Psalm 110:1–7 (ESV) — 1 The Lord [Yahweh] says to my Lord [Adonai]: “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, a Davidic Psalm, is the most cited and alluded to OT text in the NT.
- The main point of this lesson will be to find out why this is so.
- Before we do anything, however, we need to determine whom Psalm 110 is about.
Who is Psalm 110 about?
- We will let Jesus answer this question for us.
- Matthew 22:41–46 (ESV) — 41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 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 is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
Jesus asks the Pharisees about the sonship of “the Christ” – the Messiah.
- They suggest that the Messiah will be a “son” of David.
- They were partly correct.
- The OT makes clear that the Messiah is in the line of David.
- The problem is that Jewish thought understood that this “son” of David would be nothing more than a man.
Jesus then quotes Psalm 110 to correct them and thereby does three important things.
- (1) He affirms the Davidic authorship of Psalm 110 – “David…saying”.
- (2) He affirms the inspired nature of David’s words – “David, in the Spirit…”
- (3) He answers our question – David is not speaking of himself, but about the Messiah.
Jesus’ words in Matthew certainly give us some insight into why Psalm 110 was important.
- But, they only scratch the surface.
The Exaltation of Jesus Christ:
The fundamental reason that Psalm 110 is so important to the NT writers is because it is an exaltation Psalm.
We need to answer three questions to dig into why this makes Psalm 110 so important.
- (1) How do we know it is an exaltation Psalm?
- (2) What is exaltation?
- (3) Why was the exaltation so important?
Question 1 Answered – Why an Exaltation Psalm:
The best way to answer this question is to look at a few passages of NT Scripture.
- Mark 16:19 (ESV) — 19 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.
- Acts 5:31 (ESV) — 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
- Philippians 2:9–11 (ESV) — 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name [the Lord], 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
- Hebrews 10:12–13 (ESV) — 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.
- Ephesians 1:20–22 (ESV) — 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 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. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,
All of these texts directly quote or allude to Psalm 110.
- In so doing, they teach us that:
- (1) Jesus is the one about whom David spoke.
- (2) Jesus is the one in Psalm 110 who was exalted to the “right hand of God”.
What this means is, as Jesus made clear above, King David is not saying, “God said to me” in Psalm 110:1.
- According to the Hebrew in Psalm 110, Jesus’ exegesis in Matthew, and the NT writers, King David is literally saying, “Yahweh said to Adonai – Jesus the Messiah – sit at my right hand”.
- So Psalm 110 is a prophetic Psalm of David about the exaltation of the divine Messiah – Jesus Christ!
- This begins to get at why Psalm 110 was/is so important.
BTW – We spoke last week about baggage we carry that hinders our understanding of God’s truth.
- We should be asking why is it that the Pharisees to whom Jesus was talking to in Matthew didn’t see what David was talking about – that the Messiah is Adonai; more than just a son of David.
- The problem goes back to one’s posture before Scripture.
- John MacArthur says of the Pharisees in Matthew 22 that they, like so many of us, looked to Scripture “…for the purpose of trying to shore up their humanly devised religious traditions and personal preferences” – John MacArthur.
- It appears that sometimes the truth might get in the way of our personal preferences.
Question 2 Answered – What is Exaltation:
Exaltation means to “raise to the supreme position” and “give exceptional honor to” – DBL.
- The above texts make this very claim for Jesus.
- Jesus’ exaltation meant He was/is seated at the right hand of God – “the supreme position”.
“In the ancient world, to sit at a person’s right hand was to occupy a place of honor; a seat at the right hand of the host would be a place of honor at a dinner. To sit at a king’s right hand was more than mere honor; it was to share in his rule. It signified participation in the royal dignity and power” – James Boice.
Implications of Exaltation:
Jesus’ resurrection vindicated His death on the cross by demonstrating His power to defeat death.
- Jesus’ exaltation demonstrated His identity as God and His right to rule over the Kingdom He inaugurated.
- “The Psalm  celebrates the exaltation of Christ to the throne of an eternal and increasing kingdom, and a perpetual priesthood (Zec 6:13), involving the subjugation of His enemies and the multiplication of His subjects, and rendered infallibly certain by the word and oath of Almighty God” – Robert Jamieson.
Question 3 Answered – Why So Important:
We have seen that Psalm 110 is a prophetic Psalm of David about the exaltation of the divine Messiah – Jesus Christ!
- Clearly an incredibly important declaration.
- But there are more reasons why Psalm 110 is so significant.
With the onset of this new Jewish sect we have something problematic in a Jewish context.
- “Earliest Christianity wasn’t simply a set of beliefs or assertions, but also involved a new pattern of worship of the one God in which Jesus was central” – Larry Hurtado.
From a Jewish context, then, two things needed to be established concerning Jesus.
- (1) How is a “man” who walked among us now worthy of worship?
- (2) How does this work within Jewish monotheism?
Think about it like this.
- Why was Saul of Tarsus killing off members of this new Jewish sect that worshipped a “man” who died?
- It is worth noting that the first thing he proclaimed after his conversion concerned the identity of Jesus (Acts 9:20).
Peter Answers These Questions:
With Psalm 16, we saw that Peter was making His case for Jesus’ identity using the OT.
- Specifically, he used Psalm 16 to show that David knew that the Messiah would die and be resurrected.
- But a resurrected Messiah does not a God make.
So Peter continues:
- Acts 2:33-36 (ESV) — 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Peter argues that Jesus is “both Lord and Christ” because He has been exalted (and resurrected).
- And in fact, it is from this exalted position that He “has poured out” the Holy Spirit – the very thing happening at Pentecost.
- So using Psalm 110, Peter answers the two questions we raised.
- Answer – Exaltation means Jesus is “both Lord and Christ”.
- If it was true that God exalted Jesus to a seated position at God’s right hand, then, for the Jew, there was a rather profound implication.
OT scholar Michael Heiser puts it like this:
- “Such identifications would mean that Jesus is in the Israelite Godhead” – Heiser.
- This meant that a Jew “…committed to monotheism, even upon pain of death, could accept that there was…a power in heaven who ‘was Yahweh but wasn’t Yahweh the Father’” – Heiser.
- We of course see this as the basis for the Trinity.
Larry Hurtado puts it like this:
The “…earliest circles of Jesus-devotion (which included Jewish believers) saw themselves as responding to God’s exaltation of Jesus…So, obeying the one true God by re-shaping their devotional practice to include Jesus, they saw themselves as faithful to the God of the biblical tradition” – Larry Hurtado.
In other words:
- “The fundamental basis for these claims [Jesus’ identity] and the devotional practice was the powerful conviction that God had exalted Jesus to heavenly glory and now required him to be reverenced” – Larry Hurtado.
For the “Jewish Christian”, Yahweh’s exaltation of Jesus to His right hand meant Jesus is God and worthy of worship.
What about the meaning of Psalm 110 itself?
- Reading the text in view of what we have discussed would be a fruitful exercise.
- The problem is that to do so would require another lesson.
We can say a few things about Psalm 110, in light of what we have learned.
- (1) It is an OT instance of the mention of Christ’s 2nd Coming.
- “…he will shatter kings…” (vs. 5)
- “He will execute judgment…” (vs. 6)
- “…he will shatter chiefs…” (vs. 6)
- (2) Jesus is actively reigning as we speak.
- (3) Jesus is our priestly intercessor.
- (4) Jesus will pour out the wrath of God on the unrighteous – the same wrath he bore on the cross.
- “…he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath” (vs. 5)