Speaking of Melchizedek (Part 3A) Hebrews 7:11-22

POST OVERVIEW. This third post in our series on Melchizedek from Hebrews 7 begins to dive into the heart of the passage as we explore why the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the Levitical priesthood established by the first covenant at Sinai. (See post #574 and #575 for previous posts in this series.)

The objective of this series of posts is to explore and interpret Hebrews 7, which is devoted almost exclusively to a discussion about how Melchizedek relates to Jesus Christ. Our third post will begin to unpack the author’s argument about how our High Priest, Jesus, is far superior to any old covenant priest and how the priesthood of Melchizedek is far better than the weak Levitical priesthood created by the Law. This post will cover only Hebrews 7:11.

Now that the author has discussed the person of Melchizedek and described his priestly order (Hebrews 7:1-10, see post #575), he turns to consider the significance of there being a permanent priesthood which is better than the priesthood of Aaron. The author’s main purpose for presenting Melchizedek in such detail is to give us a clear picture of his “likeness” (see Hebrews 7:15). This “likeness” defines the characteristics of his priesthood and thus shows us the nature of the High Priest of that order.  

In addition to the “likeness” of Melchizedek, the author’s argument will also draw on the profound truths revealed by Psalm 110:4, in which the LORD (YHWH) makes an oath to Adonai.

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 this study, I will not generally be quoting the verses from the biblical text, so I am assuming that the reader has an open Bible as they go through this post. I use the NAS as my study Bible, but an ESV Bible should also work well.

Hebrews 7:11. It is evident that perfection (completion, finality, fulfillment) was never possible from the Levitical priesthood, because Psalm 110:4 speaks about another priesthood, the order of Melchizedek, in which the priest abides forever. This logical conclusion establishes the point that the Levitical priesthood under the first covenant was a temporary priesthood and was in place only until “another priest arose according to the order of Melchizedek” (7:11).

But there is more here than merely realizing the temporary nature of the Levitical priesthood. Notice the author states that “perfection” (Greek  τελείωσις) was not through the Levitical priesthood. Because perfection was not through the Levitical priesthood, it was necessary that another priesthood arise which was perfect. This would be the answer to the question, “Why did we need another priesthood?” But that leads to another question: “What was imperfect or incomplete about the priesthood under the first covenant and how is Christ’s priesthood better?” It is the answering of this second question that constitutes the rest of the chapter and that reveals the glory of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ.

But, before we go on in the verse-by-verse interpretation of this passage, we should pause to make a preliminary list of answers to this second question. This will give us a good idea of where we are headed as we proceed through the rest of the chapter. To repeat the question,

“What was imperfect or incomplete about the priesthood under the first covenant? “

  • The Levitical priesthood was temporary, not permanent
  • Priests were appointed solely based on a law of physical descent from Aaron
  • The Levitical priests all died
  • The Levitical priests were all sinners
  • The priest under the first covenant could not offer forgiveness or salvation

“and how is Christ’s priesthood better?”

  • Because Jesus is a priest forever (Ps. 110:4), He holds His priesthood permanently
  • Jesus was appointed a priest forever by an oath from the LORD (YHWH)
  • Jesus never dies, but lives forever
  • Jesus is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners”
  • Jesus is able to save completely and entirely because He lives forever

Now everything is in place to proceed through the rest of the chapter verse-by-verse. That is what we will do when we pick up our study in the next post.

SDG                 rmb                 9/26/2022                   #576

Speaking of Melchizedek (Part 2) Hebrews 7:1-10

POST OVERVIEW. This second post in our series on Melchizedek studies the scant biblical material about him and then examines Hebrews 7:1-10 where the author tells “how great this man was” (Heb. 7:4) and rehearses the characteristics which make up his “likeness.” (See post #574 for the introductory post of this series.)

The objective of this series of posts is to explore and interpret Hebrews 7, which is devoted almost exclusively to a discussion about how Melchizedek relates to Jesus Christ. This post will quickly explore the other biblical references to Melchizedek (both of them!) and then piece the evidence together to create a likeness for this mysterious figure.

