by Douglas D Jones
(This is the first of two addresses given at the S.G.A.T Conference on 23rd September, 1994)
Among the prophetic Psalms are those that are known as Messianic. To define them as such, I would say that, strictly speaking, they are those which are specifically referred to in the New Testament as applying to the Lord Jesus Christ. I can find 12 of this nature ‑ 2, 8, 16, 22, 40, 41, 45, 68, 69, 102, 110, and 118. While other Psalms such as 24, 72, and 89 are not actually quoted in the New Testament, they are obviously speaking of Him. Psalm 110 is in the first of these two categories.
One’s preparation for this address has revealed that while much has been written by Bible scholars and commentators on the Psalms, when it comes to the prophetic parts, nearly all the material currently available shows that the contributors do not believe in a coming millennial reign on earth of the Lord Jesus or future blessing for the nation of Israel as being connected with His personal return in power and glory.
Again and again, in certain passages, what some of us see clearly as referring to a future millennial age, is applied to the present gospel era; and Jehovah’s dealings with His ancient people are applied to the Church. The very fact that there is relatively little literature in which the S.G.A.T. position is presented makes our consideration of this Psalm all the more needful.
A Psalm of David
Like many others, Psalm 110 has a title – ‘A Psalm of David.’ We find confirmation of its having been written by him through the words of Jesus (see Matthew 22: 43-4; Mark 12: 36; Luke 20: 42) and the apostle Peter (see Acts 2: 34). Indeed, no other part of the Old Testament is so specifically referred to in the New. Verse 1 is quoted in the above mentioned verses and also in Hebrews 1: 13, and 10: 12-13. Verse 4 is quoted in Hebrews 5: 6; 5: 10; 6: 20; 7: 11; 7: 17; 7: 2 1.
Unlike some other Psalms of David in which we see the inspired author as a type of Messiah in his own experiences, in this one David distinguishes quite clearly between Messiah and himself and it is only the former Whom he has before him.
The Two Decrees
The theme of this Psalm is Messiah's exaltation and triumph. Here are revealed two decrees of God the Father investing His Son as both King and Priest (110: 1 and 4) with the administration and prerogatives of each, and His successful warfare is briefly but effectually described.
Let us look at verse 1. ‘The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until
I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.’
It will be remembered that whenever we read ‘LORD’ in capital letters in our
Authorised Version, it renders the Hebrew YAHWEH (or JEHOVAH, as we have
Anglicised it), the Name by which God made Himself known to His people Israel
(see Exodus 6: 3). It is derived from the Hebrew verb ‘to be’ and denotes His eternal and unchanging
being. Such definition is evidenced by
its etymology (its word-form). We are helped in this by recalling the
occasion of which we read in Exodus 3: 13-14,
when, upon receiving God’s call to lead the children of Israel out of bondage
in Egypt, Moses anticipated their asking him ‘What is
His Name?’ God said to him ‘I AM THAT I AM’ and He said ‘Thus
shalt thou say unto the children of
MESSIAH, THE KING
However, in Psalm 110: 1, we find that Jehovah has spoken to someone else called in our English Bible ‘Lord,’ but this time without the four capital letters. Here the translators have rendered a different Hebrew word which is ‘Adonai.’ It is one that is derived from a verb that means ‘to rule’ and indicates ‘lord’ or ‘master.’ ‘Adonai’ is used exclusively as a Divine title.
was David’s Lord? For the answer to this
we should turn to Matthew 22. At the temple courts in
It is clear that in making this reference to the Messiah, Jesus was referring to Himself. His opponents were well aware that many of the people believed Him to be so. Only two days before, as He made His way from the Mount of Olives to the temple, the chief priests and scribes had been offended because the multitudes, including children, were acclaiming Him as ‘Son of David’ (Matthew 21: 9, 15), a title well known as a designation of the Messiah. Indeed, previously near the borders of Caesarea Philippi, Peter’s confession that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, was accepted by Jesus with the observation that this had been revealed to the apostle by His Father in heaven (Matthew 16: 16-17).
