The Lord Said to My Lord
1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” 2 The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! 3 Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. 4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” 5 The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. 6 He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. 7 He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.
Psalm 110 is a powerful example of Hebrew poetry in its own right: concise, illustrative, and full of vivid metaphors. Yet the unavoidable question one has when reading this psalm is, ‘What, or who, is David really talking about here?’
While higher critics are quick to deny the Messianic implications of the psalm, thus completely contradicting those holy men of old who were led along by the Spirit to compose the NT, other scholars are convinced of its divine origins and teaching.
This includes Augustine, who wrote
This Psalm is one of those promises, surely and openly prophesying our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; so that we are utterly unable to doubt that Christ is announced in this Psalm, since we are now Christians, and believe the Gospel.
Another scholar writes,
This psalm contains one of the most exalted prophetic portions of Scripture presenting Jesus Christ as both a holy king and a royal high priest—something that no human monarch of Israel ever experienced.This psalm, along with Psalm 118, is the most quoted psalm in the NT. (MSB)
Certainly, a true understanding of this psalm can only begin if we consider how the apostles themselves interpreted it as they were led along by the Holy Spirit to write down Scripture.
Of the various NT authors and apostles, it was used by Matthew, Mark, Luke, Peter, and the author of Hebrews, all with one purpose: to show Christ for who he really is.
(I should quickly add here that this sermon is meant to be a precursor for my next two preaching occasions here, in which I hope to begin a series on the book of Hebrews.)
This, then, is what I intend to show you tonight from Psalm 110:
Who is Christ, really?
The reason this message is so important is because the world around us has built up a very different picture of Jesus than the biblical authors would be familiar with.
By focussing on only one or two aspects of Jesus character, (namely, love), the world, and sadly much of the church today, has downplayed, ignored, or simply forgotten the actual person of Christ.
Thus, we are going to consider this psalm verse by verse in an effort to unpack its teaching about our Lord Jesus Christ, in order to savour the essence of our Saviour as displayed so magnificently in these short seven stanzas of Hebrew poetry.
‘A Psalm of David’
How do we know who wrote the Psalm, and does it matter?
Jesus confirms both that the author was David, and that he wrote the psalm under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Mark 12.35–37 Jesus confronts the Pharisees, proving that Christ is the Son of David
• David himself spoke by the Holy Spirit (v. 36)
• One commentator has written that
Jesus anticipates being exalted to the right hand of God, and thus he far transcends any expectation of a merely political, Davidic messiah.
Calvin, with his typical directness, writes,
Having the testimony of Christ that this psalm was penned in reference to himself, we need not apply to any other quarter for the corroboration of this statement; and, even supposing we neither had his authority, nor the testimony of the apostle, the psalm itself would admit of no other interpretation.
And I agree with Calvin, and many other, that there is no question that Psalm 110 refers directly, and completely, to Jesus the Messiah.
Let us then turn to examine what it tells us about our Saviour.
We start from the beginning in verse 1, as we read:
v. 1 - ‘The LORD said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.’
CHRIST IS OUR EXALTED LORD
CHRIST IS OUR EXALTED LORD
In the first instance, what we have here is YWHW speaking with Adonai, thus showing us communication between two persons of the Trinity.
Christ himself, in dispute with the Pharisees, used this verse to prove both his descent from David and his divinity.
For when David was alive, only God could have been his ‘lord’.
In other words, there was no other human being alive at the time of David’s reign as king whom David would have called ‘lord’; both instances of Lord here, one YHWH and the other Adonai, are speaking of God.
The Trinitarian reality of this verse is evident when it says, ‘sit thou at my right hand’.
For only Christ has been exalted to the right hand of the Father.
We see this throughout the NT:
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
From this exalted position of power, the Father promises to ‘make all his enemies his footstool’.
This terminology was common Near Eastern idiom signifying that one’s enemies had been vanquished completely.
The same imagery occurs frequently in the OT, including
Psalm 8 (you have put all things under his feet), which is cited by Paul in 1 Cor 15, and
Isa 66.1 (the earth is my footstool) declares the Lord.
Thus, in this opening stanza of Psalm 110 we have been given a picture of Christ that includes his divinity, humanity, his exaltation, and his authority.
What is left for us then to believe? As Augustine wrote of this passage, ‘We know that Christ sitteth at the right hand of the Father, since His resurrection from the dead, and ascent into heaven. It is already done: we saw not it, but we have believed it: we have read it in the Scripture, have heard it preached, and hold it by faith.’
Now, this Psalm 110 does not just tell us that Christ is our exalted Lord, but also that Christ is Our Mighty King:
vv. 2–3 - ‘The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. 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.’