MELCHIZEDEK OUTSIDE OF HEBREWS

Outside of the book of Hebrews, the biblical information about Melchizedek is limited to only four verses, and these verses are thoroughly covered by the writer of this epistle. The first reference is when Melchizedek appears out of nowhere in Genesis 14:18-20 to meet Abram as he is returning with his nephew Lot, and then he is mentioned again in Psalm 110:4, a mysterious verse in a mysterious psalm about the second advent of Christ, a verse that we met in our previous post (#574) about Hebrews 5:5-6.

GREATNESS AND “LIKENESS”

GREATNESS. As the writer begins Hebrews 7, his purposes are to establish “how great this man was” (7:4) and to present his characteristics so that we have a picture of his “likeness” (7:15). He will accomplish both purposes by reviewing the description of Melchizedek given in Gen. 14:18-20.

The greatness of this man is shown by comparing him to the patriarch Abraham and noting that, first, Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek and second, that Melchizedek blessed Abraham (7:6).

ABRAHAM PAID TITHES

The author’s argument about the tithes is a little hard to follow. The writer is comparing the tithes given to the Levitical priests with the tithes that Abraham gave to Melchizedek. In the Law, all the people are required to pay tithes to the Levitical priests. We also know that all the Levitical priests are descended from Abraham (through Isaac and Jacob and Levi, etc.). But Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham, who is the ancestor of all the Levitical priests. The author goes on to say that, since all the Levitical priests were still in the loins of Abraham when he paid tithes to Melchizedek, essentially the Levitical priests, who were supposed to receive tithes, actually paid tithes to Melchizedek. Thus, by this payment of tithes, Melchizedek is superior.

MELCHIZEDEK BLESSED ABRAHAM

Fortunately, the point about Melchizedek blessing Abraham is much easier to follow. At their meeting, Melchizedek blessed Abraham (7:1, 6), then, “But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater” (7:7). The author’s point is clear: Melchizedek is greater than Abraham.

Now that we have established Melchizedek’s greatness, we need to understand his “likeness” (7:15). Therefore, the author of Hebrews will gather together the characteristics of Melchizedek given to us in Genesis 14:18-20 to form his “likeness.”

LIKENESS. He is priest of Most High God (7:1). Also, he is king of righteousness (the translation of his name) and king of peace (7:2 – king of Salem). These are remarkable characteristics but are easy to see in the text.

But the next verse, Hebrews 7:3, is a bit harder to understand.

Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually. – Hebrews 7:3

The author is not suggesting that Melchizedek did not have a human birth and lives forever, although that may be our first thought. Rather, the author is saying that, in the inspired text of Scripture, and especially in a book of beginnings like Genesis, we expect to see a person’s genealogy. Yet in the inspired text, Melchizedek has no father, no mother, no ancestors or descendants at all. Scripture is silent about his birth and gives no evidence of his death. And since the Scripture makes no mention of his death, the author speaks of him AS IF he lives on. This is a rhetorical device the author uses to create a more complete “likeness” of Melchizedek. And legally, since there is no death certificate, it is permitted to assume that “he remains a priest perpetually” (7:3). Thus, we have a very impressive “likeness” for Melchizedek.

NOT A THEOPHANY

But, just how impressive is this “likeness?” For if Melchizedek was king of righteousness, king of peace, and priest of Most High God in a land where Abraham was the only one who knew anything about God; if he was greater than Abraham and blessed Abraham; if he had no beginning and he had no end and he remains a priest perpetually, is it possible that he is divine? This sure sounds like it may be a theophany. Is Melchizedek a pre-incarnate Christ?

Well, no, this is not a theophany, and that for several reasons. First, it is not a theophany because we know Melchizedek’s name. In Old Testament theophanies, like Genesis 16, 22, Numbers 22, Joshua 5, and Judges 6, the divine figure is never named, and in Genesis 32:29 and in Judges 13:17-18, the heavenly being refuses to give a name when asked. Since we know Melchizedek’s name, this is not a theophany. This one feature is conclusive.

