The All-Conquering King of Psalm 110

1 Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 2 Jehovah shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. 3 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. 4 Jehovah hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. 6 He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. 7 He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.

The psalm is composed of two parts: the first, in which Jehovah speaks to the Messiah, and the second, in which David speaks about Him.

Barnes gives the following outline:

I. The appointment of the Messiah – acknowledged by the author of the psalm as his “Lord” – to that high office, to be held until he should subdue all his enemies, verse 1.

II. His being endowed with “power” needful for the accomplishment of the design for which he was appointed, verse 2.

III. The assurance that his people would be made “willing” in the day when he should put forth his power, verse 3.

IV. The special characteristic of his reign, as that of a “priest-king,” after the order of Melchizedek; combining the two functions of king and priest in his own person and office, verse 4.

V. His conquest and triumph, verses 5-7.

A Concise Exposition

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

The author is certainly King David. Jehovah (the LORD) first addresses Messiah (David’s Lord) with a command/invitation to sit at His right hand while Jehovah makes Messiah’s enemies His footstool. This psalm describes the phase of the Kingdom of God that we are in today, wherein Christ reigns over a kingdom that is in general revolt. The suppression of that rebellion is as sure as if it were an accomplished fact; for Jehovah himself has promised His Son that these rebels will submit to Him.

2 The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.

The first clause is obscure, but the second illuminates it. Jehovah will impart strength to Messiah’s scepter; so that He will be able to rule in the midst of His enemies. The rule of Jehovah and Messiah His Son is coordinate. Christ is not passive, but He does the works of His Father. He exercises His rule from the heavenly Zion; while His powerful word commences and goes forth from the earthly Zion.

3 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.

The ancient Oriental poetry is difficult, and interpretations vary; but the point seems to be that the power of Christ is such that He makes the unwilling willing. There is therefore no limit to the success of His gospel in the world. Whole kingdoms of men can be converted in one day; as one morning can bring forth numberless drops of dew.

4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

There are three things that distinguished Melchizedek from the Levitical priest:

1. Melchizedek was, as Barnes has stated, a king-priest. In Israel, the priesthood belonged to Levi, and the kingship to Judah. These offices were to be combined in the Messiah, along with the office of prophet.

2. Melchizedek did not have to qualify for the priesthood by genealogy.

3. Melchizedek served as priest of the Most High God “for ever”, that is, for as long as he lived.

The longest that a Levite could serve in the priestly office was 20 years. By law, the Levite could not begin before he was 30 years old, and he must retire at the age of 50. (This is what is meant by the terms “beginning of days” and “end of life” in Hebrews 7:3.) By contrast, Messiah was to be a priest literally forever; for not only was there no law requiring him to retire; but He was after the resurrection incapable of death.

5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.

The Lord” (Hebrew adonai) here, could conceivably refer to either Divine person; but I think it refers to Messiah for the following reasons:

1. The word is used to distinguish Messiah from Jehovah in verse 1.

2. Messiah is invited to sit at the right hand of God in verse 1.

3. The reign of Messiah is what this psalm is describing.

4. It would be needless to say regarding Jehovah, that He would judge kings; but this is important information, if the Messiah is in view.

5. If we take the contrary view, Messiah becomes a passive spectator of God’s acts, instead of a powerful and active Monarch defending His rights.

As to the pronoun, “thy”, David is addressing Jehovah at this point. This abrupt change in address is not uncommon in Scripture.

The most powerful despot on earth is nothing more than clay in the potter’s hand, as Pharaoh found, to his ruin. Messiah will exercise all the power of the Godhead over the kings and rulers of the earth. (See Psalm 2.)

6 He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.

Messiah is here represented as invincible in battle. No matter how many are arrayed against him in battle, or how many wars he has to fight – His victory is sure and complete. That kingdom and nation that will not serve Him shall perish. As the ruler of the whole world, Christ will literally destroy many of His enemies. In his arsenal are many weapons: war, pestilence, famine, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, plagues of insects… Some say that this is figurative – that the battle is only spiritual. To be sure, as the Redeemer of God’s elect, He shall transform many of them into loyal, obedient subjects. But what is in view here is His wrath – not His mercy. The point is the futility of resistance.

7 He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.

Messiah is never wearied by these contests. He is infinitely superior to his mightiest foe. In the pursuit of them he is relentless, only stopping a moment for a refreshing drink on his way.

Psalm 110 in the New Testament

Psalm 110 is, of all the Psalms, the most often quoted in the New Testament. The true Divinity of Christ, His exaltation to Supreme Lordship at the right hand of God, His call to a perpetual priesthood, and the completeness of His victory are all supported by citations from this Psalm. Here is a list of 25 different texts that quote some part of the psalm:

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. 43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? (Matthew 22:41-45)

41 And he said unto them, How say they that Christ is David’s son? 42 And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 43 Till I make thine enemies thy footstool. 44 David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son? (Luke 20:41-44)

32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33 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. 34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:34-36)

24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)

But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? (Hebrews 1:13)

12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. (Hebrews 10:12-13)

Verse 4 is quoted to prove the superiority and perpetuity of Messiah’s priesthood:

As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 5:6)

Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 6:20)

For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 7:17)

(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) (Hebrews 7:21)

Psalm 110:1 is the only place in the Old Testament where we read of one who “sits at the right hand” of God. Therefore all the following verses in the New Testament must be seen as alluding to that verse:

Matthew 26:64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Mark 14:62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Mark 16:19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

Luke 22:69 Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.

