PSALM 110: The Most Royal Psalm


This may just well be the “royalist” psalm in the entire Book of Psalms. It has been referred to as “the jewel among the psalms” and it is quoted an astonishing 21 times in the New Testament, each time in relation to Jesus Christ and His kingdom. In fact, even Jesus said this psalm referred to Himself and His kingdom. There are some who think Psalm 110, written by David, was written also written about David and his rule over Israel. This is probably at least partially true; this psalm probably refers entirely to Jesus and partly to David.  Given how the writers of the New Testament viewed this psalm, we can be certain that David, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote some of the most significant things about the Messiah and His kingdom.

1. The King, verses 1—3

The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

This verse is quoted verbatim no less than 15 times in the New Testament and “echoed” in many other passages. When you hear this verse quoted, it sounds awkward. When you read it, it becomes slightly clearer, with the first occurrence of the word “lord” capitalized, the second in lower case. But if we take out the English “lord” and replace it with it with its original, the verse takes on a whole new meaning:

Yahweh says to Adonai, “Sit at my (Yahweh’s) right hand until I make your (Adonai’s) enemies a footstool for your (Adonai’s) feet.”

It’s clear, then, that two different “lords” are being talked about: God, Yahweh, and someone else, Adonai. It is possible that this particular verse has two meanings: an immediate one and a future one. In its immediate setting, the psalmist could have written about God’s promise to Kind David and his family. When read with that context in mind, we think about the Davidic Covenant—the fact that his authority over God’s people was given him by God Himself. In other words, David was writing about his divine appointment as king over Israel. To make the enemies a “footstool” an eastern metaphor for complete control. So, the immediate context, at least as far as this verse is concerned, makes sense. David was God’s chosen man to lead the Hebrews, and God gave His warrior-king victory of his enemies.

As we read on, it becomes evident that “Adonai” must refer to someone in addition to David. Even in verse one, the use of the word “Adonai” is the tip off; it means “one who has rule or authority,” “one of high rank.” In the Bible, it is frequently used of kings or princes, but here in Psalm 110, because it occurs after the word “my,” it must refer to someone of “higher rank” than the author of the psalm, David. Who can be higher than God’s divinely appointed king? Whom did David think he was writing about?

Thankfully, we have the New Testament. As to what was in David’s mind, we cannot know. But we know what was in God’s mind thanks to the things Jesus said and Paul wrote. We know that “Adonai” refers to Jesus Christ. The meaning of this verse, then, becomes exciting; it’s a picture of the Son of God, at His Father’s right hand (which itself is a place of authority and power), already in the position of sovereignty, already lord over all, though creation be in temporary revolt against His rule.

The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies.” (verse 2)

Verse two can also refer to David, and knowing Hebrew history we know that David did rule in the midst of his enemies. David’s military victories laid the groundwork for a generation of peace under his son’s rule. As He did David, so God will give strength to His Son, Jesus, as indicated by the phrase “mighty scepter.” God will extend Christ’s authority and sovereignty so that even heaven’s enemies will recognize Him as Lord and King over all.

The kingdom of God will become a kingdom of glory. Verse 3 is a difficult verse to put into English. The NASB is considerably different from the tNIV, though both are valid ways to look at what David was trying to convey:

Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. (NASB)

Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb. (tNIV)

Either “people” or “troops” could be correct, or perhaps the meaning of the verse is all-inclusive; when Christ rules, there will be a “national consecration.” Today in the kingdom of God we have a lot of “reluctant service,” and while that kind of service is better than no service at all, there will come a day when Christ returns to earth as King of kings when all His people will consecrate themselves willingly to the service of the Lord. What a great day that will be! At last we will see things clearly and not through “a glass darkly.”

2. The priest, verse 4

If you think of Jesus Christ a King, you are only half right. He is also the great Priest; the greatest priest ever!

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

Generally speaking, according to the religious laws of Israel there was a clear separation between the offices of king, priest, and prophet. It is true that David assumed the role of priest on several occasions, the intention of God’s law was that the two offices of king and priest should remain separate. No such separation is indicated for Heaven’s King; He alone is uniquely qualified to be our Prophet, Priest, and King. In Jesus, all these royal functions are combined.

This one verse alone is quoted six times in the New Testament book Hebrews! It was used to show that the priesthood of Jesus Christ would be different and far superior to that of Aaron. That’s what’s meant by the “in the order of Melchizedek.” All the priests of Israel descended from Aaron—they were from the same family line. Melchizedec, though, was a high priest long, long before Aaron, therefore his priesthood descended, not from his lineage, but from God. In that sense, Jesus is similar to Melchizedek; Jesus is not a priest because He descended from Aaron, but because it is His Father’s will. This makes Jesus THE superior High Priest, being “handpicked” by God Himself. It means that Jesus is the High Priest because God decreed it so. And Jesus will be our High Priest forever; through all eternity. For a full discussion of this, read Hebrews 7.

Even the name “Melchizedek” is significant. Not only was he king over Jerusalem long before the Law was given, by several hundred years (see Genesis 14), but his name means “king of righteousness.” This “king of righteousness” was “king of Salem” (or Jerusalem), which itself “peace.” If we put all that together, the king of righteousness was also the king of peace. No wonder God equated Jesus Christ with the earthly king Melchizedek. Our great King: the Righteous King of Kings and Prince of Peace.

3. The triumph, verses 5—7

These three verses all speak of the future, when the King will return in glory. What’s interesting is that back in verse one, it appears as though God the Father will give the enemy into His King’s hands. But in verse five, it is the King who fights victoriously:

The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.

Notice the lower case “lord.” It is not Yahweh who is the right hand of Adonai, it is Adonai who is at Yahweh’s right hand. It is God who is being addressed here. Adonai, the King of Kings and Prince of Peace will “crush” kings in His “wrath.” Yes, sometimes peace can only be achieved through violence! The word translated “crush” can also mean “shatter,” “shake,” or “agitate.” The “kings” referred to here are the enemies of Christ. To His enemies; to those who don’t know Him, Jesus does not and He will not being peace, but a sword.

Our King-Priest will also be the Judge of all the living and the dead:

He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. (verse 6)

No wonder the “Day of the Lord” is called “dreadful!” When Christ returns as King, it will be awful for those who rejected Him. There will be no hope.

Verse seven is a curious verse in no matter what version it is read:

He will drink from a brook along the way, and so he will lift up his head.

Moffatt, in his translation, translates verse seven like this:

He drinks from any stream he has to cross, then charges forward triumphing.

It’s a very poetic way of picturing our King in battle; nothing slows Him down; not a stream or thirst! Our King, victorious in battle, surrounded by corpses, wearied and thirsty, pauses in the fray to drink, then He looks up, finds strength to continue the fight. Nothing can stop the King.

The once-crucified One, now exalted to God’s right hand, will one day return in great glory and power to set things right. Evil will be no more. Righteousness, justice and peace will prevail on the earth. The spiritual triumphs of the Cross saved our souls and restored our relationship with our Creator and Heavenly Father. When Jesus comes again, He will triumph again, this time He will vanquish evil, restore the earth to perfection and establish His kingdom forever.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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