But there are other reasons we know this is not a theophany. For example, there is nothing in the encounter in Genesis 14 to suggest that Melchizedek is divine. Abraham does not bow down to him and Melchizedek does no signs or wonders. The blessing that Melchizedek gives to Abraham is not prophetic, and so contains no display of divinity. Thus, while the characteristics attributed to Melchizedek point unerringly to Jesus Christ, this man who meets Abraham “as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings” (Heb. 7:1) is not the pre-incarnate Jesus. So this is certainly not a theophany.

. . . BUT A “TYPE” OF CHRIST

Instead, Melchizedek is perhaps the most stunning “type” of Christ in the Scriptures. In the Scriptures, a “type” refers to an Old Testament person or event which foreshadows some aspect of Jesus Christ or of His first or second advent. The “type” presents features that Jesus will fulfill when He comes. “Type” is different from prophecy, for a prophecy is a verbal expression about the coming Messiah, whereas a “type” is a picture or a representation of what the Messiah will be or do. Thus, Melchizedek is a remarkably clear picture of the coming Messiah. When you see someone who is king of righteousness, king of peace, priest of God Most High, who appears to be from eternity past and seems to live forever, there is a good chance that you have found the Messiah.

But now we read in Hebrews 7:15:

15 And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek.

As we consider this verse, the truth emerges that Jesus is that “another priest.” In other words, in Genesis 14:18-20, Melchizedek established the characteristics of the priesthood, that is, the “likeness” of the priesthood, and Jesus, when He appears, is “according to the likeness of Melchizedek.” Because Jesus fulfills the “type,” that is, because He is “another priest (who) arises according to the order of Melchizedek,” we know that Jesus is our High Priest, not of the order of Aaron (Levi), but of the order of Melchizedek.

SUMMARY

Having established the existence of the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek and having shown that Jesus is the High Priest of that order, we are prepared to see how Christ has replaced the Levitical priesthood. This is what we will explore in our next post.

SDG                 rmb                 9/23/2022                   #575

Speaking of Melchizedek (Part 1) Hebrews 5:5-6

POST OVERVIEW. This post is a study of Hebrews 5:5-6 where the author introduces the shadowy biblical figure of Melchizedek. This is the first in a series on Melchizedek.

The objective of this series of posts is to explore and interpret Hebrews 7, which is devoted almost exclusively to a discussion about how Melchizedek relates to Jesus Christ. We will do a deep dive into that chapter, but before we turn to chapter 7 of Hebrews, I wanted to look at how the author brings Melchizedek into his overall argument. So, this post will focus on Hebrews 5:5-6.

So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,

“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You;”

just as He says also in another passage,

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

Notice that in this two-verse passage, the author carefully selects two quotes from the book of Psalms. He mentions these quotes together, back-to-back, because he wants to show that each quote is an oath, wherein God the Father is speaking to God the Son in eternity past. But we still wonder why the author mentions the quote from Psalm 2, since that psalm is unrelated to his current teaching about Jesus as being a High Priest.

Here is why he does this. In the first century, it was generally accepted among Jewish scholars that Psalm 2 was Messianic and that 2:7 was an address from the LORD (YHWH) to the Messiah. That interpretation was settled and was not controversial. Every serious scholar would admit this point. On the other hand, there was considerable controversy over the interpretation of Psalm 110, and verse 4 of Psalm 110 was especially opaque. How in the world Melchizedek related to the Messiah and how or why the Messiah would be of the order of Melchizedek was beyond confusing.

Therefore, what the author of Hebrews does here in 5:5-6 is pure rhetorical genius. By presenting these two verses together, he demonstrates that the quotes are oaths of the same form. Next, by associating the controversial verse in Psalm 110:4 with the generally understood verse in Psalm 2:7, the writer succeeds in getting 110:4 accepted as also portraying the LORD (YHWH) speaking to Messiah with an oath of promise. This is key. By itself, Psalm 110:4 was too obscure to be discussed, but by placing it on the “coattails” of the “friendly,” well-understood Psalm 2:7, 110:4 is admitted into the discussion. And with Psalm 110:4 admitted into the discussion, Melchizedek has also entered the picture. Thus, we see that, by his brilliant use of quotes from the psalms, the author has managed to bring Melchizedek into the middle of the conversation. This is necessary, because Melchizedek and the priesthood he represents are going to prove crucial in the author’s theological argument about the obsolescence of the Levitical priesthood and the permanence and significance of Christ being a High Priest of the order of Melchizedek.