Having received the reply from the Pharisees that the Christ would be a son (i.e. descendant) of David, Jesus then proceeded to refer to Psalm 110: 1. ‘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?’ (see Matthew 22: 43-45).
In this Psalm, Jehovah promises
by decree to the One David calls ‘Lord’ the
place of pre-eminence, power, authority and majesty. What was being asked was how can this Person
be like a son in subjection to a father, and yet at the same time be his
superior to the extent of being seated at Jehovah’s right hand and being
addressed by David as ‘Lord’? After all, Abraham never addressed Isaac as ‘my Lord,’ nor did Isaac speak to Jacob in such a manner. Despite all his
son’s power in
The Opponents’ Quandary
This put the opponents of Jesus in a quandary. They rightly regarded this Scripture as a prophecy concerning the Messiah, that He would be a physical descendant of David (see Romans 1: 3), but looked upon it as referring to someone who would be no more than that! Jesus’ argument was that Messiah could not he David’s physical offspring alone if this one he called ‘Lord’ was to sit at Jehovah’s right hand. The inference is obvious. He must be a Divine Being.
Matthew says that ‘no man was able to answer Him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions’ (Matthew 22: 46). That day in the temple courts saw the final confrontation between Jesus and those who sought to entangle Him in what He said (see Matthew 22: 15). It is interesting to note from Mark 12: 37 that the crowd who witnessed this scene listened to Jesus with delight, obviously enjoying the rout of their religious leaders who in no way commanded their respect. But the mood of a crowd can be fickle and we wonder how many of them were prepared to join in calling for His crucifixion a few days later. They themselves had not recognised His true identity as David’s Adonai, to Whom Jehovah had said, Sit at MY right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.
So far, we have seen that this eternal decree of Jehovah was that which was spoken to His Son, the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, Who was David’s Adonai.
The Right Hand of God
It follows, then, that in order to be seated at Jehovah’s right hand, the Son of God had to leave this earthly scene to which He had come and return to heaven where the decree of which we read in Psalm 110: 1 had been issued. This happened when Jesus had accomplished the work the Father gave Him to do on earth [at His first advent] in giving Himself up to the death of the cross to redeem a people to God by His precious Blood, then rising again and eventually ascending to that place decreed for Him.
We find this emphasised over and over again in the New Testament. ‘He was received up into heaven, and sat on THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD’ (Mark 16: 19). ‘When He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on THE RIGHT HAND OF THE MAJESTY ON HIGH’ (Hebrews 1: 3). ‘Jesus, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at THE RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF GOD’ (Hebrews 12: 2).
Peter, on the day of Pentecost,
addressing the crowd that had gathered, puzzled by the evidence they had
witnessed of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, said ‘This
Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are
witnesses. Therefore being by THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD exalted, and
having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth
this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens;
but he saith himself, The LORD said
unto my Lord, sit Thou on MY RIGHT HAND
until I make Thy foes Thy footstool.
Therefore let all the house of
Paul writes concerning God’s mighty power ‘which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at HIS OWN RIGHT HAND in the heavenly places’ (Ephesians 1: 20). Peter speaks of Jesus Christ, ‘Who is gone into heaven, and is on THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD: angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him’ (1 Peter 3: 22). There are even further New Testament Scriptures that mention this exalted position He holds ‑ see Romans 8: 34; Colossians 3: 1; Hebrews 8: 1; 10: 12-13.
Turning back to Psalm 110: 1, notice that the decree ‘Sit Thou at My right hand’ is followed by ‘UNTIL I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.’ It is important to mention that both the Hebrew word rendered ‘until’ and the corresponding Greek one (heos) are also translated as ‘while’ in the Authorised Version. There are numbers of commentators who interpret the use of the word here in the same sense as we also sometimes use it in English, that is, they take it to mean WHILE Messiah is sitting at Jehovah’s right hand, He will go on making His enemies His footstool; that He will continue UNTIL all have been subdued. However, we have to point out that in Hebrew and Greek, as also in our English, the word rendered by our Authorised Version translators in Psalm 110: 1 as ‘until’ is also often employed to define a period or event which occurs after an interval of time.
