A question of authority
In David’s day, as today, people sure they knew better than God militantly opposed his plan for his world. So God promised to make his Messiah a royal priest, that being vital to his success.
A David psalm.
1 YHWH’s word to my master was this:
“Sit enthroned at my right hand
while I make your enemies your footstool.”
2 YHWH will extend
your powerful scepter from Zion.
Now, subdue your enemies on every side!
3 Your people will willingly rally to battle
on the day you assemble your forces
resplendent in holy armor.
You’ll fight with all the vigor of youth
fresh as the morning dew.
4 YHWH has sworn
an oath he’ll never revoke:
“You are a priest forever
in Melchizedek’s line.”
5 God is on your right
decimating rebel kings
on the day when he vents his anger.
6 He brings the nations to justice:
piling corpses everywhere
he crushes heads the world over.
7 Then drinking from a brook along the way
he stands, head held high.
David writes about his descendant, the one the prophet Nathan had promised would reign forever. By placing this psalm in Book V, the Psalms compiler clearly assures post-exilic Jews that—though Israel’s unfaithfulness brought David’s dynasty to an end—Nathan’s prophecy would yet be fulfilled in David’s greater son.
The psalm is built around two divine utterances. First, God exalts his chosen king to the place of highest honor, promising him complete victory. This will play out in the king’s loyal subjects rallying freely behind him, suited in holy armor and strengthened for battle.
Second, while Israelite kings weren’t typically priest-kings, like Canaanite kings were, God installs this king as priest forever, connecting him with Melchizedek. Since Melchizedek served as Abram’s priest, his priestly order predates that of Aaron. With God fighting beside him, he experiences total victory, terminating the endless seesaw between Israel’s kings and their neighbors who opposed God’s claims on them and the earth. In fact, so complete is this king’s victory that he enjoys sweet refreshment afterward.
The king’s installation as priest points to the Messiah’s upending of “politics as usual,” seen in Jesus’ subversion of all authority—religious and political—opposing his reign. God clearly doesn’t serve our self-seeking politics. Rather, we must submit all of life to him. The New Testament also connects the dots between the Messiah-king’s victory and his priesthood: he triumphed and opened the way for us to God by laying down his life. Only thus, are we clothed in holy, Christlike armor to triumph as he did.
Jesus, as priest, you opened the door to God for all who came to you—prostitutes, lepers, quislings. You were crucified not for mouthing pious platitudes, but for challenging all who resisted your holy grace. And yet you triumphed! Empower me, Lord, to triumph as I follow your gracious lead. Amen.
During your free moments today, meditate on these words: