Verse 4. We have now reached the heart of the psalm, which is also the very centre and soul of our faith. Our Lord Jesus is a Priest King by the ancient oath of Jehovah: "he glorified not himself to be made an high priest," but was ordained there unto from of old, and was called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek. It must be a solemn and a sure matter which leads the Eternal to swear, and with him an oath fixes and settles the decree for ever; but in this case, as if to make assurance a thousand times sure, it is added," and will mot repent." It is done, and done for ever and ever; Jesus is sworn in to be the priest of his people, and he must abide so even to the end, because his commission is sealed by the unchanging oath of the immutable Jehovah. If his priesthood could be revoked, and his authority removed, it would be the end of all ]lope and life for the people whom he loves; but this sure rock is the basis of our security -- the oath of God establishes our glorious Lord both in his priesthood and in his throne. It is the Lord who has constituted him a priest for ever, he has done it by oath, that oath is without repentance, is taking effect now, and will stand throughout all ages: hence our security in him is placed beyond all question.
The declaration runs in the present tense as being the only time with the Lord, and comprehending all other times. "Thou art," i.e., thou wast and art and art to come, in all ages a priestly King. The order of Melchizedek's priesthood was the most ancient and primitive, the most free from ritual and ceremony, the most natural and simple, and at the same time the most honourable. That ancient patriarch was the father of his people, and at the same time ruled and taught them; he swayed both the sceptre and the censer, reigned in righteousness, and offered sacrifice before the Lord. There has never arisen another like to him since his days, for whenever the kings of Judah attempted to seize the sacerdotal office they were driven back to their confusion: God would have no king priest save Iris son. Melchizedek's office was exceptional none preceded or succeeded him; he comes upon the page of history mysteriously; no pedigree is given, no date of birth, or mention of death; he blesses Abraham, receives tithe and vanishes from the scene amid honours which show that he was greater than the founder of the chosen nation. He is seen but once, and that once suffices. Aaron and his seed came and went; their imperfect sacrifice continued for many generations, because it had no finality in it, and could never make the comers thereunto perfect. Our Lord Jesus, like Melchizedek, stands forth before us as a priest of divine ordaining; not made a priest by fleshly birth, as the sons of Aaron: he mentions neither father, mother, nor descent, as his right to the sacred office; he stands upon his personal merits, by himself alone; as no man came before him in his work, so none can follow after; his order begins and ends in his own person, and in himself it is eternal, "having neither beginning of days nor end of years The King Priest has been here and left his blessing upon the believing, and now he sits in glory in his complete character, stoning for us by the merit of his blood, and exercising all power on our behalf."
"O may we ever hear thy voice
In mercy to us speak,
And in our Priest we will rejoice,
Thou great Melchizedek."
The last verses of this psalm we understand to refer to the future victories of the Priest King. He shall not forever sit in waiting posture, but shall come into the fight to end the weary war by his own victorious presence. He will lead the final charge in person; his own right hand and his holy arm shall get unto him the victory.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 4. -- The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, etc. It should be diligently considered, that God has consecrated Christ, priest by an oath, and that this was done for our sakes; First, That we might know how exceedingly momentous was this transaction, and the more reverently and with the stronger faith believe it. Secondly, That we might acknowledge the goodness of God, who, being most truthful in himself, and concerning whose faithfulness it is the greatest crime to doubt, nevertheless has been pleased to speak to us not only with a bare word, but also, after the manner of men, to confirm his decree by an oath. --Rivetus.
Verse 4. -- Sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever. God might have made the levitical priest by oath, and yet he might have been changed, but if he had made him by oath to be a priest for ever, then he could not have repented, that is, changed; but he must of necessity have been a priest for ever. Therefore you must take special notice, that God did not only swear that Christ should be a priest, or that he should be a priest for a long time, but a priest "for ever;" so that there should never be any priest joined with him, or come after him. So that if we consider the oath, and the thing confirmed by this oath, two things will be manifest:
- That Christ's priesthood is personal, and settled in one single person for ever; so that he can have no fellow nor copartner, nor any successor in his priesthood.
- That, by this oath, God did limit his own supreme and absolute power in this particular; and took away the use and exercise of it, and that for ever.
For now he hath no power to make Christ no priest, or take away his priesthood at will and pleasure: and in this God discovered his unspeakable love unto Christ, in that he did so much honour him, and so highly reward him. By this he also displayed his abundant mercy to man; for by this oath known unto man, he signifies that man shall never be destitute of a powerful and effectual priest, able for ever to save; and this doth minister unto sinful man most sweet and heavenly comfort. --George Lawson, 1662.
Verse 4. -- The form and manner of our Saviour's investiture or consecration was most honourable and glorious, God the Father performing the rites; which were not imposition of hands, and breathing on him the Holy Ghost, but a solemn testimony, with a protestation, "Thou art a priest": ceremonies never used by any but God, nor in the investiture of any but Christ, nor in his investiture into any office but the priesthood. At his coronation we hear nothing, but the Lord said, "Sit thou on my right hand": the rule of the whole world is imposed upon our Saviour by command; and even in this did Christ show his obedience to his Father, that he took upon him the government of his church. But at the consecration of Christ we have a great deal more of ceremony and solemnity, God his Father taketh an oath, and particularly expresses the nature and condition of his office, a priesthood for ever after the order of Melchizedek: and he confirmeth it unto him for ever, saying, "Thou art a priest for ever." --Daniel Featley, in "Claris Mystica". 1636.
Verse 4. -- What doctrine doth the Scripture afford more comfortable to a drooping soul than this, that God hath sworn his Son a priest for ever, to sanctify our persons, and purge our sins, and tender all our petitions to his Father? What sin is so heinous, for which such a priest cannot satisfy by the oblation of himself? what cause so desperate, in which such an advocate if he will plead, may not prevail? We may be sure God will not be hard to be intreated of us, who himself hath appointed us such an intercessor, to whom he can deny nothing; and to that end hath appointed him to sit at his right hand to make intercession for us. --Abraham Wright.
Verse 4. -- And will not repent. The meaning of this phrase is, that the priesthood of Christ is not like that of Aaron, which was after a time to expire, and is now actually with all the ceremonial law abolished, but a priesthood never to be altered or changed. -- Daniel Featley.
Verse 4. -- Thou art a priest. The reasons which moved our Lord to take upon him the office of priest are conceived to be these.
- Because the salvation and redemption of mankind, wrought by the sacrifice of his priesthood., being a most noble work, and not inferior to the creation, it was not fit that any should have the honour of it, but the Son of God.
- Neither was it agreeable that any should offer him, who was the only sacrifice that could expiate the sins of the whole world, but himself: therefore by offering himself he added infinite worth to the sacrifice, and great honour to the priesthood of the Gospel.
For, as the gold sanctifieth not the altar, but the altar the gold; so it may be truly said without impeachment to the dignity of that calling, that Christ was rather an honour to the priesthood, than the priesthood an addition to him. For what got he by the priesthood which cost him his life? What preferment could it be to him, to take upon him an office, whereby he was to abase himself below himself, and be put to an ignominious and accursed death? What were we vile miscreants, conceived and born in original sin, and soiled with the filth of numberless actual transgressions, that to purge and cleanse our polluted souls and defiled consciences, the second person in the Trinity should be made a Priest? It was wonderful humility in him to wash his disciples feet; but in his divine person to wash our unclean souls, is as far above human conceit, as it seemeth below divine majesty. There is nothing so impure as a foul conscience; no matter so filthy, no corruption so rotten and unsavoury as is found in the sores of an exulcerated mind: yet the Son of God vouchsafed to wash and bathe them in his own blood. O bottomless depth of humility and mercy! Other priests were appointed by men for the service of God, but he the blood of beasts to save men, but he shed his own blood to save us, more like beasts than men: other priests offered sacrifice for themselves, he offered himself for a sacrifice: other priests were fed by the sacrifices which the people brought, but he feeds us with the sacrifice of his own body and blood: lastly, others were appointed priests but for a time, he was ordained a priest for ever. --Daniel Featley.
Verse 4. -- Thou art a priest. This word, "Thou art", is "verbum constitutivum", a "constituting word", whereon the priesthood of Christ was founded. And it may be considered, --
- As declarative of God's eternal decree, with the covenant between the Father and the Son, whereby he was designed unto this office.
- As demonstrative of his mission, or his actual sending to the discharge of his office. These words are the symbol and solemn sign of God's conferring that honour upon him, which gave him his instalment.
- As predictive, for there is included in them a supposition that God would prepare a body for him, wherein he might exercise his priesthood, and which he might offer up unto him. --John Owen.
