Lord’s Day 40, our focus today in URC Psalmody’s ongoing Heidelberg Catechism series, addresses the Christian response to the sixth commandment: “You shall not murder.”
105 Q. What is God’s will for us in the sixth commandment?
A. I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor—
not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture,
and certainly not by actual deeds—
and I am not to be party to this in others;
rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.
I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either.
Prevention of murder is also why
government is armed with the sword.
106 Q. Does this commandment refer only to killing?
A. By forbidding murder God teaches us
that he hates the root of murder:
envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness.
In God’s sight all such are murder.
107 Q. Is it enough then that we do not kill our neighbor in any such way?
By condemning envy, hatred, and anger
God tells us
to love our neighbor as ourselves,
to be patient, peace-loving, gentle,
merciful, and friendly to him,
to protect him from harm as much as we can,
and to do good even to our enemies.
158, “O God, No Longer Hold Thy Peace” (Psalm 83)
“I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor—not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds.” Although the psalmist Asaph in Psalm 83 focuses on the evil intent of Israel’s enemies, he understands the true nature of their murderous plans. In the words of the Psalter Hymnal’s adaptation, “And they who with Thy people strive/Make war, O God, with Thee.” However, Asaph does not take revenge into his own hands, even in the words of this imprecatory psalm. Rather, he pleads with God to “Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O LORD” (Psalm 83:16 ESV). Asaph’s eyes are looking in the right direction: not with rage at his enemies, but with reverence at his God.
Thine ancient foes, conspiring still,
With one consent agree,
And they who with Thy people strive
Make war, O God, with Thee.
O God, who in our fathers’ time
Didst smite our foes and Thine,
So smite Thine enemies today
Who in their pride combine.
Make them like dust and stubble blown
Before the whirlwind dire,
In terror driven before the storm
Of Thy consuming fire.
Confound them in their sin till they
To Thee for pardon fly,
Till in dismay they, trembling, own
That Thou art God Most High.
258, “I Cried to God in My Distress” (Psalm 120)
“I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.” The author of Psalm 120 clearly applied the sixth commandment to his own life, but it grieved him to see it so forcibly opposed by his companions.
Alas for me, whose lot is cast
With those who find their joy in strife!
With those who hate the paths of peace
I long have dwelt and spent my life.
In thought and act I am for peace,
Peace I pursue and ever seek;
But those about me are for strife,
Though I in love and kindness speak.
220, “O God, Whom I Delight to Praise” (Psalm 109)
“God tells us . . . to do good even to our enemies.” Like Asaph and the author of Psalm 120, David in Psalm 109 approaches his enemies with love, even as he anticipates God’s judgment on them. Although the Psalter Hymnal’s setting of Psalm 109 tends to embellish, its elaboration on vv. 3-5 is a helpful application of the sixth commandment.
Against me slanderous words are flung
From many a false and lying tongue;
Without a cause men hurl at me
The shafts of deadly enmity.
My good with evil they repay,
My love turns not their hate away;
The part of vengeance, Lord, is Thine;
To pray, and only pray, is mine.
101, “On God Alone My Soul Relies” (Psalm 55)
The keystone of Psalm 55 is its beloved exhortation, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (v. 22). Indeed, vengeance belongs to God; prayer, love, and the selfless fruits of the Spirit are what belong to us.
On God alone my soul relies,
And He will soon relieve;
The Lord will hear my plaintive cries
At morning, noon, and eve.
He has redeemed my soul in peace,
From conflict set me free;
My many foes are made to cease,
And strive no more with me.
The living God in righteousness
Will recompense with shame
The men who, hardened by success,
Forget to fear His Name.
All treacherous friends who overreach
And break their plighted troth,
Who hide their hate with honeyed speech,
With such the Lord is wroth.
Upon the Lord thy burden cast,
To Him bring all thy care;
He will sustain and hold thee fast,
And give thee strength to bear.
God will not let His saints be moved;
Protected, they shall see
Their foes cut off and sin reproved;
O God, I trust in Thee.