Bible Studies on the Messianic Psalms
Psalm 110 Part 1: Jesus the Messiah - Our Lord and King.

By I Gordon


We’ve been looking at the Messianic Psalms and last time we were in Psalm 102. There we saw, or rather, heard, a remarkable thing – Like a fly on the wall we were allowed to eavesdrop into a conversation between e God the Father and His Son. We heard the Father encouraging the Son that even when everything falls apart; when even heaven and Earth pass away, He would remain the same. We are invited to listen to another conversation within the trinity today. The next Psalm is very easy to navigate to. You simply start at the previous Psalm we studied (and just mentioned) and add on one chapter for each member of the trinity. You then add on a chapter for each of the witnesses mentioned in Revelation chapter 11. Following that, add on what is stated as the number of man in the Bible. And then, clearly, you’ve gone too far so you’ll need to take off the chapter number where the following verse is found: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...” Ok... where are you? Lost? Down a dark alley? If you are no longer in the book of Psalms you’ve gone too far and if you are no longer in the Old Testament, well, there is little help that can be given you I’m afraid!

Psalm 110 (for those lost!)

Psalm 110 is a short Psalm written by King David. It consists 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 will focus on the prophetic significance but there are certainly some personal applications that I’ll touch on as well as we go. It is a Psalm that moves from the rejected Messiah of previous Psalms, onto the risen Messiah, and concludes with the ruling Messiah. In fact it pictures Jesus first as Lord, then as King, then as Priest and finally as Judge. And He is all of that and more! This study will focus on the first three verses but let’s read the whole Psalm!

Psalms 110:1-7… The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." (2) The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. (3) Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth. (4) The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." (5) The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. (6) He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. (7) He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head.

So it begins with the words ‘The LORD says to my Lord’. There are a couple interesting things in this phrase alone but you’ll miss them if you just read this phrase with a 21st century Gentile brain. Straight away we see that there are two ‘Lords’ mentioned but to truly understand what is remarkable about this you first have to play ‘spot the difference’ with the text. What is the difference here? Firstly we have a capital ‘LORD’ and a mixed case ‘Lord’. This is what most Bibles do to represent two different names of God. The first, LORD, is used for the name ‘YHWH’ (normally pronounced Yahweh) which speaks of the self-existent, self sufficient One – The great I AM! This was the name given by God when Moses asked who it is that he should say had sent him. The second Lord, just with the capital ‘L’, is the Hebrew word ‘Adonai’. This word means ‘Lord, ruler, master’ and speaks of the supreme authority and power of God. Both names where often used of God in the same verse. [1]

So for the Jewish mind, living before the time of Jesus, the question would be who is this second Lord that King David speaks about? Our text gives us several clues. We could almost play a ‘Who am I?’ game…

‘Who am I? I am seated at the right hand of Yahweh. I am called by God’s name, ‘Adonai’. I am a King who will rule, but also a Priest forever. I will judge the nations and set up my throne from Zion. I am the Lord, the Priest, the Judge and soon coming King of Kings. Who am I?’

Now it probably, hopefully, isn’t very difficult for us to solve this little ‘Who am I?’ game; but put yourself into the shoes of an average Israelite living at the time when David wrote around 1000 BC. All your life you have repeated the ‘Shema’ (the basic foundational statement of Judaism): Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” You would have known that there is one God, one Lord, who was the Lord of Abraham, the Lord of Moses and the Lord of David. His name is Yahweh and is often addressed as Adonai. But as you got to Psalm 110:1 you read of Yahweh speaking to Adonai! Who is this ‘other’ Lord, this King and Priest, that is at the right hand of God? And even more confusing, why does King David say that it is this ‘other’ Lord, not Yahweh that is his Lord? Who is this second Lord?

Let’s see how Jesus used this verse

Matthew 22:41-46 while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, (42) ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he? "The son of David," they replied. (43) He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him 'Lord'? For he says, (44) 'The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet." '(45) If then David calls him 'Lord,' how can he be his son?" (46) No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

The context of Mathew 22 sees everything coming to a head. It is the last week leading up to Passover and the cross. Jesus has entered into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey (fulfilling Zechariah 9:9) where the crowds have been crying out ‘Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’. The Sadducees and the Pharisees hated this of course. So in chapter 22 both of these groups try to trap Jesus. Having dealt easily with their feeble attempts to trap Him, Jesus then asks them a question… a question designed to show them that their understanding of the Messiah was woefully inadequate.