Therefore, there are those of us who contend that Messiah will sit at Jehovah’s right hand until the time comes for Jehovah to make Messiah’s enemies His footstool. We believe this accords with the context of the Psalm. We read ‘the day of Thy power’ (verse 3) and ‘the day of His wrath’ (verse 5). The word rendered ‘day’ does not always refer to one of 24 hours, but to a period or event which occurs after an interval of time. Messiah will sit at Jehovah’s right hand UNTIL the time comes when His power and wrath upon His enemies will be exercised and for that He will return to earth. At the present, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for His Own, saving to the uttermost those who savingly believe in Him. But He will not remain there indefinitely. He will come to this scene of His rejection to bring judgment upon those who oppose Him.
The apostle Peter, speaking to the crowd that had gathered in the temple court following the healing of the man lame from birth, charged them with denying Jesus, the Son of God, desiring of Pilate the release of a murderer instead and killing the Prince of Life Whom God had raised from the dead. He told them the miracle had been wrought through faith in His Name. Acknowledging the ignorance that had accompanied their rejection he urged them to repent and be converted, that their sins might be blotted out, so that times of refreshing might come from the presence of the Lord, and that He might send Jesus Christ. Notice that Jesus Messiah will be sent from Jehovah’s right hand (see Acts 3: 14-20).
It is striking that Peter continued, ‘Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution (i.e. restoration) of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began’ (Acts 3: 21). How important it is to clearly apprehend the contrast between Messiah’s position now at the Father’s right hand and that which will be His when He is seated on His millennial throne as Jehovah’s King on the holy hill of Zion (Jerusalem) as Psalm 2: 6 predicts.
When the apostle Paul writes of Christ, ‘For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet’ (1 Corinthians 15: 25), he is referring to that reign from the millennial throne here on earth.
Thus, when in the epistle to the Hebrews we read of Jesus sitting down on the right hand of God, from then on expecting or waiting till His enemies be made His footstool (Hebrews 10: 12-13), this is not saying that it will happen while he is there, but this will be where He is until the time comes for this judgment to take place. The same epistle refers to Psalm 8, pointing out that while God has put all things in subjection under Him, we do not see this yet (Hebrews 2: 8). After nearly 2000 years, we still have not seen all things put under Him. But the time is coming.
We might ask ‘Who are these enemies?’ We surely get a picture of
their characteristics in Psalm 2 in the
nations raging and the people plotting in vain, the kings of the earth taking
their stand against Jehovah and His Anointed (His ‘Mashiyach’ ‑Messiah), saying, ‘Let us break their bonds asunder and cast away their cords
from us’ (Psalm 2: 1-3). It will be recalled that when Peter and John
rejoined their fellow believers following release from custody by the Jewish
Sanhedrin, they prayed, acknowledging God’s sovereignty, quoting the first two
verses of Psalm 2 and applying them to the
present situation of opposition to the preaching the gospel (Acts 4: 23-30).
The behaviour of Herod and Pilate and other Gentiles, together with that
of the religious leaders of
We certainly see this in our own
society where the moral law of God is flouted, all bands and cords of restraint
are thrown away by the majority for whom ‘situation
ethics’ are the rule of life. Worldwide
we see the evidence of the fact that ‘the carnal mind
is enmity against God’ (Romans 8: 7). But the climax of all this will be the
overthrow of the world system and the subduing of
As Messiah commences His millennial reign of 1000 years, those rebel nations who till then have stood so high in power will experience that which they least expected. They will now find themselves in the place of defeat and utter humiliation as they are made a footstool for His feet.
