Forever Human

When Power Finds Its Place

A Poem by Mike Garner

When power finds its place

the defining event

light to guide the world

healing unimagined

 

Chaos captured

Dragons no more

Peace Justice Life Reign

 

Jacob so small

Galilee a hamlet of nobodies

God has become Man

 

When power finds its place

Likeness and Image Abound

Listen, a rumbling deep in the throes of existence

The voice of God

 

Up from the earth

A quaking

It’s only a child

 

When power finds its place

Life born of death

Hear, for the earth, quakes like Sinai

A man rises

 Forever Human

     God never loses us. In the absence of the body, all that constitutes our existence is held in the loving Spirit of God. God’s act of joining the creation by making part of what it means to be God to be human, affirms God’s desire for us to live. Jesus does not intend to be alone!

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind,

“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

(Psalm 110:4)

     Psalm 110 was written to preserve two oracles. The first is in verse one and the second is in verse four. The Psalm is eschatological attending to the final victory of God through the adonai (Lord) who reigns. Verse one begins with an older speech formula neum (says) and gives the oracle a sense of antiquity. This particular verse is the most oft quoted OT verse in the NT.[1] This being said, the importance of understanding verse one in its setting and in its NT use is imperative for NT theology.

    Jesus use of the verse is to deny that the Lord is a son of David. This alone has important repercussions on interpreting the purpose, use and legitimacy of the Davidic covenant.

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:  “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

They said to him, “The son of David.”

He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

(Matt. 22:41-46)

     Jesus used this piece of scripture to challenge the religious leaders of his day over the identity of the expected Messiah. They wanted someone like David. Jesus clarifies that the messiah is unlike David; the messiah is greater than David. Jesus identifies the role of the Lord in Psalm 110, in a subversive form; Jesus is the Lord of Psalm 110.

     The Lord in the Psalm is portrayed as equal to the LORD (YHWH) invited to sit at his right hand. He is addressed by the LORD as the manifestation of the LORD on the earth and among human beings.

    In the second oracle of verse four, the LORD swears.  In the Davidic covenant, Nathan’s God speech does not contain the word swear. When God swears, he is making the words he speaks irrevocable.

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind,

“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

(Psalm 110:4)

     In scripture when God changes his mind he does not shub, which is repent. Rather the word used is naham, a word rooted in the idea that if God does change his mind on a matter it is because of compassion for us. However, in verse four, the LORD swears he will not change his mind. I think this is because his compassion for humanity is to provide us with what we need. We need a Lord who is one of us, who understands us through experiencing being human. This Lord’s role as our priest is forever.  So, the incarnation of God is not an experiment, it is not a temporary role, it is God joining the adventure of life as one of us, it is permanent. There has been change in God he has added being human to his self. God’s character does not change, his nature remains holy, but being human is added to who God is. He is the Christ.

    That the existence of being human is possible for God is because humanity is created in his likeness and image. So, although there is a kenosis (self-emptying), through this act the transcendent invisible God (YHWH) can be seen. God has become one of us. Being human has been incorporated into the being of God, for this reason we too can, through our Lord, our Priest, be embraced into the being of God because the Christ fills all that God is, humanity has touched God.

     This understanding of Psalm 110 brings wonderful assurance to us all. Our existence is before our essence; we are alive. God will never lose us. Jesus will have a family. God keeps each one of us.

    The preservation of our bodies is irrelevant in relation to the preservation of our living existence. Absent from the body we are present with the Lord. God keeps us and death cannot end our existence. Whether the writer had intentions for thoughts of resurrection and incarnation to be a part of the Psalm seems to me irrelevant because the writer is preserving two oracular statements.

    The independence of these statements from the rest of the Psalm is witnessed by their use in the NT. That the first oracle is so important to the NT through quotes and obvious allusions confirms the oracle’s distinctiveness. The verses that surround these two oracular statements affirm and compliment the oracle’s words, without the statements the other verses are without interpretive context. The oracular statements can stand alone in the NT. Finally, it is Jesus who provides interpretive meaning to the entire Psalm.

       Our culture is adrift without introspection; this spirit of apathetic conformity permeates the religious practices of our people.  We are (overall) a people who prefer order at the cost of justice. Our religious thought has become (overall) supportive of inhumane behavior and faithless, dependence upon God, upon the way of Jesus is replaced with trust in powers that are in direct opposition to the will of God. This is so because militarism, materialism and nationalism is the state religion and it is at home in evangelicalism, in particular.

     The martyrs knew that you can burn my body but this act will not stop my resurrection. They believed Jesus rose physically after the throes of death had won and that he ascended into the realm of God. They understood life’s temporal journey is preparation for new life with a loving nonviolent God. They knew that how we live is more important than what we think we know. They knew that following Jesus involves every part of life and cannot be compartmentalized.

     If we spent less time on quick fix conversion and more time learning to be followers of Jesus, our witness would change the world. The communication of the gospel has been reduced to formulaic confession that is void of the depth of God’s revelation in the Lord Jesus Christ. This being said, Christianity is not taught because it is lost in a simplistic formula. Simplicity is not a problem unless it becomes formulaic for religious claims of inclusion or exclusion.

    Forever human, God has become, and forever-human creatures, we will remain. To learn to be a human being is at the heart of all religion and Jesus (the son of man) is the most excellent example of being human who has ever lived. We are loved of God and he will hold us and never lose us. He will resurrect us to dance upon a new earth of heavenly origin for God loves his creation.

 

[1] Psalm 110:1 is used in the following places in the NT: Mt. 22:44; 26:64; Mark 12:36; 14:62; 16:19; Luke 20:42; 22:69; Acts 2:34; Romans 8:34; 1st Cor. 15:25; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12.  Psalm 110:4 is used in: Romans 11:29; Hebrews 5:6,10; 6;20 and 7:3,11,15,17,21.