by Rev. Mark Robinson
Of all the Messianic Psalms perhaps none surpasses the glory and magnificence of Psalm 110. This brief psalm of seven verses takes us from the heights of the divine and human nature of the Messianic king, to his ministry as a priest after the order of the mysterious king/priest Melchizedek, to the splendour of the promised coming of the Messianic king as Judge. Is it any wonder this psalm is the most oft quoted psalm in the New Testament?
When one digests all this psalm teaches, the partaker will be grounded in some of the most foundational doctrines of the Word of God concerning the Messiah. To neglect this psalm is comparable to watching television in black and white, instead of color, or using telegraph instead of a telephone. The message will come through in other Biblical passages, but not in the majestic views contained in this psalm.
This psalm consists of two announcements by the Lord. The first, “The LORD said to my Lord…,” is found in verses 1-3 and the second, “The LORD hath sworn…,” in verses 4-7. The first announcement introduces us to Messiah as King. The last announcement portrays Messiah as Priest and Judge.
Messiah as King (vs. 1-3)
“The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.”
The reader should pay careful attention to the conversation in verses one through three. The LORD (Jehovah) is speaking to David’s (“my”) Lord (Adon). David is the King of Israel. He is the highest human authority in the nation. Israel, though, was a theocracy. That is, God was the highest authority in the land. When David says “The LORD said unto my Lord,” we are confronted with the clear declaration that God is speaking to God! The LORD was speaking to David’s Lord, who must be God. This statement leaves us with a conundrum. God is speaking to God? Is there not only one God?
The only way to reconcile “God speaking to God” is to understand God as a plurality in unity. He is One, but in His oneness there is a unique unity.1
This conversation reveals to us that Messiah would be both human and divine. Jesus, in Matthew 22:41-46, skillfully used these verses as he dialogued with the Pharisees.
“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Messiah? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.”
The Pharisees correctly answered Jesus’ question “Whose son is the Messiah?” Every student of the Bible knows Messiah is the son of David. It was Jesus’ next question that left the Pharisees speechless. After quoting Psalm 110:1, He asked, “How, then, can David call the Messiah GOD if he is David’s son?”
There are a variety of reasons the Pharisees didn’t have an answer, but the bottom line is they had a preconceived idea about Messiah and not a Biblical understanding. The Scriptures teach Messiah will be both HUMAN and DIVINE.
When God says to the Messiah “sit thou at my right hand,” this is a position of honor (1 Kings 2:19; Psalm 45:10; Job 30:12). This privilege was spoken to no one, not even angels (Hebrews 1:13), but the Messiah.
The duration of the Messiah at the right hand of God is until God’s enemies are defeated. The implication, which is clearly seen in the New Testament, is that after His rejection Messiah will wait for God’s enemies to be subdued before He appears again.
Verse three tells us the Jewish people will experience a change of attitude and welcome Him. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” They will appear before Him in “the beauty of holiness” on the day He shows His power.
The day of Messiah’s power is the second coming. Zechariah 12 tells us that all nations will come against Israel and that Messiah (the LORD) returns and “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” When they “look upon me” (Jesus) they are saved, redeemed, and in God’s sight they are then holy.
Messiah as Priest (vs. 4)
“The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”
In verse four we have the second announcement of this chapter. We are told that Messiah is a priest. His priesthood, though, is different from that which Israel was given through the Levites. The Messiah, being from the tribe of Judah, was not qualified to be a priest of the Levitical order.
His priesthood was of an infinitely higher calling. It was after the order of Melchizedek. “The LORD has sworn…Thou art a priest for ever.” This priesthood would be irrevocable and eternal. The Levitical priesthood was temporary for any individual priest and revocable. Who, we must ask, was Melchizedek?
In Genesis 14:17-24, Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the most high God (el-elyon), blessed Abram and Abram paid him tithes. Melchizedek was both a king and a priest. We know nothing about Melchizedek and his background.
I believe Melchizedek is a type of Messiah, not a pre-incarnation of Messiah. Hebrews 7:3 says of Melchizedek, he was “made like unto the Son of God.” “Like” is the operative word here in that he was a “picture” or “type” of Messiah.
Messiah was to be the Priest-King, combining both offices which could not be done under Israelite theocracy. Uzziah, for example, the king of Judah, was smitten with leprosy when he tried to function as a priest in the Temple (2 Chronicles 26:16-33).
Zechariah prophesied that only Messiah would combine these offices (Zechariah 6:9-13). In verse 13 we are told, “ Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”
The pronouncement of Messiah being a priest after the order of Melchizedek implies a replacement of the Mosaic/Levitical order with a new order. This is exactly what was promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34 with a future New Covenant and is elaborated on in Hebrews 7:11-28.
Jesus is our priest who represents believers before God forever. He has an unchangeable priesthood as Hebrews 7:24 proclaims. Our salvation is secure because Jesus has an irrevocable, eternal priesthood and represents those who have trusted in Him for salvation before a holy God for ever and ever.
Messiah as Judge (vs. 5-7)
“The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.”
As David concludes this Psalm, he addresses the LORD and speaks of the “Lord” (Adonai) performing an eschatological judgment. This is the time of Messiah’s wrath being poured out upon the world. In verse 5 we are told “He shall strike.” In verse 6 it says “He shall judge,” “He shall fill” and “He shall wound.”
The Seal Judgments of Revelation all are opened by the Lamb (Revelation 6: 1,3,5,7,9,12-17). God has given judgment to the Son (John 5:22,27). We have the final judgment of Messiah against the rebellious unsaved of the world in this passage.
“He shall wound” (v. 6c) is the same word as “strike” in verse 5. The word “heads” in the KJV is the Hebrew word “rosh” and is singular. The Jewish new year, “Rosh Hashanah,” uses the same word and means “head of the year.” The “rosh” of the countries is the Anti-Christ (Satan) and speaks of Jesus’ defeat of him in the Tribulation period.
In verse seven we have the victory of Messiah. “He shall drink” and “He shall lift” speak of His ultimate triumph. To lift up His head is the opposite of making “thy enemies thy footstool” (verse 1). Messiah returns as the righteous Judge and destroys the enemies of God and reigns in glorious triumph.
Psalm 110 states or implies a number of things about the Messiah. His first coming will be rejected (implied); He will ascend into heaven (implied); He will sit at LORD’s right hand (stated); He will be both God and man (stated); He will return and Israel will willingly accept Him (stated); He will be both Priest and King (stated); He will judge His enemies (stated) and defeat the world ruler (stated); and He will experience victory and reign (stated).
This is a triumphal psalm that is fulfilled in Jesus. We either accept Him as King and Priest today, or meet Him as Judge in the future. Which Jesus is your Jesus? King and Priest? Or Judge?
1. Jewish Awareness Ministries has two resources that can help in a study of the plurality in unity of God. One is a small 16 page booklet by this author titled “One God or Three?” and the other is a book by Stan Rosenthal also titled “One God or Three?” Contact us for information on how you can get these.