Bible Studies on the Messianic Psalms
Psalm 110 Part 2: Jesus the Messiah - Our eternal Priest
by I Gordon
Let's start with a question. Who would you say are the greatest or most
important people in the Old Testament? I shall now pause while your
grey matter kicks in... Waiting... waiting... what's taking you so
long... come on, I haven't got all day! Right, who do you think? Who
would make your top 10? Abraham? He is the father of Israel and of all
those that believe. What about Moses, the one who lead Israel out of
Egypt and right to the borders of the Promised Land? What about King
David - the one after God's own heart? Who else would make your list?
Elijah? Enoch? Queen Esther? Her courageous act saved the entire Jewish
nation from slaughter. And let's not forget Joseph and Joshua or the
amazing Daniel! All were tremendous men of God. It is quite likely that
the character we will talk about in this study hasn't yet made your
list. Yet, according to scripture, he is greater even than Abraham
himself. I'm talking of course about the somewhat mysterious character
of Melchizedek. The reason that you probably overlooked him is because
he is mentioned by name in a whopping 2 verses in the Old Testament.
So, you're forgiven for forgetting him!
Psalm 110 Recap
We mentioned last time that Psalm 110 is a short Psalm of only 7 verses
yet it is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament where verse 1
alone is quoted 7 times and the whole Psalm is quoted or alluded to 27
times. It is a prophetic Psalm that takes in the ascension of Christ
and, most importantly, His return at the end of the age. We saw last
time that it is written by King David as he hears a conversion between
God the Father and His Son. The Father is telling Jesus to sit at His
right hand until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. We saw
also that this Psalm pictures Jesus first as Lord, then as King, then
as Priest and finally as Judge. We looked at the significance of Jesus
as Lord and King last time and we'll look at Him as our Priest today.
So we will begin our study in verse 4 of Psalm 110 and go all the way
down to, argh, verse 4 today. Ok... 1 verse but it contains 20 words so
Melchizedek? Why is Yahweh talking about him?
Psalms 110:4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: "You are
a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."
The second thing that David hears the LORD, Yahweh, saying to the Lord
at His right hand, Jesus, is this: 'You are a priest forever, in the
order of Melchizedek.' In the New Testament it says: Hebrews 5:11 NASB Concerning him (Melchizedek)
we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have
become dull of hearing.
So hopefully you are not dull of hearing and hopefully, even more so,
I'm not dull of teaching! We saw last time that Jesus would be a king
that would rule from Zion as mentioned in verse 2. But now we read that
He will also be a priest forever. What is strange about this? According
to the Old Testament law, the two offices of priest and king were kept
entirely separate. You couldn't be both. Can you remember what tribe
the priests came from? Yep, Levi. And what tribe did God designate as
the royal kingly tribe? Again, you're spot on and two for two... the
tribe of Judah. God specifically kept the two offices separate... and
never the twain shall meet. There were severe consequences for any who
attempted to merge the two roles of priest and king. Can you think of
any king who thought he'd get away with doing the priestly role as
well? One such case was of a king called Uzziah. Let's have a quick
nosey at that so we see how serious this was.
King Uzziah - A 'mostly' good king who makes a massive mistake!
Overall, Uzziah was a good king... a godly king. For a good part of his
life he is blessed and he had success after success... everything he
touched turned to gold. The whole first part of the chapter in 2nd
Chronicles 26 speaks of this. But in verse 16 comes the dreaded 'but'.
2 Chronicles 26:16-21 NIV (16) But after Uzziah became powerful,
his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his
God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the
altar of incense. (17) Azariah the priest with eighty other
courageous priests of the LORD followed him in. (18) They
confronted him and said, "It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn
incense to the LORD. That is for the priests, the descendants of
Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the
sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be
honored by the LORD God." (19) Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand
ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the
priests in their presence before the incense altar in the LORD's
temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. (20) When Azariah the
chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that
he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he
himself was eager to leave, because the LORD had afflicted him.
(21) King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a
separate house --leprous, and excluded from the temple of the LORD.
Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of
He started to see himself above God's law... He was the king and could
do as he pleased. Or so he thought. And with his heart hardened towards
God He did a very stupid thing. Usurping the role that God had ordained
for the priests, he went into the temple to burn incense to the Lord.
Often we have to be very careful when everything is going well and life
is a breeze! We get complacent. We become proud. We start making the
rules. We start to forget God. Our prayer life starts to dry up. Our
Bible reading and fellowship with the Lord starts to wane... It's human
nature. Be careful for these stories are our stories as well - they
show what human nature is like! But why did God make such a big deal of
this? Why was the judgement upon Uzziah so severe? Because God had
someone in mind that would one day be a Priestly-King... someone who
would unite and perform both roles. And it sure wasn't Uzziah! It
wasn't for anyone to take that position upon themselves. God Himself
had to declare it and God is never pleased when anyone tries to take
the position that is given ONLY to His beloved Son. Not then, not now.
And that includes religions such as the Catholic Church that put a
human mediator between God and man (that they call a priest), when
there is only ONE mediator between God and man and that is Jesus
Christ! No man could just decide that they would be a king and a
priest. It had to be declared by God Himself.
David hears the declaration!
Yet David, in Psalm 110, listens in on a conversation where a coming
One would be both king and priest!
He hears and records Yahweh's declaration to the One at His right hand
saying 'You are a priest forever according to the order of
Melchizedek.' But how could God do it? If priests have to come from
Levi and kings from Judah, how can one person be both priest and king?
What David heard is that there would be a whole new order. The coming
One wasn't going to be a priest in the order of the Levites, but in the
order of someone called Melchizedek! Now, when David heard and recorded
this, it had been 1000 years since Melchizedek had been around. And
even then he only got a couple of verses in Genesis 14 where he was
mentioned. There had been 1000 years of silence concerning this man and
everyone has forgotten all about him... except God that is! I think it
is best if we look at his very brief cameo in scripture because it was
obviously one that is important.
Mystery man Melchizedek
Here is the background to the passage: Abraham and his nephew had been
living and travelling together but they were getting too numerous in
their livestock and helpers so they decided to go separate ways. As
they surveyed the rich land in front of them, Abraham left the choice
up to Lot as to what He wanted. As Major Ian Thomas used to say
'Lot could take the left or Lot could take the right, or for that
matter Lot could take the lot, but God's covenant was still with
Abraham - and he knew it. That was all that Abraham really needed
So Lot chose the valley of Jordan to dwell in and ended up in that
infamous and ungodly city of Sodom. He went after the best of what he
saw but it came with a cost. Kings from the east, from the areas that
would become Babylonia and Persia (Iraq and Iran) came against the
cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and took both people and goods from these
cities. Included among those taken away were Lot and his family. So
when Abram heard what had happened to his nephew he went after them
with his own army at night and was able to recover both the people and
their possessions. As he was returning from this great victory Abraham
is met by two kings. Let's pick up the story from there:
Genesis 14:17-24 NIV After Abram returned from defeating
Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came
out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's
Valley). (18) Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and
wine. He was priest of God Most High, (19) and he blessed Abram,
saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and
earth. (20) And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your
enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
(21) The king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the people and keep
the goods for yourself." (22) But Abram said to the king of Sodom,
"I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of
heaven and earth, and have taken an oath (23) that I will accept
nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a
sandal, so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich.'
(24) I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share
that belongs to the men who went with me--to Aner, Eshcol and
Mamre. Let them have their share."
So we have two kings that came to meet Abraham. The first king
mentioned is the king of Sodom. Given how Sodom is portrayed in the
Bible it would be fair to say that this king is not the godliest of
men. This king has an offer and a temptation for Abram - you can keep
all the goods, just return the people.
'Oh have I got an offer for you! I'll make you rich. Just sign on
up...' A very tempting offer indeed! Thankfully, there is a second king
as well. But he has something different to offer - bread and wine,
fellowship, communion, and the blessing of God. These two kings
represent the different pulls upon the believer in every age.
What can we learn from this?