“Concerning him we have much to say” (Hebrews 5:11). Indeed, the author of Hebrews has much to say about Melchizedek, and in the next few posts we will attempt to understand the teaching of Hebrews 7 about him.

SDG                 rmb                 9/22/2022                   #574

Psalm 110 – The return of the conquering King

INTRODUCTION. A detailed interpretation of Psalm 110 which acknowledges the mysteries of the psalm from an Old Testament perspective and reveals the true meaning of the psalm in light of the Incarnation and the soon-coming return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So opaque were the mysteries of Psalm 110 that Hebrew scholars wrote virtually no commentaries on this psalm. Not only was the imagery within the psalm very difficult to understand, but the events that are taking place and even the characters involved were beyond the grasp of a scholar from the Old Testament era. Not long before His crucifixion, Jesus the Messiah questions the Pharisees about the meaning of Psalm 110:1 and receives only confused silence in reply. For, indeed, if our teaching is restricted to the Old Testament texts and our thinking is limited to an old covenant frame of reference, the psalm is virtually impossible to interpret. Here is the text of the psalm (from NASB):

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”
The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying,
“Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”
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.

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; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.
He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses,
He will shatter the chief men over a broad country.
He will drink from the brook by the wayside; Therefore He will lift up His head.

Yes, with an Old Testament mindset, the psalm’s mysteries are unsolvable. But Christ has now removed our old covenant veil. Now Christ has come in His humble first advent, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, to accomplish His work of redemption by dying on the cross for His people and He has been raised from the dead to prove that His atonement was accepted by the Father. So, we now preach Christ crucified and proclaim Christ raised from the dead, but we also declare that Christ will return in power and glory to reward the righteous and judge the unrighteous.

So, as we read Psalm 110 through the lens of the New Testament, we see that this psalm gives us a picture of what must soon take place when Christ returns at the end of the age. When we understand the context of this psalm, the beauty and the power of these prophecies come through like thunder.

The rest of this post, then, will be a meditation on Psalm 110.

BASIC FACTS. Psalm 110 was written by David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about a thousand years before Jesus Christ appeared in the flesh.

110:1. The English translation can inadvertently hide the text of the original Hebrew. “The LORD says to my Lord” translates the Hebrew, “YHWH says to my Adonai.” YHWH (the LORD) is the name of the covenant-keeping God. This name is the most holy word that can be spoken by a Hebrew. Adonai (the Lord) is also a name for the God of the Hebrews, but this name could be spoken without great fear of judgment. But what this verse presents to the Old Testament Hebrew reader is a total mystery, since God is speaking to God. But how can God speak to God? For Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “The LORD (YHWH) is our God, the LORD is one!” But if God is one, how does He appear here in Psalm 110:1 as two?

Now, however, after Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, it has been revealed that our God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Knowing this, we can understand that, in this verse, God the Father (YHWH) is speaking to God the Son (Adonai), and He tells Him to “sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

This phrase may still not make sense until we consider when this conversation between YHWH and Adonai takes place. For this exchange between God the Father and Jesus Christ, God the Son, occurs after Jesus has accomplished His work of redemption on the cross and has ascended back to heaven (John 19:30; Acts 1:9; Rev. 5:6-14). So, here in this verse, God the Father (YHWH) is welcoming God the Son (Adonai) back into heaven and back to His seat at the Father’s right hand. The Father tells Jesus the Son to wait “until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

This last phrase looks forward to the end of the age when the glorified Lord Jesus will come from heaven on the last day (Rev. 19:11-16) to judge the unrighteous (Rev. 19:21).

The first verse of the psalm, then, sets the stage of the psalm by showing us the victorious Jesus Christ awaiting the Father’s command for Him to return to judge the earth.