Jesus asked but two questions in this passage, and that was enough to completely silence these critics. The first question was the setup and the second was the mouth closer… the knockout blow… the checkmate. [2] Here is the first question which is the setup: ‘what do you think about the Christ (Messiah), whose son is he?’ Now even a young Jewish boy or girl could have answered this question. The Messiah had to be, and was known, as the son of David. Thus, the gospel of Mathew, which was written to the Jews, starts with this line: Matthew 1:1 ‘A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David…’ So the Pharisees answer this correctly – ‘the Son of David’ they replied. They are taking the bait! Step into my parlor said the spider to the fly! Their answer then setup the check mate move: "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him 'Lord'? For he says, (44) 'The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet." '(45) If then David calls him 'Lord,' how can he be his son?

What was the response from these experts in God’s law? ‘ No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.’ There are two important points here that Jesus was making:

  1. The first involves time: If the promised Messiah was just a far distant descendant of David, how could David have called Him ‘My Lord’ back when David was alive? The answer of course is that the Messiah had to have existed even before being born as a descendant of David’s. One of the last things that Jesus says about Himself in Revelation 22:16 is this ‘I am the root and the offspring of David’. He is both. As God, He is David’s root, his source. As man, He was David’s descendant or offspring, His son. This thought was also shown through the prophetic writings: Micah 5:2 NKJV "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting."

  2. The second point involves the nature of the Messiah . If the promised Messiah was just a human, a normal son born into David’s line, why would David call Him ‘Lord’ using a title for God? Clearly, the Messiah was going to be something far greater!

These two points of the pre-existence of the Messiah and His divine nature were brought home in an earlier statement that Jesus had made to those that would listen – Jesus said ‘Truly, truly I say unto you, before Abraham was born, I AM!’ (John 8:58)

If the Pharisees had soft hearts and ears to hear, they could have seen the wisdom and truth in what Jesus said. The same goes for anyone today. Instead they shut their mouths and simply went away to plot how they could murder Him. Lovely... Not! Alright... let’s return and look at what the Father had to say to His Son.

It is time to sit... and wait

Psalms 110:1 The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."

So what did the Father say to His Son? ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ [3] Nearly all of the writers of the New Testament picked up on this so let’s look at their emphasis on it:

So what does it mean that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God? It means His work on the cross is complete, and He can now sit. For a time at least! But we shouldn’t think that this means lounging around in a la-z-boy recliner or rocking chair, snoozing in the warm afternoons. It does have the thought of resting from His works of salvation, but there is also the important thought of where He now sits – on the throne next to the Father in full authority! Look at how Paul expands on this thought:

Ephesians 1:18-23 NIV I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, (19) and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, (20) which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, (21) far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (22) And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, (23) which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

The personal aspect… What does this mean for us?

‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a foot stool for your feet.’ There are three quick points here:

Coming soon to a world near you – Jesus’ rule!

Psalms 110:2 NASB “The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion” saying, "Rule in the midst of Your enemies."

The next verse says that the LORD (Yahweh) will stretch forth your (the Messiah’s) sceptre from Zion [5] , saying ‘Rule in the midst of your enemies.’ So the first thing the Father said to the Son was to sit at His right hand. This began at the time Jesus went back to the right hand of the Father and lasts until the time of the end comes where Jesus will return as indicated in verse 2. Where does the church age fit into this Psalm? It is in the space after verse 1 and before the start of verse 2. And I believe we are very close to the time of verse 2! Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father nearly 2000 years ago. It has been a long wait for many saints of God who have longed for His return, but I believe we are rapidly approaching that day. I believe we are close to the time when the Father will speak again to the Son saying "Rule!”

So you have the ‘sitting’ and you have the ‘ruling’ when He returns. These are the commands of the Father to the Son. As a side note, can you remember what Jesus said to the High Priest at His trial when asked whether He was the Messiah? Listen for it encapsulates both of these events:

Matthew 26:62-65 the high priest stood up and said to Him, "Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?" (63) But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, "I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God." (64) Jesus said to him, "You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN ." (65) Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy!”

So Jesus had His enemies who hated Him then and boy does He have them today! He is a swear word to many. It is a hatred of God and a love of self that deludes the Western world today. But nevertheless, He is soon coming to rule. Like the game of hide-and-seek that you played when you were little, He is counting to 30 (or a God-given number) and then coming, ready or not!

His glorious people and the free will offering

Psalms 110:3 NASB Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew.

Verse 3 speaks of that coming but instead of focusing on the Lord Himself (which it will in verse 4-7), it focuses on God’s people on that day. There are a few points here:

Now, you may not currently describe yourself as someone with ‘youthful vigour’. Such a thought may be a far distant memory! You may not feel or see yourself as ‘holy’ either. In fact the thought of following Christ out of heaven on the day as He fights and judges the nations may seem incredibly overwhelming! All I can say is on that day; you will be free from fear. You will have a new body like His glorious body, and in perfect holiness and righteousness you will, as the text says here, volunteer freely in the day of His power.

