HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAYS 52 (QA 129)
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAYS 52 (QA 129)
What does that little word “Amen” express?
This is sure to be! It is even more sure that God listens to my prayer, than that I really desire what I pray for.
DEVOTIONAL: DECEMBER 17-23
The Catechism teaches that the word “amen” is an expression of the Christian’s certainty of faith. Isaiah helps us understand what this certainty is: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11). We live with the certainty that God’s Word of truth will accomplish its purpose. The Catechism describes this in two inseparable ways:
God’s Certain Foundation: The Catechism identifies the Christian’s certain foundation: “This is sure to be.” It is the affirmation that our lives and world will be shaped and forged as God said it would! He alone is sovereign. He alone is able to achieve His redemptive purpose. And He will accomplish it in spite of us.
God’s Certain Desire: God’s foundation is given expression in His desire: “It is even more sure that God listens to my prayer, than that I really desire what I pray for.” These words teach that God desires what is best for us more than we can begin to know or desire what is best for us. The Catechism is teaching that God’s desire for human joy and peace “is sure to be” – His desires will be accomplished!
Let’s take a few moments to understand this certainty.
The Bible is clear that God desires human good. This is given clear expression in Israel’s exodus from Egypt: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7-8) He expresses the same desire for the nations in His concern for pagan Nineveh: “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from left... Should I not be concerned about that great city” (Jonah 4:11)? Israel, in turn, expressed God’s desire in her worship: “May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the people’s justly and guide the nations of the earth” (Psalm 67:3-4). Jesus, who is the full and clearest representation of the Father, also affirmed His desire: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11). The Apostle Paul celebrated God’s desire in Jesus Christ: “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)? After all, he says, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (8:37) because nothing and no one in all creation “will be able to separate us from the love God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39). The point is clear. The Bible declares that God’s desire and love for His children is unquenchable and unstoppable, and that it will be fully experienced when Christ returns: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). From the beginning to the end, the Spirit through the Word announces, “this is sure to.” God’s Word will achieve the purpose for which He sent it – the rescue and restoration of people so they can flourish in joy and peace. He desires human good.
That brings us to our desire. We should all be able to agree that it is far too small and incredibly weak. The Father invites us into a relationship of love, yet we tend to reduce the faith to rules and rituals. The Son breaks down walls of hostility, creating one new family of faith. We tend to rebuild economic, ethnic and religious barriers. The Spirit seeks to forge us into the likeness of Christ. We seem to be happiest with religious customs regardless of their connection to His Word of truth. Grace, too, is reduced to a ticket to escape an evil world and enter some bliss-filled heaven. Missions is important as long as it doesn’t disrupt personal prejudice. Vision functions as an exercise of self-preservation. C.S. Lewis is correct to say our desires are too small and too weak:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (The Weight of Glory).
Indeed. So, let’s ask some Bible based, God-directed, Son-glorifying, and Spirit-infused questions. What if we were less pleased with ourselves and more pleased with God? What if we made every attempt to match our desires to His? What if we resisted being religious people – those who follow rules and engage in rituals in order to ensure God’s favor – and pursued being Christian people – those walk in the footsteps of Christ, who seek what He seeks, who champion His cause, and who live with a passion for the weight His glory to be revealed in all the earth. Do we desire marriages that reflect Christ’s love for the Church, His Bride? Do we desire stewardship that moves beyond a retirement portfolio into kingdom expansion? Do we desire a Church that moves beyond comfort management into gospel witness? Do we desire a world with walls or one where every tribe and people and nation and language will sing praise around His throne?
So, we end our pray with that little word, “Amen.” That word is not intended to be a conclusion, but a beginning. It is our profession of faith, a living faith that will live the desire that He and His will alone will be glorified in all the earth. We pray to live: “This is sure to be.”
Why do you pray? And why do you say, “Amen.”
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn