Lord’s Day 39: In Authority over Me

Catechism and Psalter

With Lord’s Day 39 of the Heidelberg Catechism we move from the first “table” of the Law (concerning our relation to God) to the second (concerning our relation to our neighbors).  Today we’ll examine the teaching of this brief Lord’s Day concerning the fifth commandment: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

104 Q.  What does God require in the fifth commandment?

A.  That I honor, love, and be loyal to
my father and mother
and all those in authority over me;
that I obey and submit to them, as is proper,
when they correct and punish me;
and also that I be patient with their failings—
for through them God chooses to rule us.

Suggested Songs

245, “Thou Who Didst Make and Fashion Me” (Psalm 119)

“That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me.”  The basis for authority in the family rests in God’s authority over us, his children.  Because God has made and fashioned us, we owe him submission in everything.  Further, we display our obedience to him by submitting to the lower authorities by whom he chooses to rule us.  The Psalter Hymnal’s versification of Psalm 119:73-80 displays the psalmist’s reverence and submission to his Maker.

Thou who didst make and fashion me,
O make me wise Thy law to learn;
Then they that fear Thee shall be glad
When they my hope in God discern.

Thou, Lord, art just in all Thy ways,
And faithful when Thou chastenest me;
I pray Thee, let Thy promised grace
Thy servant’s help and comfort be.

149, “My People, Give Ear” (Psalm 78)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“That I obey and submit to them, as is proper, when they correct and punish me; and also that I be patient with their failings—for through them God chooses to rule us.”  Psalm 78 reinforces the message of this Lord’s Day in two ways.  First, it exhorts us to heed the admonition of our parents and overseers.  Second, it warns us to guard ourselves against the sins of previous generations (though bearing patiently, as the Catechism teaches, with their “weaknesses and shortcomings”).

My people, give ear, attend to my word,
In parables new deep truths shall be heard;
The wonderful story our fathers made known
To children succeeding by us must be shown.

Instructing our sons, we gladly record
The praises, the works, the might of the Lord,
For He has commanded that what He has done
Be passed in tradition from father to son.

Let children thus learn from history’s light
To hope in our God and walk in His sight,
The God of their fathers to fear and obey,
And ne’er like their fathers to turn from His way.

269, “Unless the Lord the House Shall Build” (Psalm 127)

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

The apostle Paul devoted an entire section of his letter to the Ephesians to submission among the family and within the body of Christ.  This is a beautiful and Biblical pattern as we realize that “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1 ESV).  In honoring the fifth commandment, the Christian family ultimately honors God, the Lord of every area of their lives.

Unless the Lord the house shall build,
The weary builders toil in vain;
Unless the Lord the city shield,
The guards a useless watch maintain.

Lo, children are a great reward,
A gift from God in very truth;
With arrows is his quiver stored
Who joys in children of his youth.

And blest the man whose age is cheered
By stalwart sons and daughters fair;
No enemies by him are feared,
No lack of love, no want of care.


3 Responses to “Lord’s Day 39: In Authority over Me”

  1. 1 gjvdhaar December 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you Michael for sharing your thoughts with us.
    I’m not so familiar with the blue Psalter Hymnal as I would like. In the Dutch Psalter (1773 version) is a list of suggested songs for the explination of the heildelberg Catechism. the suggestions there are: Psalm 34 and 78.
    Other possible suggestions are: Psalm 25, 99, 103, 105, 106 and 135.

    • 2 Michael Kearney January 2, 2014 at 11:11 pm

      Thanks for sharing those suggestions, Mr. van der Haar! I saw the connection with some of them (for instance, Psalm 103) right away; others seemed less obvious. But I do love the Catechism index at the back of the online 1773 psalter and have referred to it on several occasions!


  1. 1 Lord’s Day 40: All Such Are Murder | URC Psalmody Trackback on December 27, 2013 at 1:48 pm

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