110:2. Now the Father’s command is issued. In 110:1, the Son was at the Father’s right hand awaiting the Father’s command for Him to return, and this is that command. To paraphrase, the Father tells the Son, “Go, My Son! You are the King. Stretch forth Your scepter (symbol of the King’s power and authority) from Zion (the place of the King’s rule; see Psalm 2:6) and vanquish Your enemies!” With the Father’s command, the Son prepares for His glorious return.

110:3. In this context, “Your people” must refer to the saints of the Lord Jesus. To put this in theological terms, “Your people” includes all the elect of all time. So, Jesus is returning with all of His people, but notice His people are “in holy array.” This speaks of the fact that His return occurs after the resurrection. The saints have been glorified in the resurrection (1 Thess. 4:14-17; 1 Cor. 15:50-55) and are now “in holy array” as they “volunteer freely” (joyfully join with the Lord Jesus as He returns to earth in judgment) “in the day of Your power.” (See also 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:14; Rev. 14:1-5; 19:14). Thus all the glorified saints accompany King Jesus as He returns to judge the earth.

110:4. This verse serves as a parenthesis, taking us from the last day all the way back to eternity past when we hear the Father’s oath to the Son, saying, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Here is another passage that exceeds old covenant theology, for according to the Law, the priesthood began with the anointing of Aaron and continued through Aaron’s descendants until no later than AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed. But Psalm 110:4 teaches that the priesthood of Melchizedek has always existed and the Lord Jesus has always been a priest forever according to that order. So, this verse establishes that the warrior King is also a priest forever.

This means that Jesus’ priesthood existed in eternity past long before the Aaronic priesthood began. Indeed, Jesus’ priesthood was established even long before Melchizedek appeared as a priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:18-20). Thus the Aaronic priesthood functioned as a temporary “type,” pointing forward to the permanent and eternal priesthood of the Son of God (Hebrews 7-10).

110:5-6. Having turned aside for a verse to declare the eternal priesthood of the Son, the psalmist now returns to the last day and to the terrifying judgment of the unrighteous by the warrior King. Jesus is returning with His glorified saints to judge the earth (Rev. 6:12-17; 19:11-21), and there will be no place to hide. These two verses are clear and need no comment.

110:7. After the dramatic action of the rest of the psalm, this last verse presents a curious conclusion. What is the significance of the warrior King “drinking from the brook by the wayside” and “lifting up His head?” But when we consider this for a moment, the message of this verse is revealed to be simple and yet very profound.

Up until this point in the psalm it would be possible to see the Lord (Adonai) as only divine. The Hebrew scholar who lived under the old covenant would have understood Adonai to be God, even if he could not understand what this psalm was teaching about how the LORD (YHWH) and the Lord (Adonai) related to one another. And so, the Old Testament Hebrew would have seen Adonai as being God but would never have conceived of Adonai as also being human, and, up until 110:7, that would have been a valid understanding of the psalm. So the scholar might conclude something like, “Somehow the Lord (Adonai) is going to come at the end and is going to pour out God’s wrath on the unrighteous.”

But the simple words of 110:7 throw that interpretation out the window, for “He will drink from the brook by the wayside.” Observe that this “He” of 110:7 is the same “He” of 110:5 and 110:6, which we have decided must be the Lord (Adonai). But how does Adonai “drink from the brook” and “lift up His head”? These are things that humans do, but the Lord, as God, does not drink from brooks and He does not have a physical head to lift up. Or does He?

The solution to this conundrum is stunning. If the Lord (Adonai) drinks from the brook by the wayside and lifts up His head, it must mean that somehow the Lord has become a Man. Somehow the Lord, who is God and who is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek and who is seated at the LORD’s right hand and who will come on the last day to judge the nations; the Lord is somehow both God and Man. Yes, the Lord is both God and Man and His name is the Lord Jesus Christ.

CONCLUSION

From an Old Testament mindset, Psalm 110 was a murky collection of mysteries. It was not possible for the Old Testament Hebrew to understand David’s inspired writing because God had not revealed enough in His word to untangle the knots.

