Psalm 110 – Messiah, Priest, Conquering King
This psalm carries the title A Psalm of David. Strangely, some scholars and commentators deny David’s authorship. Yet as Derek Kinder noted: “Our Lord gave full weight to David’s authorship and David’s words, stressing the former twice by the expression ‘David himself’, and the latter by the comment that he was speaking ‘in the Holy Spirit’ (Mark 12:36f.).”
This remarkable psalm is one of the Old Testament portions most quoted in the New Testament. James Montgomery Boice counted 27 direct quotations or indirect allusions to Psalm 110 in the New Testament.
A. The character of the Messiah.
1. (1-2) Appointed and honored by Yahweh.
The LORD said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.
Rule in the midst of Your enemies!
a. The LORD said to my Lord: David prophetically revealed the words of Yahweh (the LORD) to the Messiah, David’s Lord. This is clear not only from the context, but especially by how this verse is quoted in the New Testament.
i. The first verse of this psalm is one of the Old Testament verses most quoted in the New Testament.
· Jesus quoted it in Matthew 22:43-45 (also Mark 12:36-37), showing how David called the Messiah “Lord” – recognizing that the Messiah was greater than David himself.
· Peter quoted it on Pentecost, explaining how David prophesied the deity and ascension of Jesus (Acts 2:34-35).
· Paul referred to it in 1 Corinthians 15:25, explaining the rule and dominion of Jesus the Messiah.
· The author of Hebrews quotes it in Hebrews 1:13, referring to the superiority of Jesus the Messiah over any angel.
· The author of Hebrews referred to it in Hebrews 10:13, explaining the rule and dominion of Jesus the Messiah.
ii. “How condescending on Jehovah’s part to permit a mortal ear to hear, and a human pen to record his secret converse with his co-equal Son! How greatly should we prize the revelation of his private and solemn discourse with the Son, herein made public for the refreshing of his people!” (Spurgeon)
b. The LORD said to my Lord: The fact that Yahweh – the LORD, the covenant God of Israel – spoke to one that David himself called Lord (Adonai) demonstrates that both Yahweh and Adonai mentioned in this verse are God.
i. Specifically speaking, we would say that Yahweh is the Triune God, with references to the persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each being Yahweh. Normally, when Yahweh is mentioned without specific connection to the person of the Son or the Holy Spirit, we assume it refers to God the Father. Therefore, here God the Father is speaking to the Messiah, God the Son.
ii. “Adonai refers to an individual greater than the speaker. Here is a case of David’s citing God’s words in which God tells another personage, who is greater than David, to sit at God’s right hand until God makes the person’s enemies a footstool for the person’s feet. This person can only be a divine Messiah, who is Jesus Christ.” (Boice)
c. Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool: Yahweh (specifically, God the Father) spoke to the Messiah (specifically, God the Son), telling Him to take His enthroned place (Ephesians 1:20, Hebrews 8:1) until the Father provided the victory for the Son.
i. Sit at My right hand: “His work is done, and he may sit; it is well done, and he may sit at his right hand; it will have grand results, and he may therefore quietly wait to see the complete victory which is certain to follow.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Your footstool: “Thy slaves and vassals to be put to the meanest and basest services, as this phrase implies, 1 Kings 5:3,Psalms 18:39, 91:13; being taken from the manner of Eastern princes, who used to tread upon the necks of their conquered enemies, as we read, Joshua 10:24.” (Poole)
d. The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion: The Messiah’s authority would not be limited to Israel. It would extend to the entire world, dominating all the kings and nations of the earth, giving Him rule over all enemies.
i. Adam Clarke is among those who think the rod of Your strength represents the Gospel: “The Gospel – the doctrine of Christ crucified; which is the powerful sceptre of the Lord that bought us; is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword; and is the power of God to salvation to all them that believe.”
2. (3) Recognized and honored by His people.
Your people shall be volunteers
In the day of Your power;
In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
You have the dew of Your youth.
a. Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power: When the people of God see and experience the victory of their Messiah, they will gladly give themselves to His work. They are willing in the day of His power. Since the Hebrew word translated power is the word for a host or army, the idea is that the Messiah’s people are gathered together as a willing army.
i. Be volunteers: “Heb. willingnesses, i.e. most willing, as such plural words are frequently used.” (Poole)
ii. “There are no mercenaries in this battle, no slaves pressed into the ranks of Jesus’ soldiers. This army is composed entirely of volunteers.” (Boice)
iii. “Whensoever the Holy Spirit is supreme in a church there will be a free-will offering of young hearts and lives…. There are no pressed men in our Master’s army – all are volunteers. Offer your will to God; say you are willing to be made willing.” (Meyer)
b. You have the dew of Your youth: The people of God praise the victorious Messiah, and are noted for their beautiful holiness, their radiant being (the womb of the morning), and their ageless strength (dew of Your youth).
i. “But the reference of the expression is to the army, not to its leader. ‘Youth’ here is a collective noun, equivalent to ‘young men.’ The host of his soldier-subjects is described as a band of young warriors, whom he leads, in their fresh strength and countless numbers and gleaming beauty like the dew of the morning.” (Maclaren, cited in Spurgeon)
3. (4) Established as an eternal priest.