Conclusion: The current personal challenge

This is where the personal challenge for today comes in and it is what I want to close with. When the text speaks of His people ‘volunteering freely in the day of Your power’ it is literally “Thy people (are) free will offerings” – As I said, everyone will be willing to offer themselves up for His service and work in the day of His power. All God’s people will be putting their hand up and saying ‘pick me, pick me’ on that day. But that’s not the challenge is it? We will be perfect then and Christ will openly be seen as the King of kings. It won’t be a challenge to follow and put your hand up on that day.

No, the challenge is to follow closely and put your hand up in this age. That is the challenge!

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.“ (Romans 12:1)

Putting it another way, was it a challenge for the people in King David’s day to want to follow and serve David when he reigned in majesty from Jerusalem and there was peace in the kingdom? Or was the challenge to follow David when was he was on the run, hiding in caves, being a king in exile? Obviously the latter! The challenge was in following the king when the masses had turned against him and he was despised.

1 Sam 22:2 ‘And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented, gathered to him (David); and he became captain over them.’

This motley crew of people in distress, in debt or discontented followed David in the day of his exile... They followed him in the day when he was hunted and despised. Yet when David came back into his kingdom and reigned, these same men and women were given the highest positions in the land. It is all a picture for us who follow the true King today... though He be despised and is currently away from His earthly kingdom.

Yes, ‘thy people will volunteer freely in the day of your power.’

But will we offer ourselves up for His service today?

That’s the challenge.

[1]  A couple of quick examples:
Exodus 4:10-11 Moses said to the LORD (YAHWEH), "O Lord (ADONAI), I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." (11) The LORD (YAHWEH) said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD (YAHWEH)?

Judges 6:14-16 The LORD (YAHWEH) turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand;. Am I not sending you?" (15) But Lord (ADONAI), Gideon asked, "How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." (16) The LORD (YAHWEH) answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together."

[2]  Did you know that in the game of chess, it is possible to win in 2 moves? It depends on how your opponent starts of course but if they move out a pawn that exposes their King on the angle, you can win in two moves. My brother and I used to play chess when we were younger and unfortunately he had to learn this the hard way… on several occasions… in a row. He just kept falling for it! Well, that’s my story anyway! To win chess in two moves requires an initial setup move to free your Queen and then the second checkmate move to pin their King. Jesus was using a similar setup and checkmate move here with the Pharisees.

[3]  As a side issue, this event of Jesus being exalted to the right hand of God was pictured as a type in the life of Joseph who went from the prison to being seated next to Pharaoh on his throne and had authority over all the people. This all typifies the exaltation of Jesus.

[4]  We were talking about this concept at our church home group recently as we discussed the difficult age in which we live. There is a lot of pressure on a lot of people... especially the young. One member shared about the trouble they are having with their two youngest daughters and how much pressure and influence there is upon them, especially through social media - which they are on all the time. It is a difficult age. But it’s not just pressure on the young... You may have an ongoing sicknesses or work pressures. You may be under stress through financial difficulties. We all need, at many points in our life, to hear the Lord say those words to us – ‘Come and sit. It’s going to be ok. Don’t be under the situation but be lifted above it.’ My sister was recently worried about one of her sons, wondering what she should do or say, but heard the Lord say three words to her ‘Don’t concern yourself’. Now that’s not so easy for any mother who is naturally concerned and whose first instinct would be to offer some advice or do whatever she can to change the situation! But this was the Lord saying, in so many words - ‘Come and sit. I’ve got this.’ ‘Wait and see what I can do.’ There is a time to speak, but there is also a time to hold your mouth. There is a time for action, but also a time for resting in His ability. Only one led by the Spirit can discern the difference.

[5]  The Bible speaks of the earthly Zion, which is another name for Jerusalem in Israel in the vast majority of references to Zion. But it also speaks of a heavenly Zion saying ‘you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.’ (Heb 12:22) So which Zion is this prophecy speaking of? I think it is clear from the context of the Psalm that it is speaking of the earthly Zion, in Jerusalem. There are no enemies in Heaven that He has to rule in the midst of and when you look at the rest of the verses in this Psalm it is clearly speaking of His second coming in the day of wrath. So verse 2 is the command to Jesus to come and rule in the Messianic Kingdom from Jerusalem on earth. It is still to come.