CHRIST IS OUR MIGHTY KING
CHRIST IS OUR MIGHTY KING
The reference to the rod of his strength is more graphic reference back to the Lord’s authority, but let’s illustrate this imagery briefly by recalling other places in Scriptures which speak of a rod of strength:
Exo 7:19 (God is enacting the deliverance of his people through demonstrations of his power) ‘And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.’
But the rod can also be a tool of comfort and encouragement:
Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, who dwell alone in a forest in the midst of a garden land; let them graze in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old.
And the famous
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
But surely the reference to Christ’s ‘rod’ or ‘scepter’ hearkens directly back to Genesis 49.10, where we read that ‘The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.’ And of course, our Lord himself was from the tribe of Judah, and is called in Scripture the ‘Lion of Judah’, a point which we will revisit at the end.
The same picture is presented in Psalm 2.9, ‘Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron’, as well as in the words of our Lord himself: And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Mat 28:18-20)
Now what does it mean, however that the rod of strength will come ‘out of Zion’?
Zion, if you recall, is the southwesterly side of Jerusalem. This is where Christ, when he returns in glory, will reign forever on a restored earth after his second coming.
As the psalm says, he will rule, which is in fulfilment of
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.
Good, so we’ve established that the Kingship of Christ was established by the prophets of old.
But who are these people, these subject of his kingdom?
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.
Again, Isa 2:3 as well as Micah 4:2: 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 of 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.
Paul writes in Romans 15:
Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.
11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.
12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.
So Jew and Gentile are brought together into the kingdom of the Saviour ‘in the day of his power, and in the beauty of holiness’
Beauty is not often thought of as a adjective for holiness, but the two terms are near synonymous in Scripture:
Psa 96:9 O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.
Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
1Th 4:7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
Tit 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Now when David speaks of the ‘womb of the morning’ and the ‘dew of thy youth’, these likely refer to Christ ‘as in the constant vigor of youth, or it may refer to his holiness, eternality, and deity.’
In either case, Christ is shown in these verses to be a mighty, perpetual and victorious king who rules his people with beautiful holiness.
We see this come to reality in Rev 7:9,
‘behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Although we do not see this reality as of yet, Calvin reminds us that:
‘David here animates the hearts of the godly against being dispirited by the foolhardy attempts on the part of those who presume to introduce discord and disorder into the kingdom of Christ; for he shows them that God will put forth his invincible power for the maintaining of the glory of his sacred throne.’
And so we cry, “Praise Jesus, our mighty King who rules with the Father forever!”
But here’s the question: what has enabled him to call all of these worshippers to himself? How was this multitude from every people enabled to stand before the most holy God?
Well, Jesus is not just our Mighty King; he is also our Great High Priest.
Read with me verse 4:
v. 4 - ‘The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’
CHRIST IS OUR ETERNAL HIGH PRIEST
CHRIST IS OUR ETERNAL HIGH PRIEST
Now, what is actually being communicated in this verse about God’s character. He is faithful to his promise to establish his Son as our fitting high priest, and he will never change his mind about this decision.
The fact that Ywhw has sworn to the priest here in verse 4, and spoken to the King in verse 1, indicate that this is the same person being addressed. Ywhw is speaking to a person who is both king and priest.
But what does it really mean to be a priest ‘after the order of Melchizedek’?
Of course, Melchizedek was the obscure character who appeared to Abraham after Abraham had defeated five kings in order to rescue Lot.
We read in Genesis 14 that:
18 Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
The author of Hebrews draws a direct link between the Messiah and Melchizedek in order to demonstrate the perpetual and eternal priesthood of Christ, showing him to be superior to the old levitical system, in which the priests died like any other man.
Hear the author of Hebrews:
‘Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
23 And they [the Levites] truly were many priests, because they were not suffered [or permitted] to continue by reason of death:
24 But this man, because he continueth forever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
28 For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated evermore.’
And this oath made by God is certain forever, testified throughout Scripture:
Num 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Psa 89:34-36 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.
Heb 6:13-18 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
Zec 6:13 Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.
What then are the implications of Christ’s eternal high priesthood for us who have believed?
On the one hand, the merits of his offering stand sure forever, thus our salvation is eternally secure.
But also, as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:5,
‘Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ’ and then shortly thereafter, ‘ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’
We see again in John this same reality of our new identities spoken of, made possible in Christ:
Rev 1:6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
But what of this final section of Psalm 110, the last three verses, tell us about Christ that hasn’t already been said?
Let us read it again:
vv. 5–7 - ‘The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.’
CHRIST IS OUR FEARSOME JUDGE
CHRIST IS OUR FEARSOME JUDGE
Surely in this final section we are hearing strong resonances of another Messianic psalm which displays Christ’s power and authority, that being Psalm 2. These psalms are considered to be twins of one another.
