Trustworthiness

Catechism and Psalter

In his Sermon on the Mount, Christ gave this exhortation to his disciples: “Do not take an oath at all…Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 6:36, 37).  Does this commandment require Christians to abstain from any kind of oath-taking whatsoever?  Lord’s Day 37 of the Heidelberg Catechism, our focus in today’s installment of this URC Psalmody series, continues to shed light on the third commandment by addressing this complex question.

101 Q.  But may we swear an oath in God’s name if we do it reverently?

A.  Yes, when the government demands it,
or when necessity requires it,
in order to maintain and promote truth and trustworthiness
for God’s glory and our neighbor’s good.

Such oaths are approved in God’s Word
and were rightly used by Old and New Testament believers.

102 Q.  May we swear by saints or other creatures?

A.  No.
A legitimate oath means calling upon God
as the one who knows my heart
to witness to my truthfulness
and to punish me if I swear falsely.
No creature is worthy of such honor.

Suggested Songs

59, “Ye Children, Come, Give Ear to Me” (Psalm 34)

We may swear an oath “in order to maintain and promote truth and trustworthiness for God’s glory and our neighbor’s good.”  The psalmist David intersperses heartfelt praise and profound wisdom in Psalm 34.  In verses 11-14 he addresses his audience as children to teach them the fear of the Lord.  His exhortation: “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”  As the Catechism emphasizes, truthfulness does indeed bring glory to God.

Ye children, come, give ear to me
And learn Jehovah’s fear,
He who would long and happy live,
Let him my counsel hear.

Restrain thy lips from speaking guile,
From wicked speech depart,
From evil turn and do the good,
Seek peace with all thy heart.

By evil are the evil slain,
And they that hate the just;
But all His servants God redeems,
And safe in Him they trust.

106, “Do Ye, O Men, Speak Righteousness” (Psalm 58)

(Sung by Grace URC in Dunnville, ON)

“A legitimate oath means calling upon God as the one who knows my heart to witness to my truthfulness and to punish me if I swear falsely.”  Psalm 58 provides a negative example of the truthfulness spoken of in this question and answer by calling attention to wicked men’s lack of integrity.

Do ye, O men, speak righteousness
And upright judgment mete?
Nay, in your hearts is wickedness,
And in your hands deceit.

The wicked, from their earliest days,
In sin are gone astray,
With forward heart, in foolish pride,
From wisdom turned away.

The good shall triumph and rejoice,
And this shall be confessed:
On earth the God of justice reigns,
And righteousness is blessed.

251, “I Have Followed Truth and Justice” (Psalm 119)

(Sung by West Sayville URC on Long Island, NY, and Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

Psalm 119:121-128 pictures the cry of a humble believer seeking to follow the path of God’s righteousness, swimming against the entire cultural stream of the world.  In fact, this section of Psalm 119 has in its gazes not just the third commandment, but all of God’s laws.  May this prayer be ever on our lips as we strive to life in grateful devotion to our Lord.

I have followed truth and justice;
Leave me not in deep distress;
Be my help and my protection,
Let the proud no more oppress.
For Thy Word and Thy salvation,
Lord, my eyes with longing fail;
Teach Thy statutes to Thy servant,
Let Thy mercy now prevail.

I am Thine, O give me wisdom,
Make me know Thy truth, I pray;
Sinners have despised Thy statutes;
Now, O Lord, Thy power display.
Lord, I love Thy good commandments
And esteem them more than gold;
All Thy precepts are most righteous;
Hating sin, to these I hold.


1 Response to “Lord’s Day 37: Promoting Truth and Trustworthiness”

  1. 1 Lord’s Day 38: The Eternal Sabbath | URC Psalmody Trackback on October 14, 2013 at 11:50 pm

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