Many temptations, in many forms, hit Christians. This is especially so
in this difficult age and society. Many Christians are overtaken by
such temptations. Covetousness, lust, pride and the love of money...
these things are not frowned upon but promoted in our culture. Most
marketing agencies based their ads on one, or many, of these
temptations. You must have more! Keep up with the Joneses! So Abraham,
who has just come off a great victory and a high, has these two voices
drawing him in different directions. One towards what he can get in
this world and one towards fellowship and the blessing of God. It's the
king of Sodom versus the king of Salem. It is always the way. The king
of Sodom, representing the world, is saying 'Take all the goods and
riches and keep them for yourself... you can have them. I'll give them
to you.' We may see this as an innocent offer but Abraham took it
(22) But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to
the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have
taken an oath (23) that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not
even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be
able to say, 'I made Abram rich.'
Unfortunately, many within Christianity have not taken this same path
as did Abraham and have gone after the offerings of the world
instead of that fellowship; the bread and wine that the King of Salem
offers. In fact we have a whole section of the 'church' that now
equates the blessing of riches with godliness! And you can apparently
tell how 'blessed' you are by how well off and prosperous you are! Good
grief... how far have we fallen?
So what made Abraham resilient in the face of this temptation? With
every temptation comes a way of escape and thankfully Abraham has been
strengthened for he has met and fellowshipped with another king - a
true godly king. This is Melchizedek, the king of Salem. The name Salem
means 'peace' and would later be renamed to Jerusalem. The name
Melchizedek means 'king of righteousness'. So Melchizedek is the king
of Jerusalem, the king of peace, the king of righteousness. He comes
and communes with Abraham and blesses Him. Not a bad person to meet on
your travels! He is, of course, a type of Jesus, the true King of
righteousness and peace. It is the presence of the Lord Jesus in our
lives and our fellowship with Him that overcomes the temptations of the
world. Notice also that as well as a king, Melchizedek is said to be a
priest of the Most High God. Here is the first mention of someone being
both king and priest! Notice also that he comes to Abraham with bread
and wine. In the New Testament Jesus used the bread and wine as symbols
of His body and blood, used in communion as a memorial of what He did
for us on the cross. But here is the first mention of the bread and
wine in the Bible and it is what this king of peace and righteousness
offers as he comes out to commune and fellowship with Abraham. It is
obviously very symbolic.
Now Melchizedek is, and will always be, a mysterious figure. Genesis is
very good on its genealogies but this man just steps out of nowhere. We
don't know where he came from or where he goes. A crucial figure but he
only gets three verses of scripture! And he gets no other mention...
just silence for 1000 years until King David hears God the Father
speaking to the Son saying you will be a priest forever in the order of
So what does it mean for us that Jesus is a priest forever in the
order of Melchizedek?
Psalm110:4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: "You are a
priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."
After the second mention of Melchizedek in Psalm 110, another 1000
years went by without any mention of him until the writer of Hebrews
picks up on this theme. You can tell that he has been thinking on Psalm
110 and also how it says that God has sworn and will not change His
mind. So let's explore this a little looking at the personal aspect for
'The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind'...
We can stop right there. How awesome is this?
'God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he
should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he
promise and not fulfill?' (Numbers 23:19 NIV).
We are very changeable. Sometimes we are in a good mood... sometimes not.
We tell people that we will do something and sometimes we do it,
sometimes not. God will not change His mind about declaring Jesus to be
a priest forever and He will not change His mind about those He has
called and declared to be His sons and daughters. Nor does he change
His mind on the promises given in His word. Paul, in Romans 11, uses
this very thought to prove that God will fulfil His promises to the
nation of Israel (and His promises to believers today). Paul tells us
that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable; or, as some
versions say, 'without repentance'. In other words God won't revoke
them, He won't undo them and He won't change His mind about them. The
writer of Hebrews calls this thought of God's faithfulness to His
promises and His unchangeable nature an 'anchor for the soul'. We have
hope! And which of us doesn't need that in this ever-changing world?