The LORD has sworn
And will not relent,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”
a. The LORD has sworn and will not relent: This puts the statement which follows in the most solemn and strong context possible. Yahweh (specifically, God the Father) made an oath that would never be annulled.
i. “God, as it were, pledges His own name, with its fulness of unchanging power, to the fulfilment of the word; and this irrevocable and omnipotent decree is made still more impressive by the added assurance.” (Maclaren)
b. You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek: This is the oath of Yahweh (specifically, God the Father) regarding the Messiah, God the Son. He vowed that the Messiah had an eternal priesthood, and that it was after the pattern (order) of Melchizedek, who is mentioned in a single account in the Old Testament (Genesis 14).
i. The Genesis 14 account is brief, but densely packed with information about Melchizedek.
· After Abraham defeated the confederation of kings who took his nephew Lot captive, Abraham met with a mysterious priest named Melchizedek, whose name means king of righteousness and who was also king over the city of Salem (an ancient name for the city of Jerusalem), which made him the king of peace.
· Melchizedek was not merely a worshipper of the true God. He had the honored title priest of the Most High God. The greatness of God magnified the greatness of Melchizedek’s priesthood.
· Melchizedek blessed Abraham, demonstrating his greatness over the patriarch.
· Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe, which is a tenth part of all (all the spoils of battle, as mentioned in Genesis 14:20).
· There is no mention of any father or mother of Melchizedek, and he appears without any genealogy.
c. You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek: With this oath, God revealed that there is another order of priesthood, apart from the priestly order of Aaron. The Israelite priests were all descended from Aaron and served in the tabernacle (later the temple), offering sacrifices and conducting ceremonies according to God’s law. Here we see that God established another priestly order, after the pattern of Melchizedek.
d. You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek: This oath was so important that the author of Hebrews refers to it five times (Hebrews 5:6, 5:10, 6:20, 7:17, and 7:21).
· Hebrews 5:5-6 and 5:10 emphasize that this was Yahweh’s declaration, not something that the Messiah claimed for Himself.
· In Hebrews 6:20, the emphasis is on the idea that Jesus the Messiah serves now and forever as a living, active High Priest for His people.
· Hebrews 7:17 emphasizes that the priesthood of Jesus the Messiah according to the order of Melchizedek is better than the priestly order of Aaron, because it is eternal and will never end.
· Hebrews 7:21 emphasizes that the priesthood of Jesus the Messiah according to the order of Melchizedek is better than the priestly order of Aaron because it was founded on a direct oath of Yahweh, unlike the priestly order of Aaron.
i. “His priesthood is not, like that of Aaron, figurative, successive, and transient, but real and effectual, fixed and incommunicable, eternal and unchangeable.” (Horne)
ii. “The Church is collected and conserved not only by Christ’s kingly power, but also by his priestly mediation.” (Trapp)
B. The conquest of the Messiah.
1. (5) The Messiah contends with the kings of the nations.
The Lord is at Your right hand;
He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath.
a. The Lord is at Your right hand: The favor and strength of the Messiah (Your right hand) is aligned with, and an instrument of, the strength of God (the Lord).
i. “The second part of the psalm carries the King into the battlefield. He comes forth from the throne, where He sat at Jehovah’s right hand, and now Jehovah stands at His right hand.” (Maclaren)
ii. “Now the Lord (i.e. Yahweh) and his King act as one, and the army of volunteers which was seen in verse 3 is no longer in the picture. The battle is the Lord’s, yet he and his King are so united.” (Kidner)
b. He shall execute kings: With the authority mentioned in verse 2, the strength of the Messiah extends out of Zion and brings the righteous judgment of God against even the greatest kings.
2. (6-7) The Messiah judges all nations.
He shall judge among the nations,
He shall fill the places with dead bodies,
He shall execute the heads of many countries.
He shall drink of the brook by the wayside;
Therefore He shall lift up the head.
a. He shall judge among the nations: In His conquest, the Messiah will exercise His authority over all nations, bringing His judgment.
b. He shall fill the places with dead bodies: This seems to anticipate the slaughter at the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16, 19:11-21).
i. “The choice for every man is being crushed beneath His foot, or being exalted to sit with Him on His throne. ‘He that overcometh, to him will I give to sit down with Me on My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father on His throne.’ It is better to sit on His throne than to be His footstool.” (Maclaren)
c. Therefore He shall lift up the head: While the rebellious nations of the world receive their judgment, the Messiah Himself is refreshed (drink of the brook) and exalted (lift up the head).
i. He shall drink: Curiously, many commentators take this as a reference to the Messiah’s humiliation. It is better to see it as His refreshment on the day of battle. “Psalm 110:7 is usually taken as depicting the King as pausing in His victorious pursuit of the flying foe to drink, like Gideon’s men, from the brook, and then with renewed vigour pressing on.” (Maclaren)
ii. He shall lift up the head: “…i.e. shall be delivered from all his sorrows and sufferings, and exalted to great glory, and joy, and felicity, as this phrase usually signifies, as Psalms 3:3, 27:6, Jeremiah 52:31, and oft elsewhere; as, on the contrary, to hang down the head, is a signification of great grief and shame, as Lamentations 2:10.” (Poole)
iii. “His own head shall be lifted high in victory, and his people, in him, shall be upraised also.” (Spurgeon)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org