Psalm 110 – The Messiah and the Monarchy

Psalm 110 Bible With Green and Blacks Organic 85 Percent Dark Cacao Chocolate

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Today’s PassagePsalm 110

Like Psalm 21 before it, Psalm 110 is a song written by the king, extolling the king. It’s another psalm of David, and the NASB has provided a perfectly serviceable summary: “The Lord Gives Dominion to the King.” It’s also a Messianic Psalm. If you’ve read one of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) or checked out the book of Hebrews, you may recognize a few verses from this psalm that were also quoted by those New Testament writers. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews takes this psalm as referring to the Messiah–and so does Jesus.

The author of Hebrews refers to Psalm 110 in two places, quoting two different verses. Right out the starting gate, he quotes Psalm 110:1, saying “But to which of the angels has He ever said, ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet?'” (Hebrews 1:13). He understands that God is speaking to the Messiah, not just any old King of Israel or even King David himself, and certainly not any angel; the Messiah is Jesus Christ. Later in his letter, in Hebrews 7:11-25, he cites another verse, “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Psalm 110:4). His interpretation of what it means to be a priest of the order of Melchizedek is complex, and requires some familiarity with the King Melchizedek’s appearance in Genesis 14. There’s a lot to dig into there, but for the writer’s purpose in Hebrews, here’s the upshot: Jesus Christ, as an eternal priest who can continually intercede for us, is superior to the Torah and the Old Testament priesthood who administrated the law and sacrifices.

According to the gospels, Jesus Christ himself takes Psalm 110 as referring to the Messiah. In Matthew 22:41-46, debating the Pharisees, he poses them a question. When they agree that the Messiah will come from the line of David, he asks, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand…?”‘” (Matthew 22:43-44). Jesus’ point is that the Messiah is no mere human king, but is greater than the ancestor who birthed him, even Israel’s most iconic king, David. And of course this is a paradox, if you presume as the Pharisees did that a man can’t be God, that YHWH can’t put on flesh and be born into the world of humanity that he created. Jesus is bringing to light the contradictions that arise if one assumes that he isn’t the Messiah.

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