Psalm 109:1–7; Lamentations 1:1–15; Hebrews 7:4–17

Psalm 109:1–7: This psalm of supplication opens with the usual request, “God of my praise, do not be silent.” (1) We quickly learn why the psalmist is praying: :For the wicked’s mouth, the mouth of deceit,/ has opened against me,/ they spoke to me with lying tongue.” (2) Once again, what has been spoken to the psalmist lies at the center of this psalm. Even though our culture has writing, there is no question that speech is still the most hurtful weapon of all.

We can feel the poet’s pain as he cries to God, “And words of hatred swarmed round me–/ they battle me for no cause.” One need only read a Facebook feed around a controversial subject or person–the recent case of Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is a good example–to understand exactly what is being said here. The vitriol and hatred expressed by people against her was breathtaking.  The anonymity of the Internet amplifies what the psalmist is saying here when people can express themselves without looking the person they accuse in the eye..

Not just hatred expressed against him, but the psalmist’s attempts to turn the other cheek have also come to naught: “In return for my love they accuse me,/ though my prayer is for them.” (4) If we are willing to follow Jesus’ example, we must be prepared to be “offer[ed] evil in return for good/ and hatred in return for my love.” (5) There is no guarantee that kindness will be reciprocated.

At this point the psalm takes an unusual turn: the psalmist begins quoting the curses of his accusers. First they demand to “Appoint a wicked man over hi,/ let an accuser stand at his right.” (5) All of a sudden, we feel we are back in the courtroom setting of the book of Job or in a kangaroo courtroom as we hear, “When he is judged, let him come out guilty,/ and his prayer be an offense.” (7) The judge and jury have been rigged; the guilt of the psalmist has already been determined. When we are oppressed by others, we indeed feel we have been already judged and found guilty without any chance to defend ourselves.

Lamentations 1:1–15: The editors who arranged the order of the books of the OT knew what they were doing. The final chapter of Jeremiah describes the deserted Jerusalem after its inhabitants have either been killed or carried off. Lamentations opens with the haunting words,
     How lonely sits the city
         that once was full of people!
     How like a widow she has become,
         she that was great among the nations!” (1)

The poet recapitulates history as weeping poetry: “Judah has gone into exile with suffering/ and hard servitude;” (3) and “Her foes have become the masters,/  her enemies prosper,” (5a). What was once great has become a bitter memory: “Jerusalem remembers,/ in the days of her affliction and wandering,” (7a).  But it is not all weepy nostalgia. The poet also writes about the reason behind this desolate state, “Jerusalem sinned grievously,/so she has become a mockery;” (8a)

And then, two lines that I believe are a warning for us today: “Her uncleanness was in her skirts;/ she took no thought of her future;” Are we a nation that like Jerusalem has so abandoned God that we have become like a whore with unclean skirts, giving no thought to our future? I think there’s ample evidence all around us.

Will the consequences of our mindless hedonism come to the point where, in words that express what our psalmist today must have been feeling, we too cry, “Look and see/ if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,/which was brought upon me,” (12). Hopelessness seems to be all that is on offer here as the poet concludes:
     “The Lord has rejected
         all my warriors in the midst of me;
     he proclaimed a time against me
         to crush my young men;
     the Lord has trodden as in a wine press
         the virgin daughter Judah.” (15)

Hebrews 7:4–17: I am increasingly convinced that the writer of Hebrews was a religious philosopher who employs rigorous logic to make his case–here that Melchizedek is a greater priest than all who arose from the Abrahamic line. He begins by observing that “Abraham the patriarch gave him [Melchizedek] a tenth of the spoils.” (4) Abraham is the root of the Jewish priesthood that also collects tithes from the people who are lower of the priestly scale. But if Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek, that proves Melchizedek is greater than Abraham because “It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.” (7) Therefore, Melchizedek is the greater priest to even Abraham and all the Levitical priests that followed.

Having established the superiority of the Melchizedekian priesthood, our author turns to the problem at hand. The Levitical priesthood is actually a failure. After all, he argues, “if perfection had been attainable through the levitical priesthood…what further need would there have been to speak of another priest arising according to the order of Melchizedek, rather than one according to the order of Aaron?” (11). The levitical priesthood has not achieved perfection, therefore we turn to the greater priest who can attain perfections.

But before he can do that, he reminds us that Jesus had no claim on the Levitical priesthood because he “was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.” (14). In short, Jesus has nothing whatsoever to do with the Levitical priesthood. Therefore, Jesus, as priest, must arose from Melchizedek.

Now, our author makes the crucial connection between Jesus and the Melchizedekian line with what we marketers call the “presumptive close:” He writes, “It is even more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life.” (15, 16) In other words, genealogy doesn’t matter, but attestation does as he quotes Psalm 110:4, which is describing the Messianic kingdom. He comes to his irrefutable conclusion: logic demands that we acknowledge Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

Speak Your Mind