But now that Christ has been revealed and has died, has been raised and has ascended, and now that God has given us His full revelation in a completed Bible, we can see that, almost a millennium before Christ appeared and at least three millennia before He returned, the Holy Spirit inspired David to give us a veiled preview of that final awesome day.

SDG                 rmb                 6/24/2022                   #547

The Messiah’s glorious return in Psalm 110

For the scribes and rabbis of ancient Israel, Psalm 110 was a dense thicket of mysteries. The psalm was rightly perceived as Messianic, but the meaning of the visions in its verses was entirely opaque. Thus, this psalm received little commentary from Jewish scholars in the Talmud and the Midrash.

But since David penned this psalm a thousand years before Jesus, redemptive history has produced the Incarnation, and the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah, and divinely inspired prophecies in the completed text of Scripture now give us the end of the story. The net effect is that Psalm 110 can now be seen for what it is, a detailed prophecy of the coming of the Messiah as King and Judge at the end of the age. This post will demonstrate the parallels between Psalm 110 and other end-times prophecy in the Bible.

The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

This scene takes place in heaven shortly after Christ’s ascension following His resurrection. The Son of God has accomplished the work of redemption which was given to Him by the Father in His Incarnation (John 17:4). His work was finished as He died His atoning death on the cross (John 19:30). He was raised from the dead on the third day and now Jesus has ascended back to heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand (Eph. 1:20-21; Rev. 5:13) to await the time when the Father will send Him back to earth to vanquish all His enemies (Matt. 24:36).

The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying,
“Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”

Now the time has come! Now the Father has decided that it is time to end the age and to bring a just recompense on all His enemies. And so, the Father hands the royal scepter to the Son and sends Him forth to judge and to vanquish the earth. Then will appear “a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war” (Rev. 19:11). The Son is now coming to tread out the great wine press of the wrath of God (Rev. 14:19-20; 19:15).

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.

On that day, the day of Christ’s power, the glorified saints (“Your people in holy array”) will return with the Lord (1 Thess. 3:13; Rev. 19:14), and they will “volunteer freely” and will deal out recompense along with their King (Psalm 149:5-9).

The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

The Lord Jesus has always been Priest and King and Prophet, but here we are allowed to attend the ordination ceremony that took place in eternity past when God the Father anointed God the Son to be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

The Lord is at Your right hand;
He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.

This is still on the Last Day when the Lord Jesus returns to judge the nations and to “shatter kings.” “A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and battle cry. On the day of the LORD’s wrath, all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth” (Zeph. 15-18). As David and Zephaniah tell of the day of the Lord’s wrath, so we read of that same day in Revelation 6:15-17:

15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they *said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

The point here in this verse is that, the day of wrath spoken about by David ca. 1000 BC is the same day of wrath spoken about by the prophet Zephaniah and by the apostle John. This is the day of the Lord.

He will judge among the nations,
He will fill them with corpses,
He will shatter the chief men over a broad country.              

On the day of the Lord, when Jesus returns, He will judge the nations (Matt. 25:31-32). When He comes in power and glory, Jesus will slaughter all the unrighteous (Rev. 19:21) and will destroy kings and commanders and mighty men (Rev. 19:18-19). Again, we see David’s vision of the day of the Lord repeated in John’s vision of the same event.

CONCLUSION

The Person of Jesus the Messiah removes the mysteries from Psalm 110. Jesus is God the Son who sits at the Father’s right hand. Jesus is the one who will rule in the midst of His enemies. Jesus is the one who will lead His glorified saints to victory on the Last Day. Jesus is the one who is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Jesus will shatter kings, judge the nations, slaughter the unrighteous, and shatter the chief men on the day of His wrath. “Therefore, He will lift up His head.”            

SDG                 RMB                10/19/2021                 #442

Psalm 110: A brief lesson in Christology

The LORD says to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand . . .”

INTRODUCTION

Thus, David begins Psalm 110, a psalm that held many mysteries for those who lived before the Incarnation. “The LORD says to my Lord.” “Yahweh says to my Adonai.” Right from the start the psalm presented difficulties. God is talking to God. Yahweh is talking to Adonai, so there appear to be two persons here, but the Shammah from Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” So how can this be? There is no clear solution to this puzzle.