That David’s Lord must come to
earth from the Father’s right hand for this purpose is confirmed by what we
read in Psalm 110: 2 – ‘The LORD (Jehovah)
shall send the rod of Thy strength out of
Then will be fulfilled that which Isaiah prophesied, ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 2: 2-3).
As the King Messiah stretches forth the rod of His strength out of Zion (Psalm 110: 2), His dominion will be from sea to sea, and to the ends of the earth (as Zechariah also prophesied ‑ 9: 10).
Messiah’s People Made Willing
In proceeding to Psalm 110:3, it will be seen that the translators have the rendering ‘Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.’ Able scholars differ as to how the Hebrew should be rendered here, as it is somewhat obscure and there is consequently a diversity of understanding of it.
If we are to take ‘Thy people’ to be a reference to Israel, previously
rejecting Jesus as Messiah, but now a converted people willingly offering
themselves with a holy zeal in His service, then there is no difficulty with
the first part of the verse. Understood
that way, then the second part seems to be a reference to this prompt and
cheerful obedience of
MESSIAH, THE PRIEST
The first three verses of this Psalm have revealed the first of the decrees by which Jehovah invested His Son as King. Now, as we come to Psalm 110: 4, we see the second as Priest, which He confirmed by an oath, ‘The LORD hath sworn and will not repent (i.e. will not relent), Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek’ (Psalm 11O: 4). Here is an unchangeable decree.
Now God always forbade such
blending of the offices of king and priest in
In this Psalm, however,
priesthood is united with the kingship of Him Who will
rule out of
After the Order of Melchizedek
But now, let us notice that the
priesthood of Messiah is after the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110: 4).
The historical narrative concerning him is briefly recorded in Genesis 14.
When the patriarch Abram was on his way back from defeating the invading
forces that had taken captive his nephew, Lot, he was met by Melchizedek, King
of Salem (later to be known as
However, in Hebrews 7, he has more to say about Christ and Melchizedek. As we read the first three verses, it is clear that the details of the history of this priest of whom we read in Genesis 14 were divinely chosen, both by what is omitted as well as by what is narrated. ‘For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him; to whom Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; without father, without mother, without descent (i.e. genealogy), having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.’ It has to be appreciated that the writer was not asserting that Melchizedek had no father or mother, no genealogy, did not experience birth or death or that he is eternally alive. Rather these details are omitted in the Genesis record to enable his readers to see in him a foreshadowing of the Person of Christ.
There are three main parts to Hebrews 7: 1. Verses 1 - 10 present Melchizedek as an historical person, as to his greatness as king and priest, and then as to his superiority to the Levitical priesthood of the Old Covenant, because of Melchizedek’s superiority to Abraham from whom these priests were descended, in that Abraham paid a tithe to him and received his blessing.
2. Verses 11-25 give certain aspects concerning the office and ministry of Messiah which show how much superior his office and ministry were to the old order.
(a) He is not of the priestly
tribe of Aaron, but the kingly one of
(b) Unlike the former priesthood, when Christ was made a priest it was not by a human act, but accompanied by the oath of Jehovah (verses 20 - 22).
(c) He has an unchangeable priesthood which He exercises on behalf of His people, ever living to make intercession for them (verses 23 - 25).
3. Verses 26-28. This ties up with 1 and 2. He is superior as High Priest
(a) in His sinless character (verse 26), ‑
(b) in His qualifications as the once and for all sacrifice for our sins (verse 27),
(c) His appointment as a priest for evermore (verse 28).
A Priest For Ever
Here, then, is a priesthood that has been continually exercised from the time of the ascension of our blessed Lord for all His Blood-bought people, whether they be believing Jews or Gentiles. In this same epistle to the Hebrews, we are exhorted to hold fast to our profession, for in Jesus, the Son of God, we have a Great High Priest Who has passed through the heavens, One Who cannot but be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, being tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. We are therefore encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4: 14-16). Moreover, since Jesus is a priest for ever, this ministry will still be exercised during His reign on earth.
