The Messianic Psalms - Psalm 110
Stephen Fellowes, Skibbereen, Ireland [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
There is a difference of opinion as to the definition of a Messianic psalm, but the status of Psalm 110 is undisputed, being quoted and alluded to in the New Testament and full of the person of the Messiah. Many Messianic psalms have an historic reference to the experience of the psalmist who wrote it, but here we are occupied alone with Christ. It has been beautifully termed by Flanigan as ‘pure prophetic poetry’. 1
The New Testament, of course, confirms this. It is suggested that there are around fourteen references to this psalm; sometimes they take the form of a direct quotation, which could consist of a full verse, or part of a verse, while at other times the psalm is alluded to rather than quoted directly.
As we study the main New Testament references to this psalm, we suggest that they can be divided according to their different emphases. I have grouped them as follows:
The greatness of His person in contrast to David. 2
The Pharisees are left speechless as the Lord Jesus asks them to reconcile these two things: how is Christ David’s son and yet David’s Lord? We, who know the glory of the One who speaks, rejoice in Him who is both ‘root and offspring of David’, Rev. 22. 16.
Hebrews chapter 1 verse 13 develops the same theme, this time majoring on His supremacy above angels. This glorious fact is the perfect starting point in the book of the supreme Christ. Before Moses, Aaron and many others are introduced, the writer will discuss those angelic beings held in such reverential awe by the Hebrew people. Angels appeared to the patriarchs; they accompanied the giving of the law, etc., yet, here is One who ‘has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they’.
The greatness of His position, Acts 2. 34, 35.
We rejoice in what God has done to Him in contrast to how He was treated by the nation. Great though David was, he is not seated in power at God’s right hand, but Christ is! This sums up the great point of the early chapters of the book of Acts, namely, God has given the throne of glory to Him to whom Israel gave the cross of shame.
The greatness of His prospect, 1 Cor. 15. 25.
In this majestic chapter on resurrection, the apostle traces the implications of denying the resurrection. If there is no resurrection of the dead, the programme of God lies in tatters, but, says Paul, Christ has risen and, in fact, it is a divine imperative that He reigns in triumph over all His enemies.
The greatness of His priesthood 3
Who would have realized the full import of the character of Melchizedek, who comes upon the page of scripture fleetingly in the book of Genesis? God’s intention was that he would serve to be a type of the superior glory of Christ’s priesthood over that of the Aaronic order. How wonderful are His ways! This is exactly what happens in the letter to the Hebrews (as we hope to see shortly).
We don’t purport to give a full exposition of the psalm but just some thoughts that we hope will encourage a deeper study of this blessed portion of scripture.
The essential message of the psalm is the establishing of the Messianic kingdom in the hand of one who is the sovereign priest. Only our Lord Jesus could combine both kingship and priesthood together in one person; King Uzziah would find out to his detriment that this was reserved for one alone, 2 Chr. 26.
It is interesting that in other Messianic psalms which focus upon the establishing of the kingdom, there are a number of other beautiful combinations in relation to the king. Psalm 2 views Him as the sovereign Son; He who came into time will one day be set as God’s King upon His holy hill of Zion. In Psalm 24, He is the sovereign creator; if the earth in its fullness belongs to Him, then He has the right to claim His place in it. This place will be in the midst of the redeemed nation who willingly open the gates of Jerusalem to welcome ‘the king of glory’. In Psalm 45, it is the sovereign warrior we see coming with His sword upon His thigh to execute judgement upon every form of opposition to the setting up of His righteous kingdom. And, in Psalm 72, we rejoice in viewing the sovereign judge, who alone will implement justice in this world of unrighteousness, at last ‘a king shall reign in righteousness’, Isa. 32. 1.
The patient throne sitter, v. 1.
The power and the people, vv. 2, 3.
The priest forever, v. 4.
The putting down of every enemy,
The patient throne sitter, v. 1
We are always conscious that we are on holy ground when we hear two divine persons addressing each other. Consider Psalm 22, where we witness the expressions of the suffering Saviour in His darkest hour pouring out His grief to His God. Likewise, in John chapter 17, we are allowed to listen to the great high-priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ, spoken in spirit beyond the cross in the full consciousness of His finished work.