            Jesus Himself brings out another conundrum from the psalm, as He questions the Pharisees during Passion Week. At that time, Psalm 110 was accepted by Hebrew scholars as a messianic psalm. The images and the drama of the psalm made it obvious that it pictured the victorious exploits of the Messiah. But the Holy Spirit had inspired David to write a theological riddle. So, Jesus asks, “Whose son is the Christ (Matthew 22:42ff)?” “The Son of David,” the Pharisees reply. The trap has been set and the bait has been taken. Jesus then quotes Psalm 110 and asks the obvious question: “If (in Psalm 110) David calls him (the Messiah) ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” In other words, “How can the Christ (Messiah) be both David’s son and his Lord?” No answer is offered because no answer is available. The Pharisees have no solution to the riddle.

            But the mysteries are even deeper than that. While the psalm was acknowledged to be about the victories of the Messiah, the only reference for the pronouns “You” and “Your” in verses 1-4 and the only reference for the pronoun “He” is verses 5-7 is “the Lord,” which in Hebrew is Adonai, a divine name of God. Therefore, taking all this into account, from Psalm 110 we discover that the Messiah is the Lord Adonai, but He is also the human Son of David “according to the flesh (Romans 1:3),” a Man like us who “will drink from the brook by the wayside (Psalm 110:7)” to quench His thirst. Sort of like a God-Man.

            Does that sound familiar? It should because Psalm 110 points unerringly to the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, this psalm is one of the most complete pictures of Jesus Christ in both His first and second advents in the Bible. The psalm provides us with a lesson in Christology that is supported by many other Scriptures. The rest of this article will explore Psalm 110 verse-by-verse and show how it reveals Jesus to us.