Messiah’s Coming Mighty Victories
Now, what are we to make of the last three verses of this Psalm 110? It seems to me that having spoken of Messiah’s office of Priest as well as that of King, both being the outcome of a Divine decree, David now continues in a reflective mood as he addresses Jehovah while he dwells upon the coming mighty victories of the One he has so invested.
‘The Lord at Thy right hand shall strike through (literally, break in pieces) kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the heathen (i.e. the nations), He shall fill the places with the dead bodies: He shall wound (literally, break in pieces) the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore He shall lift up the head’ (Psalm 110: 5-7).
‘The day of His wrath.’ This is the time of Messiah’s return to set up His [millennial] kingdom. There are those who see in this the defeat of antichrist and his confederate subject kings predicted in Psalm 2 and more fully in Revelation 19: 19-20, where John writes ‘And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse (i.e. the white horse of verse 11 on which sits He Who is called Faithful and True), and against His army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image (i.e. the image of the beast that he had set up ‑ see Revelation 13: 14-15). These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.’
The poetic language of Psalm 110: 7 is strikingly illustrative of the triumph and exaltation of Messiah. As He proceeds on His conquering way, He stays but briefly to refresh Himself with a drink from the brook, continuing His march without otherwise delaying. So doing, His Own head shall in due course be lifted high in victory.
Be sure of this: unlike many a human warrior who has grown weary in continuing a battle he has begun, our blessed Lord will pursue His to its triumphant end.
How we can thank God, then, for the consolation this Psalm 110 affords believers in the Lord Jesus. Not only are we enabled to come to a throne of grace instead of one of judgment through the ministry of our Great High Priest Who ever lives to make intercession for us, but we may take heart in the fact that though the days in which we live are dark, nevertheless however strong may be the Satanic forces, both religious and secular, ranged against God and ourselves as His people, their utter overthrow and subjection to Jehovah’s King and Priest are certain.
All opposition will be put down when the Son of God returns from the Father’s right hand. That phrase ‘until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool’ (Psalm 110: 1) ought always to occur to our minds when we see the evil power that is being exercised by godless nations increasing as the end draws near. Is there anything they will least expect in the full flow of their pursuits than to be confronted by Him Whom they have despised and rejected, and feel the effect of such humiliating judgment? Praise God! the day of our blessed Lord’s vindication is coming.
At the same time let us not forget that in this present gospel age, God is calling out a people for Himself from among this guilty, lost humanity by means of the making known of the gospel of His saving grace in Christ ‑ something that was never intended to be confined to church services and meetings, but through the witness of our everyday lives. For all our rightful interest in prophetic subjects, we do well to remember that but for the grace of God, we ourselves would be facing judgment and hell. We do well to consider whether or not as individuals we are obeying the commission of our blessed Lord to preach that gospel to every creature, mindful that there is ‘no other Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.’
Our High Priest
by Edwin Kirk
“For such an High Priest became us, Who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7: 26)
Holy is He, Who loveth me,
my sins on
And took them out of sight.
For ever blest, in Him I rest,
And in His beauty I am dressed.
Christ is my heart’s delight.
Where sin was rife, amid the strife,
How lovely was His lowly life -
His pilgrimage on earth.
By man reviled, the Saviour mild
Was holy, harmless, undefiled.
Ah! who can speak His worth?
None other would, none other could
Atone for sin, but Jesus stood
Where judgment fully fell.
The Son of God, Who ever trod
A holy path, endured the rod
Of wrath, to save from hell.
It was for me, it was for thee, ‑
Elected from eternity,
To see His glorious face ‑
He tasted death, as Scripture saith;
His wondrous work encompasseth
The objects of His grace.
Beyond the sky, the Lord Most High,
Now liveth, nevermore to die,
And He shall come again.
Then let us sing, our voices ring
With praises to the glorious King,
Who cometh soon to reign.