Verse 4. -- Melchizedek. Some heretics of old affirmed that he was the Holy Ghost. Others, that he was an angel. Others, that he was Shem, the son of Noah. Others, that he was a Canaanite, extraordinarily raised up by God to be a priest of the Gentiles. Others, that he was Christ himself, manifested by a special dispensation and privilege unto Abraham in the flesh, who is said to have seen his day, and rejoiced, John 8:56 . Difference there is also about Salem, the place of which he was king. Some take it for Jerusalem, as Josephus and most of the ancients. Others for a city in the half tribe of Manasseh, within the river Jordan, where Hierom reports that some ruins of the palace of Melchizedek were in his days conceived to remain. Tedious I might be in insisting on this point who Melchizedek was. But when I find the Holy Ghost purposely concealing his name, genealogy, beginning, ending, and descent, and that to special purpose, I cannot but wonder that men should toil themselves in the dark to find out that of which they have not the least ground of solid conjecture, and the inevidence whereof is expressly recorded, to make Melchizedek thereby the fitter type of Christ's everlasting priesthood. -- Edward Reynolds.
Verse 4. -- Melchizedek. These things concerning are certain: First, That he was a mere man, and no more; for,
- "Every high priest" was to be "taken from among men," Hebrews 5:1 ; -- so that the Son of God himself could not have been a priest had he not assumed our nature:
- That if he were more than a man, there would be no mystery in his being introduced in Scripture as, "without father, without mother, without pedigree," for none but men have such:
- Without this conception of him there is no force in the apostle's argument against the Jews.
Secondly, That he came not to his office by the right of primogeniture (which includes a genealogy) or by any way of succession, but was raised up and immediately called of God thereunto; for in that respect Christ is said to be a priest after his order. Thirdly, That he had no successor on the earth, nor could have; for there was no law to constitute an order of succession, and he was a priest only after an extraordinary call. These things belong unto faith in this matter, and no more... The first personal instituted type of Christ was a priest; this was Melchizedek. There were before real instituted types of his work, as sacrifices; and there were moral types of his person, as Adam, Abel, and Noah, which represented him in sundry things; but the first person who was solemnly designed to teach and represent him, by what he was and did, was a priest. And that which God taught herein was, that the foundation of all that the Lord Christ had to do in and for the church was laid in his priestly office, whereby he made atonement and reconciliation for sin. Everything else that he doth is built on the supposition of his priesthood. And we must begin in the application where God begins in the exhibition. An interest in the effects of the priestly office of Christ is that which in the first place we ought to look after. This being attained, we shall be willing to be taught and ruled by him. It may not be amiss to observe the likeness between Melchizedek and Christ. As for our Lord;
- He was said to be, and he really was, and he only, first the king of righteousness, and then the king of peace, seeing he alone brought in everlasting righteousness and made peace with God for sinners. In his kingdom alone are these things to be found.
- He was really and truly the priest of the most high God; and properly he was so alone. He offered that sacrifice, and made that atonement, which was signified by all the sacrifices offered by holy men from the foundation of the world.
- He blesseth all the faithful, as Abraham, the father of the faithful, was blessed by Melchizedek. In him were they to be blessed, by him are they blessed, -- through him delivered from the curse, and all the fruits of it; nor are they partakers of any blessing but from him.
- He receive, all the homage of his people, all their grateful acknowledgments of the love and favour of God, in the conquest of their spiritual adversaries, and deliverance from them, as Melchizedek received the tenth of the spoils from Abraham.
- He was really without progenitors or predecessors in his office; nor would I exclude that mystical sense from the intention of the place, that he was without father as to his human nature, and without mother as to his divine.
- He was a priest without genealogy, or derivation of his pedigree from the loins of Aaron, or any other that ever was a priest in the world, and moreover, mysteriously, was of a generation which none can declare.
- He had, in his divine person, as the high priest of the church, neither beginning of days nor end of life, as no such thing is reported of Melchizedek; for the death which he underwent, in the discharge of his office, being not the death of his whole person, but of his human nature only, no interruption of his endless office did ensue thereon. For although the person of the Son of God died, whence God is said to "redeem his church with his own blood," Ac 20:28; yet he died not in his whole person: but in his divine nature was still alive. Absolutely, therefore, and in respect of his office, he had neither beginning of days nor end of life.
- He was really the Son of God, as Melchizedek in many circumstances was made like to the Son of God.
- He alone abideth a priest forever; whereof we must particularly treat afterwards. --Condensed from John Owen.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 4. -- The eternal priesthood of Christ. On what its perpetuity is founded and the blessed results flowing therefrom.
Verse 4. -- These words offer three points of special observation.
- The ceremony used at the consecration of our Lord: "The Lord sware."
- The office conferred upon him by this rite or ceremony: "Thou art a priest."
- The prerogatives of his office; which office is here declared to be,
- Perpetual, "for ever".
(b) Regular, "after the order".
(c) Royal, "of Melchizedek".
Verse 4. -- Melchizedek: a fruitful subject. See notes.