FINDING JESUS IN PSALM 110

  • Verse 1 – The Lord is told to sit at the right hand of the LORD because He has accomplished something that merits the seat of honor. Christ is exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3) because He has accomplished the work of redemption that He was given to do (John 17:4). He is highly exalted as a result of His perfect humiliation by his death on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11). He has been allotted a portion with the great (Isaiah 53:12).
  • Verse 1 – We have already talked (above) about the divine and human natures of the one who is the Lord (Adonai) and yet the Son of David.
  • Verse 2 – A “strong scepter” is a symbol of this King’s power. “The LORD sends forth Your strong scepter from Zion.” This scepter is the gospel that is sent forth and allows Christ through His church to rule in the midst of His enemies, “as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16)”. With the scepter of the gospel Christ will conquer the nations and bring many into His kingdom.
  • Verse 3 – There is a certain day in the future, “the day of Your power,” when His power will be on full display. We know that this will be the day of the Lord, the day of Christ’s return. In that day, “Your people will volunteer freely” and they will be dressed “in holy array.” This is describing the glorified saints arrayed in white robes who will come with the Lord Jesus upon His return. (See 1 Thess. 4:14; 2 Thess. 1:10; Revelation 19:14)
  • Verse 4 – The LORD has taken an oath and has sworn, and when God Himself takes an oath, it indicates the unchangeableness of the promise (Hebrews 6:13-20). This is the solemnity of the oath that the LORD has made to the Lord Jesus. The oath cannot be broken or changed.
  • Verse 4 – What is the nature of the oath? That Christ is “a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” First, then, He is a Priest as well as a King. There were no such kings in the Davidic line, for the priests were descended from Aaron in the tribe of Levi and the kings were from David in the line of Judah. Thus Christ, the Son of God, is the only one allowed to be both King and Priest because He is of the priestly order of Melchizedek. As a priest, Jesus makes intercession for His people. As priest, He is also the one who brought the blood of the eternal sacrifice to the heavenly mercy seat (See Hebrews 9-10).
  • Verse 4 – Christ is a priest forever. The priesthood of Jesus had no beginning and will have no end. In eternity past, the LORD swore with an oath that Jesus was a priest forever. He always lives to make intercession for His people (Hebrews 7:25). His people always have an advocate, a priest to intercede for them with the Father.
  • Verse 4 – For a study of Melchizedek as a type of Christ, spend time in Hebrews 7.
  • Verse 5 – “The Lord is at Your right hand.” Thus, begins the day of the Lord’s wrath. Verses 5-6 speak about the day of Christ’s return in wrath and judgment. We recall from verse 1 that the LORD invited the Lord to sit at His right hand. On the day of wrath, the Lord will still be at the LORD’s right hand as they render judgment to the unrighteous. In Revelation 6:16, the kings of the earth say to the mountains, “Hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne (the LORD), and from the wrath of the Lamb (the Lord).”
  • Verse 5 – “He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.” From that same passage in Revelation 6:15-17, the Lord shatters kings and the great men in the day of His wrath. Psalm 110:5 is describing the events of Revelation 6:15-17.
  • Verse 6 – The Priest-King of the order of Melchizedek “will judge among the nations.” Can there be any doubt that this is the terrible day of Christ’s final judgment? This is described in Matthew 25:31-46, when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats and casts those on His left “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (v. 41).” We see a glimpse of this in Luke 19:27 and in Revelation 14:9-11. Psalm 2:9 also mentions that the Son “will break them with a rod of iron and shatter them like earthenware.” Finally, in Revelation 19:11-16 we see the Lord Jesus coming in His final judgment.
  • Verse 6 – “He will fill them with corpses.” In the great day of judgment, there will be many slain by the Lord Jesus as He returns to deal out retribution. In Revelation 19:17-21, the Scriptures declare that the birds in midheaven will feast on “the flesh of kings and the flesh mighty men,” and all of these will be “killed with the sword that came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse.” The one on the horse is the Lord Jesus in His Second Coming. There will be many corpses on that day.
  • Verse 6 – “He will shatter the head over a broad country.” What would it mean for Jesus the Messiah to “shatter the head?” In Genesis 3:15, we read that the Messiah, the seed of the woman, will bruise Satan on his head. Now here we read that the great Priest-King, the Messiah “will shatter the head.” Psalm 110:6 is speaking of how Jesus crushed Satan’s head when He was crucified at The Place of a Skull. We also know that Jesus will finally “crush Satan’s head” when throws him into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
  • Verse 7 – The final verse may be the most mysterious of all. “He will drink from the brook by the wayside.” From this phrase it is unmistakable that this Warrior is human, for He thirsts and so He must stop by the wayside to drink from the brook. He wields the divine sword of judgment, yet He also needs water to slake His thirst.
  • Verse 7 – There may be more intended from the phrase, “He will drink from the brook.” For we know that, during His first advent, Jesus the Messiah was required to drink the cup of God’s wrath which He was given (John 18:11; Matthew 20:22). We know that, while He was on the cross, the Messiah thirsted (John 19:28). It is possible, then, to understand this phrase as speaking about His suffering in His earthly life. He drank from the brook of suffering that ran by the wayside of His life.
  • Verse 7 – If drinking from the brook does, in fact, point to Jesus’ suffering in this life, then the second half of the verse fits well into Scripture. In Isaiah 53:11, “As a result of the anguish of His soul . . .” Then in 53:12, “Therefore, I will assign Him a portion with the great.” In Philippians 2:8, Jesus was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” But 2:9, “Therefore also God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name.” (See also Revelation 5, where the Lamb is given glory and honor because He has conquered.) Because the Messiah endured the cross, “Therefore He (the LORD) will lift up His (the Lord’s) head.” And this understanding would bring us back to the start of the psalm when Jesus ascends to the right hand of the LORD.

CONCLUSION

            Psalm 110 presents us with a powerful picture of Jesus the Messiah in His first advent as the suffering Servant, but also in His Second Coming as the Warrior-Judge. This psalm also highlights the prophetic nature of some of the psalms as clearly foreshadowing future events. Finally, the psalm reveals again the divine inspiration of the Scriptures as these words written by David a thousand years before Jesus’ Incarnation are fulfilled by our great Priest-King.

SDG                 rmb                 10/20/2020