In this verse Jehovah is speaking to Adon. David’s sovereign Lord and Master is being addressed by God, but more than simply being addressed, because the idea seems to be that of a solemn declaration made with divine authority – an oracle if you will. God has spoken and when God speaks we do well to listen. He has spoken to and of His Son: ‘sit thou’ – seated in person; ‘at my right hand’ – seated in power; ‘until I make thine enemies thy footstool’ – seated in patience.
Here we have in the Old Testament a verse that covers the whole of the present period of grace and beyond. Of course, it is only as we see the complete dispensational picture of scripture that every part falls into its proper place. In this statement is one of the great ‘untils’ of the divine programme. 4
The power and the people, vv. 2, 3
Here we have the establishing of divine rule and the associates of the king.
The place is Zion; the name that is synonymous with earthly rule – the place that David conquered and made his capital, Ps. 2. 6; 1 Chr. 11. 5. Now, David’s greater Son sits upon the throne of regal glory in fulfilment of ‘the sure mercies of David’, and from thence He subdues every enemy, Acts 13. 34. Paul says, ‘he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power’, 1 Cor. 15. 24. This is illustrated in the early chapters of 1 Kings, when Solomon had to subdue every opposing element in order to establish the kingdom. Think of Adonijah – governmental authority; Abiathar – religious power, and Joab – military might. For the first time ever in the world’s history, there will be a man entirely competent to rule, and in those nail-pierced hands will be the ‘rod of . . . strength’ executing perfect justice.
However, He will not do it alone; there will be associated with Him a people, an earthly people, a restored people, a people who have been cleansed from the filthiness of their sin and are likened unto voluntary offerings – no conscripts there! They will be characterized by youthful vigour and linked with the King in the day of His power. Priestly, holy, enthusiastic warriors, all with devoted hearts moving in willing subjection to their rightful King. In their service, they will rejoice to see the long-anticipated millennial day dawn upon this sad and weary earth, as it is brought forth ‘from the womb of the morning’.
The priest forever, v. 4
The briefness of this verse is reminiscent of the historical account of Melchizedek. It seems to come into our psalm out of the blue. However, as in Genesis, the mention of this remarkable individual is in perfect harmony with the context. The king who will reign will also be a priest, ‘a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’. Uniquely, He will combine both offices. Zechariah tells us, ‘he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne’, Zech. 6. 13. Governmentally and spiritually, He will meet every divine standard and under Him all who bow in subjection will be blessed abundantly, even as Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek.
Take note, the Melchizadek order of Christ’s priesthood is distinct from that ‘after the order of Aaron’, Heb. 7. 11. Hebrews chapter 7 will develop the superiority of Christ’s priesthood in contrast to that of Aaron. It is true that our Lord’s priesthood does bear similarities to Aaron’s in its pattern and exercise, inasmuch as it involved a man feeling for other men in sympathy and succour. However, the Melchizedek priesthood involves his likeness to the Son of God, deathlessness, greatness, and his blessing of others. No wonder, then, that the writer calls us to consider how great this man is, Heb. 7. 4!
The putting down of every enemy, vv. 5-7
The remainder of the psalm amplifies how the rule of verse 2 will be established. The sovereign Lord will unsparingly judge four parties: ‘kings’ – likely the confederation of kings linked with the beast, Rev. 17-19; ‘nations’ – the living nations judged before the setting up of the kingdom, Matt. 25; ‘dead bodies’ – the awful devastation of Revelation chapter 19 verses 17 to 21; ‘the head’ – this could be the antichrist himself.
The last verse pictures the king in hot pursuit of His enemies, zealous in battle, taking refreshment ‘in the way’. He does not linger but strives to see righteousness established, and, because of this holy zeal, He shall ‘lift up the head’ in certain and glorious victory. The Head that once bowed with a crown of thorns at Calvary in apparent weakness and defeat, will one day be lifted up in power and triumph.
‘Hail to the Lord’s anointed,
Great David’s greater Son!
Hail, in the time appointed,
His reign on earth begun;
He comes to break oppression,
To set the captive free;
To take away transgression
And rule in equity’.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Stephen Fellowes, originally from Belfast, is in fellowship in the assembly in Skibbereen, West Cork, Ireland. Married to Rachel, they reside in Skibbereen with their three young children. Stephen is active in the little assembly and in gospel outreach work throughout this needy part of Ireland.