Thoughts for Tuesday 5th January 2021

Psalm 110; Proverbs 22:1-9; Luke 6:27-31

Psalm 110 is only 7 verses long. It’s reputedly one that was sung by Oliver Cromwell’s, New Model Army, before going into battle with the Scots. For that reason it’s been dubbed the ‘cursing psalm’. While it may well have been a favourite of Cromwell’s, however (and the phrase, ‘Trust in God and keep your powder dry’ is one that has long been attributed to him), I think it’s more probable, despite numerous musical settings of Psalm 110, that Psalm 117 would have been used by him instead.

With words in the Good News Translation such as enemies, fight, angry, battlefield, corpses and defeat, it’s clearly, though, an extremely martial psalm. It may seem curious then that, of all 150 psalms there are, it’s the one that is most often quoted in the New Testament. We can find references to it in Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians and Colossians. The New Testament book where there are more references to Psalm 110 than to any other, however, is the book of Hebrews (1:13, 5:6, 6:20, 7:17,21, 8:1, 10:12-13).

So why has Psalm 110 been so important for Christian theology? Well, the first reason is that it’s ‘evidence’ of the ‘plurality of the godhead’; which is something that then makes it possible for theologians to speak of God in different persons, such as Father and Son (and Holy Spirit). For the writer of Hebrews, however, it’s more the character of Melchizedek that makes Psalm 110 so important. Melchizedek is someone we first meet in Genesis 14.

Where Abram’s nephew, Lot, has got caught up in a war between different kings. Inadvertently, and purely by virtue of his having been living in the city of Sodom, he’s been captured, and so Abram mounts a rescue mission. When Abram (yet to be renamed Abraham) returns successfully, Melchizedek is there 1) to bless him, and 2) to receive his ‘tithe’ (or payment to God for having given him victory). All of which might well have been overlooked by Christianity, but for the fact that Melchizedek is not only a priest, but a king as well, thereby providing a precedent for Christ to be king and priest at one and the same time too: a King of Righteousness, but also – as Melchizedek was as King of Salem (which means peace) – a King of Peace as well.

Let us pray (using a Franciscan benediction):

May God bless you with discomfort,
at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger,
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears,
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their
pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness,
to believe that you can make a difference in this world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Amen.


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