Sunday, December 2, 2018

Forever Young

From the womb of the morning, like dew, your youth will come to you. The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at your right hand.
Ps. 110:3b-5a 

The fifth chapter of Genesis recounts in brief narratives the lives of the descendants of Adam. The myths these narratives have engendered are much more famous than the chapter they come from. For example, the lives of these patriarchs were very long. In fact, the longest life recorded in the Bible is mentioned here—that of Methuselah (Noah's grandfather), who lived 969 years. We know nothing of how he lived or what he did, but we remember him whenever we say, "old as Methuselah." 

Methuselah's father was even more mysterious. His name was Enoch, and (compared to his son) he lived a relatively short time—only 365 years. But the myth that grew up around him was that he never died. That's because instead of saying he died, the Bible tells us that 

Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.
 Genesis 5:24 

Because of this euphemism, Enoch holds a nearly unique place in Judeo-Christian mythology as being deathless. I say "nearly unique," because there's another deathless character in the Hebrew Bible, who is even more mysterious than Enoch. His name was Melchizedek, and he suddenly appeared in Abraham's story (see Gen. 14) as the king of Salem (Jerusalem) who was also a "priest of God Most High." Because he honored Abraham, we obviously remember Melchizedek as righteous. But because he appeared out of nowhere and was never mentioned again, the myth grew up around him that he had no beginning and no end. Thus when he's mentioned again in Psalm 110, we read that he was the founder of an eternal order of priesthood. 

Melchizedek's biggest impact wasn't on the Hebrew Bible, however, but on the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament. Here he's discussed in three chapters (Hebrews 5-7) in which Melchizedek's priesthood becomes a type for Christ's priesthood, since the sacrifice offered on the cross was eternal in its scope.

The actual context of the mention of Melchizedek in Psalm 110, however, reminds me of what happens to the people from my past—those I left behind in high school or college. In my mind, they are like Melchizedek—not in righteousness or priesthood, but in age. They remain young forever. If I see them again in person or on Facebook, I am surprised that they're no longer 18 or 21. They're in their late 50's, like me. But the ones I haven't seen—some of whom even died young—remain unchanged in my mind. Like Enoch and Melchizedek, they are ageless. And so I cannot blame the ancients for their interpretation of ambiguous scriptures. They did nothing that I don't do on a regular basis. Unless I pick up their story again later, my old friends remain where I left them: Forever young.

Thank you, Lord, for your promise of youth returned from the womb of morning. As eternal as the priesthood of Melchizedek are those who benefit from the sacrifice of the Crucified One, even Jesus Christ my Lord, who taught me to pray...
Rod Stewart • forever young