Psalms for Troubled Times – Psalm 110a

The Risen Lord

‘A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.’ (v1)

It is interesting that while in the NT, this Psalm is the most quoted OT passage, it does not feature significantly in any Jewish literature of the Second Temple period.

This leads us to ask the question, what changed? 

What happened to direct a small, insignificant group of Jews – disciples of one called Jesus – to the use of this psalm in defence of their central doctrine, that ‘Jesus is Lord’? And why would it have resonance with the common Jew, such that 3000 would accept their preaching based on this psalm, the first day they heard it, and become Christians (Acts 2)?

Peter gives us the answer on either side of his quote from Psalm 110: ‘This Jesus hath God raised up … (quote) … and hath made that same Jesus both Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:32,36)

The answer is the resurrection happened.

A Greater than Abraham

Scholars tell us that the most common view concerning this verse during the Second Temple period, was that David was referring to Abraham as ‘my Lord’.

While contextually within the Psalm there are many similarities with Genesis, particularly ch14 – from Abraham being referred to as ‘my lord’, through his close relationship with God, to victory over kings followed by the entrance of Melchisedek into the story – there are also significant difficulties. 

In Psalm 110, the LORD is speaking to one who is a King Priest. While Abraham builds altars and wins victories, he could only really be called a King Priest in a very limited, familial way. And, while this is plausible taking the psalm on its own, it in no way accounts for either David’s use of the future tense, or its placement as psalm 110 in book five … linked with a future re-gathering.

Rather, it makes much more sense to apply this psalm to Abraham’s Seed, the promised Messiah.

What Abraham was in a familial way, Abraham’s Seed would be in a far greater, universal way. Under the prophetic inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David casts our gaze forward to ‘the day of His power’, ‘the day of His wrath’, when He who is a priest ‘forever’, will ‘rule among the nations’.

It is no wonder that 3000 common Jews in Acts 2, hearing that Jesus of Nazareth – ‘a man approved of God among you by miracles, wonders and signs’(v22), having been ‘crucified and slain’ (v23) now‘raised up’ (v24,32) and exalted – is made to be the‘Lord’ (v36) of Psalm 110 (implied by direct reference), immediately bow and worship Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. 

Truly, Jesus is greater than Abraham, and the New Testament writers take up this verse to assert the central truth of their faith: Jesus is God.

‘Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth … and to which of the angels said he at any time, ‘Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?’’ (Hebs 1:10-13)

The Deity of Christ

We know that the writer of Hebrews, like all believers, had the indwelling Spirit of Truth, whom the Lord Jesus said would “teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).

It’s important for us to know that this was no novel interpretation of Psalm 110 concocted by the early Christians. Instead, they were simply repeating what they had heard the Lord Jesus Himself teach.

‘While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, “What think ye of Christ? 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?” (Matt 22:41-45)

The Pharisees knew they were in a fix, and would not answer. They understood the implication Jesus was making. The only way that David’s son, could be David’s Lord, was if He was more than man, not solely the ‘son of David’, but the ‘Son of God’, eternally divine.

And when we see Psalm 110 in this light, how precious it becomes, for we realise that we are not just hearing the LORD speak to man, but we are being allowed entry into a divine conversation within the Godhead, between Father and Son. 

Let us bow our knees and worship, acknowledging the truth that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil 2:11).

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