Acts 2:33 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.

Acts 7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

Acts 7:56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

Colossians 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

Hebrews 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Hebrews 8:1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;

Hebrews 10:12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; 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.

1Peter 3:22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

The Theme of Victory

I want now to concentrate on one of its major themes, one that I believe is crucial to the invigoration and the success of the church in our day.

The Psalm speaks of the complete and utter victory of Christ over all his enemies. In this respect, it is reminiscent of Psalm 2, another psalm quoted in the New Testament. Note that this victory will be achieved while He is sitting at God’s right hand:

1 A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 2 The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. 3 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. 4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. 5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. (Psalms 110:1-5)

While it may seem strange to speak of a king as fighting battles while seated on a throne, we need to understand the idiom. It is not about the physical posture of the Lord Jesus per se. Our Lord is a priest, and a priest normally does his work standing, not sitting. When we speak of someone “sitting on a throne” this is sometimes simply a metaphor for reigning. This is true in ordinary prose, and we should not be surprised to find it in a poetic composition like this psalm. In this sense, David, while sitting on the throne of Israel, made war on all the enemy nations surrounding him, and conquered them.

Psalm 2 says the same 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. (Psalms 2:2-9)

One of the keys to understanding biblical eschatology is found right here. The claim of many, who say that Christ must return to earth and reign here, enthroned on the literal Mount Zion, flatly contradict the psalmist, who equates the right hand of God with the true Mount Zion. David’s throne on the earthly Mount Zion was a type of the throne on which the Greater David would one day sit. Consider these words in the book of Hebrews, where Paul has just told his audience of Hebrew Christians that they are not come to Mount Sinai (v.18):

22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. 25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: (Hebrews 12:22-25)

In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, he makes it clear that Psalm 110 has in view the Messiah presently at God’s right hand in heaven:

32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33 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. 34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:32-36)

David is not ascended into heaven, but Jesus is! Else how could David say “ The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand…” So runs his proof. This psalm therefore cannot refer to a future period, after the second coming, with Jesus back here on earth. It must refer to the present age; and it is in that time context that we must apply the words,”Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool.” There can be no doubt that this psalm predicts the universal conquest of Christ over all the rebellious powers that oppose him before He leaves that heavenly throne to return to earth.

Our Lord will not return to earth until the victory is already won, as 1 Corinthians 15 clearly states:

20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

The text is talking about the order of the final events of history (v.23). Since death is the last enemy (v.26), then the resurrection of the dead cannot occur until the rest of his enemies have been overcome. But the resurrection occurs “at his coming” (v.23). The “end” referred to in verse 24 is the end of Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom. He has been given His kingdom for the purpose of applying the redemption that He accomplished on earth. All power in heaven and in earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:20) so that He might gather in all His elect people, and put an end to all rebellion against the rule of God forever. When this work is finished, “when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power” (v.24), then “he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father“ (v.24). This truth is then proved and enforced (v.25) by alluding to Psalm 110:1, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”

Part of our heritage as Reformed Presbyterians is this eschatology of victory. From the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century until the nineteenth century, the biblical doctrine of the victory of Christ in history was generally understood and believed. There was a corresponding advance of Protestant Christianity throughout the world. Since then, this view has been widely repudiated, and a deep pessimism about the future of Christianity in this world has become dominant. Accordingly, Christianity has been in general retreat wherever the expectation of defeat has reigned. Psalm 110 needs to be re-emphasized, and the victory of Christ preached and believed, if we are ever to recover the lost ground. That this will occur, and that the ultimate triumph of the gospel is assured, cannot be doubted while Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting until His enemies be made his footstool!

I close with these words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

Away from the shame and suffering of his earthly life, Jehovah calls the Adonai, our Lord, to the repose and honours of his celestial seat.

The mediatorial kingdom will last until the last enemy shall be destroyed, and then, according to the inspired word, “cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God even the Father.”

The monarch of the greatest nation shall not be able to escape the sword of the Lord; nor shall that dread spiritual prince who rules over the children of disobedience be able to escape without a deadly wound. Pope and priest must fall, with Mahomet and other deceivers who are now heads of the people. Jesus must reign and they must perish. (Charles Spurgeon, commenting on Psalm 110 in his work, The Treasury of David)

 

 

One comment on “The All-Conquering King of Psalm 110

  1. Delmar says:

    Thanks for writing this awesome article. I’m a long time
    reader but I’ve never been compelled to leave a comment.
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    Like

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