Hebrews 6:17-20 NIV Because God wanted to make the unchanging
nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised,
he confirmed it with an oath. (18) God did this so that, by two
unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we
who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly
We have this hope
as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner
sanctuary behind the curtain,
(20) where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He
has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
Think for a moment about this current age. This generation, having cut
God out of their lives, is now adrift. As a society we've severed the
moral anchor that kept us grounded and steady for so long, so we are
now drifting away from our moorings by the ever changing winds and
tides of the day. And without God, it's not just the moral anchor that
is lost but with it goes the anchor of hope. It is this anchor that
scripture tells us is able to keep our souls, or lives, firm and
secure. Without it, we have nothing.
I listened to a message by Dr David Reagan on hope a few months back
and he related a story from the Nazi concentration camps in WWII. He
said that while the prisoners had some hope, some meaning, they could
endure the worst of conditions. But he went on to talk about something
that saw the prisoners crack. The guards would get them out one day to
dig a hole. They wouldn't tell them why they were digging the hole or
what purpose it was for, but they would spend the day digging a large
hole. The next day they would get the prisoners out again and this time
it was to fill in the hole they had dug the day before. The next day
they would dig a hole somewhere else and the day after they would fill
it in. It was just meaningless and purposeless work. And a lot of
prisoners cracked and committed suicide or made a break for the fence
and were shot. Utter meaningless and hopelessness does that to a
But we, as Christians, have hope. You can be a complete idiot and lose
your savings (like me!), and still have hope. It is an anchor for the
soul to keep you firm and secure. And that hope is based on the
unchangeable nature of God and His promises.
'You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek'...
The writer of Hebrews had a lot to say about Melchizedek. Let's look at
some of the verses.
Hebrews 7:1-3 NIV This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of
God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the
kings and blessed him, (2) and Abraham gave him a tenth of
everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then
also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." (3) Without father or
mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of
life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.
This, to my mind, only adds to the mystery concerning Melchizedek.
People over the last 2000 years have debated exactly who Melchizedek
was. Was he a normal human being? Was he an angel? Was he a
pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ? Most commentators take it
that he was a normal man and say that the phrase
'without father or mother, without beginning of days or end of
is simply in respect to the fact that none of this is recorded in
scripture. That could well be true. But it still seems strange to me
that it says that like the Son of God he 'remains a priest forever'
because I'm not sure that it would say this of a normal human who dies.
I don't think I'm going to be able to end this debate! Which is ok...
he can remain somewhat of a mystery man! ) The main point in these
scriptures is actually not who Melchizedek was but who Jesus is and
what that means for believers today.
Hebrews 7:15-25 NIV And what we have said is even more clear if
another priest like Melchizedek appears, (16) one who has become a
priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on
the basis of the power of an indestructible life. (17) For it is
declared: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."
(18) The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and
useless; (19) (for the law made nothing perfect),
and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
There is that mention of hope again. It comes out very strongly in
these passages. That Jesus is a priest forever in the order of
Melchizedek is said to introduce a better hope by which we can draw
near to God. The writer of Hebrews would expand on this more in the
(20) And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without
any oath, (21) but he became a priest with an oath when God said to
him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a
priest forever.' " (22) Because of this oath, Jesus has become the
guarantee of a better covenant. (23) Now there have been many of
those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in
but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.
(25) Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to
God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
I really like verse 24-25. Jesus lives forever! Thank God that we have
a living Saviour. He is not in any tomb or grave but He is a priest
forever! Death could not hold him down! Our great High Priest is at
this very moment at the right hand of God... but has also given us His
life to be in us what we are not by nature. We don't just follow the
teachings of some great man that said some great things 2000 years ago
and then died. He is alive forever. Risen! And He has said that he will
never leave nor forsake us
. He intercedes and cares for us. That is part of what it means that
Jesus in a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. That is ultimate
J.Vernon McGee spoke of what this means for us:
'My friend that is where we need to put the emphasis. He died down
here to save us, but He lives up there to keep us saved..."He is
able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him."
He is able to keep on saving you. "To the uttermost" means all the
way through. He is able to save us completely and perfectly. He is
the Great Shepherd who up to this very moment has never lost a
sheep. Do you want to know something? He never will lose one. If
you are one of His sheep, you may feel like you are going to be
lost, but He is up there for you and He is watching over you.'
Again - this is part of what it means that Jesus is a priest forever in
the order of Melchizedek.
And this is ultimate hope, confidence and expectation!