Listen as I read what is a kindred depiction of the awesome, and terrifying, power of Christ Jesus in Psalm 2:
1 ‘Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.’
Are there any in our world today who see the Lord Jesus this way?
Our present culture is saturated with a watered-down, weak, and powerless Christ.
T-shirts are printed with the words, ‘Jesus is my homeboy’, while the contemporary Christian-music machine cranks out songs mostly devoid of any real, biblical reverence for the Christ who will come one day soon to judge the living and the dead.
The terminology in Psalm 110, however, points unapologetically to the fact that Jesus, when he returns, will do so with a holy vengeance:
The phrase, ‘he shall strike through’ comes from a Hebrew word (מחץ), meaning to strike, smash, wound severely, or to shatter. The Greek term in the Septuagint (συνθλάω) likewise means to crush, to dash into pieces.
The language here is very graphic, speaking of wrath, judgment, dead bodies strewn across the ground in heaps, wounded kings staggering before falling to the earth dead.
This imagery could possibly be an allusion to the great Messianic promise in Genesis 3.15 ‘he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.’
Certainly our Lord will deal once and for all with that great deceiver, Satan, at the end of the world.
But again we must recall the image of Christ in Psalm 2, where we read of him putting his enemies down once and for all:
He ‘shall break them with a rod or iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel’.
These graphic metaphors of destruction and judgment are repeated, if not intensified, when we look at the New Testament:
2 Thess 1.7–9 the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
Heb 10.27 (which speaks of ) ‘judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries’
Rev 19.15 (recalling Isa 11.4) reads, ‘out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.’ And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’
The truth is, if you disagree with this picture of Christ as a coming judge, wrathful, vengeful and eager to destroy, you have not yet met the real Christ.
Or, perhaps you have never been introduced to this essential aspect of our Saviour.
If this is the case, then I urge you to repent, turn to Christ in humility and awe, and beg his forgiveness for neglecting to know him truly and fully!
Of course, our knowledge of Christ is always increasing and growing every day, and I am not surprised if many of us, myself included, were not first introduced to Jesus as simply our friend and redeemer.
But that’s not the whole picture of Christ.
Yearn to know him fully, plead with the Father to teach you all the glorious truths about his Son, and pray eagerly for the Spirit to instruct your heart and mind in this matter.
But if you have not trusted Christ, hear well these words from Augustine on this very passage:
‘Whoever thou art who art obstinate against Christ, thou hast raised on high a tower that must fall. It is good that thou shouldest cast thyself down, become humble, throw thyself at the feet of Him who sitteth on the right hand of the Father, that in thee a ruin may be made to be built up. For if thou abidest in thy evil height, thou shalt be cast down when thou canst not be built up.’
In other words, you only have this life to trust Christ.
Indeed, you really only have today, for your life tomorrow hangs on the thread of God’s mysterious and unknown will.
Cast yourself at the feet of Christ, for he is the Fearsome Judge;
He is the lion of Judah (Rev 5.5) who, after slaughtering his prey, plunges his bloody snout into ‘the brook in the way’ and then ‘lifts up his head’ in satisfied victory.
As with the great lion Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, he and he alone is both mighty to save, and mighty to destroy.
You will either reign with him in glory as one of those he has made righteous,
Or you will spend your eternity in fiery punishment as his wicked and defeated enemy.
You may ask, where is the kindhearted, meek and gentle Saviour that I have known all my life, and who is this fearsome judge you put before us now?
Calvin answers the same objection thus:
‘as a shepherd is gentle towards his flock, but fierce and formidable towards wolves and thieves; in like manner, Christ is kind and gentle towards those who commit themselves to his care, while they who wilfully and obstinately reject his yoke, shall feel with what awful and terrible power he is armed.’
We must then turn to this fierce Lion and be saved,
turn to this Shepherd both meek and formidable;
Turn to Christ and live!
This Christ, this Jesus, this Saviour of the world, thou indeed our friend and our brother, is so much more:
Jesus is our Exalted Lord,
Jesus is our Mighty King,
Jesus is our Eternal High Priest,
Jesus is our Fearsome Judge.
As you ponder these truths over the coming months and years, I urge you to remember the following:
The Bible presents Jesus Christ, the God-man and Divine Messiah in a multifarious, variegated, and illustrious picture.
This picture of Christ is infinitely rich, deep, complex and weighty.
We all will do well to meditate often upon the person, nature and character of Christ as presented in the whole of Scripture.
Know Christ in all his fullness.
Press hard upon the Spirit for increased knowledge,
And watch as your capacity to worship this very same Christ grows day by day, week by week, year by year until one day you come to meet him face to face in glory.
For it was to this Jesus and this Jesus alone that the Father said,
‘Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.’