By the Rev. Jim Lemler
“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
A royal Psalm, probably used for the crowning of a king or the gathering of the royal house in the great Temple of God… The Psalmist sings praise of God the Sovereign of the Universe and of the earthly King who is God’s earthly representative. The Psalm itself alludes to a mystical and marvelous king who was a priest as well, Melchizedek, and says that the royal one of God is anointed as both king and priest.
Melchizedek was both, by tradition, both king and priest of Salem. According to the Hebrew tradition, he met Abraham and offered bread and wine in thanksgiving for the rescue of Lot. His name itself means “king of righteousness.” He is the proto-type and model of what a king ought to be.
Well… there are kings and there are kings. Some live into the aspiration of royal and priestly kingship. Others don’t. Welcome to the 13th through 15 chapters of II Kings. Jehoahaz is identified as evil. Joash did better. In the midst of it all, the prophet Elishah dies. The kings continue, anointed by God to lead and to offer prayer for God’s people. There is war. There is palace intrigue. There are good and bad decisions. Sometimes there is conflict between the earthly king and the Sovereign of the Universe.
Paul has a profound inner sense of the sovereignty of God. For him, God is the Ruler of the Universe, the Creator and the Redeemer, and Jesus is truly the King of love, grace, and life. The 25th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles describes a whole tapestry of royal power. There is the local king, Agrippa. There is the great emperor of Rome, to whom Paul eventually appeals his case. But behind and underneath it all is the great king and sovereign of life and hope, God the Creator and Redeemer of the Universe. Jesus is the Christ, the “Christos” or one anointed with the royal and saving power of God. Jesus is the Lord of life who lives the role and life “after the order of the anointed Melchizek.” Paul knows that and bets his life on it.
We don’t think much about kings in our day and age. However, there are many things that claim sovereignty, power, and allegiance in modern life. Our call as people of faith is to embrace and be embraced by the sovereignty of God and to recognize the one who is “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” Love and life invite our allegiance and seek to be recognized as the source of power. And we… we are “kings and priests to God” ourselves, anointed with the royal seal of God’s love forever.
What claims sovereignty in your life? How do you live amidst the powers of modern life which claim attention and allegiance?
Where do you see the sovereign love of God in your daily living? How do you draw strength from that love anointed as you are with the grace of God?
Sovereign God, you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Grant that I may recognize you and serve you, and anoint me with your love and Spirit for your mercy’s sake. Amen.
The Rev. Jim Lemler is rector of Christ Church in Greenwich, Connecticut.