Psalm 110 – Part 1: The LORD speaks to the Lord

NOTE: This post is longer than most because it is intended to teach how to interpret and understand difficult and complex verses of the Bible. So the purpose is primarily INSTRUCTIVE. rmb

Jesus is the central figure in the Bible. The more a person reads and studies the Bible, the more obvious this becomes. Jesus is the subject of the prophecies and the foreshadows and the types in the Old Testament, as the people of God looked forward to the Messiah’s coming. He is the regal King of the gospels, as He displays His deity through His miracles and His teaching, and He is the suffering servant of the Lord, enduring His passion and dying His sacrificial death on the cross. He is the Firstborn from the dead as He rises victorious from the grave, the resurrected King of kings and the one who ascends to the Father’s right hand. The New Testament looks back to His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection, but the New Testament also looks forward to His Second Coming, when He will descend from heaven as the Judge of all the earth to “tread out the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty (Revelation 19:15).” From Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is the subject of the Scriptures. He is the glorious one, the star of the show.

But even though Jesus is the Person who dominates the Scriptures, it is not always easy to find Him in every passage of the Scriptures. What I mean is that sometimes Jesus is hidden by the mysterious way that a passage is written. Sometimes the Holy Spirit has inspired a passage in the Bible that is loftier than our current thoughts or that stretches our concept of who Jesus is. Because the Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), there will be times when we can understand the words that are used in a passage, but we may not understand the full meaning of what is being communicated. For those passages, we must slow down and dig deeper to find the treasure hidden in the passage. Psalm 110 is such a passage. This psalm was written by King David about 1,000 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and yet it tells amazing truths about the Lord Jesus and about what He will accomplish in His advents.

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” – Psalm 110:1

ASKING QUESTIONS TO UNDERSTAND THE VERSE

            At a first reading, this verse appears to be a complete mystery. The context of the verse is unclear, and the message of the verse is even less clear. What is this verse about? But before we despair, let’s see if we can ask some questions that may give us at least some direction.

            We have already established that Jesus is the central figure of the Bible. As we answer these questions, we will learn more about Jesus and about the whole flow of redemptive history and will see that this verse has a powerful message about Jesus.

  1. Who is speaking in this verse?
  2. To whom is He speaking?
  3. When does this conversation take place?
  4. What is the significance of “sitting at His right hand?”
  5. When will the promise of this verse be fulfilled?
  1. Who is speaking in this verse? First, we observe that the English text gives the name of the speaker as “LORD,” where the name is all capital letters. Why is this? We must understand that the original language of Hebrew had several names for God. The name translated as “LORD” is the Hebrew word “YHWH” or “Yahweh.” This is the covenant name for God that can also be understood as God the Father. Our God is one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the context of this verse, we would understand this “LORD” to be God the Father. So, God the Father is speaking.
  2. To whom is He speaking? Now we encounter another Person referred to as “Lord,” but notice that only the first letter of that name is capitalized. Again, the English is attempting to capture the meaning of the original Hebrew. The name translated as “Lord” is the Hebrew word “Adonai.” This is a name for God, but it is obviously different from the LORD, who is God the Father. David refers to Him as “my Lord.” Who is this? There is only one suspect for this mystery. Amazingly, in this verse God the Father is speaking to God the Son, Jesus Christ. What the psalmist, David, is relating to us in this verse is an “inter-trinitarian” conversation between God the Father and God the Son.
  3. When does this conversation take place? To answer this question, we need to look carefully at what God the Father is telling God the Son. The Father is telling the Son to “sit at His right hand” until some future date. This means that there must have been some time before this conversation when the Son was not sitting at the Father’s right hand. When was there a time when God the Son was not at the Father’s right hand? That time was when the Son was sent by the Father to earth in His first advent. Now the Son has completed His mission and has accomplished His work (John 17:4; 19:30) and He is returning to heaven. What we see, then, is that God the Father is speaking to God the Son after God the Son, Jesus Christ, has finished His work of atonement on the cross, has been resurrected and has ascended back to heaven. Thus, we see that this conversation takes place when Jesus Christ ascends to heaven after His first advent.
  4. What is the significance of “sitting at His right hand?” We have already seen that this verse, Psalm 110:1, is telling us that Jesus Christ, God the Son, has completed His work of redemption and has ascended back to heaven. God the Father is telling Him to sit at His right hand. Jesus is to sit. Sitting is what one did after you had completed your work. To be invited to sit meant that your host was inviting you to rest from your labors. “You have earned a rest. Take a load off your feet!” Jesus had perfectly accomplished His mission and had completed His work, so now God the Father invites Him to sit down. (See Hebrews 1:3.) Jesus it to sit at the LORD’s right hand. The right hand was the place of highest honor. It was the place where the king placed his most trusted and valiant counselors. Jesus, who had always occupied that seat until His first advent, assumes the place of highest honor after His mission is accomplished.
  5. When will the promise of this verse be fulfilled? God the Father not only invites God the Son to sit at His right hand after His ascension, but He also gives the Son a promise, that He will make the Son’s enemies a footstool for the Son’s feet. Up till now we have been focusing on Christ’s first advent, but now the focus shifts to His Second Coming at the end of the age. We know from other passages of Scripture that there will certainly be a time in the future when Jesus will again rise from His seat in heaven and will again come to earth, this time as a wrathful Judge and as a terrifying warrior. All of Christ’s enemies will be trampled under His feet (Revelation 14:19-20; 19:15, 20-21).

WHAT HAVE WE DISCOVERED?

            As we have carefully and deliberately gone through this difficult verse of Scripture, we have been able to discover some powerful truths. We used thoughtful questions to dig treasure out of this mysterious verse and, by bridging between what we already knew and what careful observation revealed, we uncovered new things about Jesus and about the future of the world.

            The Bible is all about Jesus Christ, and we have learned from this one verse of this ancient psalm of David, written a millennium before Christ was born, that:

  • There is evidence of the Trinity even in the psalms.
  • Jesus will be sitting at the right hand of God the Father throughout the time between His advents.
  • There will be a time in the future when Jesus Christ will return to destroy all His enemies.
  • Jesus has perfectly accomplished His mission and His work of redemption in His first advent and is therefore worthy to sit at the Father’s right hand.

Therefore, we can be encouraged as we make our way through our walk through this life, because Jesus is at the right hand of the Father and that He is soon coming from heaven to bring us home to Him.

SDG                 rmb                  12/28/2020

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