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1 The LORD said to my Lord: “Sit here at my right hand, Until I make your foes a stool on which your feet may stand.”
2 The LORD will make your reign extend from Zion’s hill; With royal power you’ll rule among those who oppose your will.
3 When you display your power, your people flock to you; At dawn, arrayed in holiness, your youth will come like dew.
4 Unchangeably the LORD with solemn purpose swore: “Just like Melchizedek you are a priest for evermore.”
5 The Lord’s at your right hand; there he will ever stay. He on his day of wrath will crush the kings who bar his way.
6 The nations he will judge; the dead in heaps will lie. The mighty of the earth he’ll crush— all who his rule defy.
7 A brook beside the way his thirst will satisfy; And, thus refreshed, he will with joy lift up his head on high.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Selma here.
Melchizedek is something of a mystery. He is described in Genesis 14 as the King of Salem (probably Jerusalem), a name which means king of peace. Yet he arrives to praise God for giving Abram victory in battle. This Psalm does not read like a song of peace, but rather seems to exalt war and the bloody defeat of enemies. Melchizedek is also described as a priest, and he gives Abram a blessing from ‘God Most High’. He shares an offering of bread and wine, and receives Abram’s offering to God.
Part of the mystery is the lack of further detail. Melchizedek is not part of a family line, or given a history. He is not described as king of a tribe or priest of a holy site. And he vanishes never to appear again. So mysterious is he, in both his identity and actions, that many have wondered if this is in fact a ‘theophany’, an appearance of Christ, the true King of Peace and Priest forever. The letter to the Hebrews picks up on this, describing Christ as our High Priest in heaven – distancing Christ from the rather more human Levitical Priesthood of the Temple. And this Psalm alludes to the now and not yet of Christ’s reign, mixing images of conflict and worship in describing how this will be established.
I am most struck by the description of youth flocking to the king’s hill, like the refreshment of the early morning dew. How might we foster this gathering, and allow the Church to be soaked in the refreshing perspective of youth? Can we pray for such a dawn to break? Perhaps the current engagement of young people in climate crisis issues is the foretaste of such a new dawn. Could all ages be blessed by such holiness?
Lord, may we be open to your unexpected appearance as king and priest. Challenge us to fight evil. Make us your offering of praise. Help us welcome all ages into your presence so we too may enjoy the blessings of the dew of youth and see your kingdom come. Amen
Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth Work, member of mayBe Community Oxford