Posts Tagged 'Resurrection'

Lord’s Day 22: Raised by the Power of Christ

Catechism and Psalter

It was all the way back in Lord’s Day 7 that the Heidelberg Catechism asked the essential question, “What then must a Christian believe?”  In answer the Catechism proceeded to provide the Apostles’ Creed and expound upon each of its articles.  Fifteen weeks later in this URC Psalmody series, here we are at Lord’s Day 22, which concerns the final two phrases of the Creed: belief in “the resurrection of the body” and “the life everlasting.”

57 Q.  How does ‘the resurrection of the body’ comfort you?

A.  Not only my soul
will be taken immediately after this life
to Christ its head,
but even my very flesh, raised by the power of Christ,
will be reunited with my soul
and made like Christ’s glorious body.

58 Q.  How does the article concerning ‘life everlasting’ comfort you?

A.  Even as I already now
experience in my heart
the beginning of eternal joy,
so after this life I will have
perfect blessedness such as
no eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no man has ever imagined:
a blessedness in which to praise God eternally.

Suggested Songs

138, “In Sweet Communion, Lord, with Thee” (Psalm 73)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI and on YouTube)

“My soul will be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head.”  The believer rejoices to know that the moment he dies, he will be with his Savior.  With this knowledge it’s hard, as the gospel chorus puts it, to “feel at home in this world anymore.”  The author of Psalm 73 similarly declares his hope in the life to come in this Psalter Hymnal versification:

In sweet communion, Lord, with Thee
I constantly abide;
My hand Thou holdest in Thine own
To keep me near Thy side.

Thy counsel through my earthly way
Shall guide me and control,
And then to glory afterward
Thou wilt receive my soul.

Whom have I, Lord, in heaven but Thee,
To whom my thoughts aspire?
And, having Thee, on earth is nought
That I can yet desire.

Though flesh and heart should faint and fail,
The Lord will ever be
The strength and portion of my heart,
My God eternally.

To live apart from God is death,
‘Tis good His face to seek;
My refuge is the living God,
His praise I long to speak.

62, “Thy Mercy and Thy Truth, O Lord” (Psalm 36)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“Even my very flesh…will be reunited with my soul and made like Christ’s glorious body.”  With its rather grim opening (“Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart…”), Psalm 36 might tend to escape our notice as a song of the resurrection.  But David’s confession of faith in the second half of this psalm is matchless; he knows in whom he lives, and moves, and has his being.

The fountain of eternal life
Is found alone with Thee,
And in the brightness of Thy light
We clearly light shall see.

232, “O Praise the Lord, for He is Good” (Psalm 118)

(Sung on YouTube)

“I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy.”  As we Christians traverse life’s journey, our deliverance from death may not always be in the forefront of our minds.  But along with saving faith comes this “beginning of eternal joy,” the knowledge that our future is secure with God.  Psalm 118 gives beautiful voice to this hope.

O praise the Lord, for He is good;
Let all in heaven above
And all His saints on earth proclaim
His everlasting love.
In my distress I called on God;
In grace He answered me,
Removed my bonds, enlarged my place,
From trouble set me free.

Salvation’s joyful song is heard
Where’er the righteous dwell;
For them God’s hand is strong to save
And doeth all things well.
I shall not die, but live and tell
The wonders of the Lord;
He has not given my soul to death,
But chastened and restored.

198, “Thou, O Lord, Art God Alone” (Psalm 102)

(Sung on YouTube)

“After this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no man has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God eternally.”  Psalm 102 begins as a desolate lament, its very ascription identifying it as “a prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.”  The psalmist cries out in v. 3 that his “days pass away like smoke,” and again in v. 11 that they are “like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.”  Then comes a turning point: “But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.”  Looking to his eternal Father, the psalmist rests assured that his life not just temporarily but eternally remains with God.

This all ages shall record
For the glory of the Lord;
Thou dost hear the humble prayer,
For the helpless Thou dost care.
Thou eternal art, and great,
Heaven and earth Thou didst create,
Heaven and earth shall pass away,
Changeless Thou shalt live for aye.

As one lays a garment by,
Thou wilt change the starry sky
Like a vesture worn and old;
But Thy years shall ne’er be told.
Thou wilt make Thy servants’ race
Ever live before Thy face,
And forever at Thy side
Children’s children shall abide.

As I collected these powerful psalm settings, I was also reminded of a glorious old German chorale written by Philipp Nicolai back in 1599: “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying,” number 371 in the Psalter Hymnal.  Elaborating on the parable of the virgins in Matthew 25:1-13, it formed the basis for J. S. Bach’s famous cantata “Wachet auf,” an excerpt of which we know as the familiar piece “Sleepers, Awake.”  You can enjoy the full cantata here.  For now, though, I’ll leave you with the triumphant doxology of the third stanza.  What comfort is ours through the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting!

Lamb of God, the heavens adore Thee,
And men and angels sing before Thee
With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone.
By the pearly gates in wonder
We stand, and swell the voice of thunder
In bursts of choral melody.
To mortal eyes and ears
What glory now appears!
We raise the song,
We swell the throng,
To praise Thee ages all along.


Lord’s Day 17: He Has Overcome Death

Catechism and Psalter

“Up from the grave he arose,” proclaims Robert Lowry’s gospel hymn, “with a mighty triumph o’er His foes!  He arose a Victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever with His saints to reign.  He arose!  He arose!  Hallelujah!  Christ arose!”

After commemorating the death of our Savior on Good Friday, what a joy it is to celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday.  Lest our worship be merely a time of superficial festivities, however, it is well to realize the critical importance of the resurrection and its impact on each of our lives.  That’s the task undertaken by the Heidelberg Catechism in the single question and answer of Lord’s Day 17—our focus in today’s installment of this URC Psalmody series.

45 Q.  How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?

A.  First, by his resurrection he has overcome death,
so that he might make us share in the righteousness
he won for us by his death.

Second, by his power we too
are already resurrected to a new life.

Third, Christ’s resurrection
is a guarantee of our glorious resurrection.

Selected Songs

For today’s study I’ve selected four songs, which roughly correspond to the three parts of the Catechism’s answer (two songs for the second part).  Although many excellent Easter hymns could be noted here—my own personal favorite being Psalter Hymnal #358, “The Strife Is O’er”—I’ve chosen to build today’s collection from the inspired words of the psalms.

267, “All Who, with Heart Confiding” (Psalm 125)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI, and Grace URC in Dunnville, ON)

“First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the righteousness he won for us by his death.”  It is hard to reconcile the psalms that speak of “the righteous” with the knowledge of our human depravity, until we realize that the righteousness being spoken of is ultimately Christ’s.  Thus, it makes sense that Psalm 125 should praise those who “trust in the LORD” as those who are truly upright in heart.

All who, with heart confiding,
Depend on God alone,
Like Zion’s mount abiding,
Shall ne’er be overthrown.
Like Zion’s city, bounded
By guarding mountains broad,
His people are surrounded
Forever by their God.

No scepter of oppression
Shall hold unbroken sway,
Lest unto base transgression
The righteous turn away.
Thy favor be imparted
To godly men, O Lord;
Bless are that are purehearted,
The good with good reward.

The men who falsehood cherish,
Forsaking truth and right,
With wicked men shall perish;
God will their sin requite.
From sin Thy saints defending,
Their joy, O Lord, increase,
With mercy never ending
And everlasting peace.

125, “O Lord, Thou Hast Ascended” (Psalm 68)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“Second, by his power we too are already resurrected to a new life.”  Its first line might seem to place it more squarely within the category of Christ’s ascension, but this excerpt from Psalm 68 illustrates with stunning clarity of the new life to which we have been raised.

Blest be the Lord who daily
Our heavy burden bears,
The God of our salvation,
Who for His people cares.
Our God is near to help us,
Our God is strong to save;
The Lord alone is able
To ransom from the grave.

All glory, might, and honor
Ascribe to God on high;
His arm protects His people
Who on His power rely.
Forth from Thy holy dwelling
Thine awful glories shine;
Thou strengthenest Thy people;
Unending praise be Thine.

160, “Lord God of Hosts, in Mercy”

Unable to choose between Psalter Hymnal 125 and 160 to match this portion of the Catechism, I ultimately decided to include both.  Number 160, an excerpt from Psalm 84, is chock-full of beautiful imagery as it portrays the transcending comfort of the Christian life.

In Thy blest courts to worship,
My God, a single day
Is better than a thousand
While far from Thee I stray.
Though in a lowly station,
The service of my Lord
I choose above all pleasures
That sinful ways afford.

A sun and shield forever
Is God, the Lord Most High,
To those who walk uprightly
No good will He deny.
His saints, His grace receiving,
Shall soon His glory see;
O Lord of hosts, most blessed
Are they that trust in Thee.

24, “Lord, Hear the Right” (Psalm 17)

“Third, Christ’s resurrection is a guarantee of our glorious resurrection.”  At first glance Psalm 17 might seem like an unlikely choice for a resurrection-themed song.  Although it begins as a desolate lament, however, it ends with the assurance only believers can possess: Our citizenship is in heaven.  The Psalter Hymnal’s versification of this passage is especially poignant:

Defend me from the men of pride,
Whose portion is below,
Who, with life’s treasures satisfied,
No better portion know;
They, with earth’s joys and wealth content,
Must leave them all when life is spent.

When I in righteousness at last
Thy glorious face shall see,
When all the weary night is past,
And I awake with Thee
To view the glories that abide,
Then, then I shall be satisfied.

With what better words could we end this post than those of Paul in I Corinthians 15:50-57 (ESV)?

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Behold! I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’  ‘O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


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