Psalm 110 presents us with a mystery in its very first verse:
The Lord says to my Lord:
Sit at My right hand… (Psalm 110:1)
There are three characters in this Psalm, apart from the congregation that hears and repeats it. There’s the Psalmist, the LORD God, and an unnamed third character who sounds very much like the “Anointed one” described in Psalm 2. “Sit at My right hand”—the LORD God is anointing a king.
The Psalmist goes on to describe what God will do for the exalted king at His right hand. “The LORD will stretch forth your strong scepter from Zion.” Compare this with Psalm 2: “You shall break [the nations] with a rod of iron.” (Psalm 2:9) The LORD God will cause this other lord to rule in the midst of enemies, and his people will flock to him, to serve him.
An Unusual Priestly King
The LORD God has said this to this figure at His right hand, “You are a priest forever…” (Psalm 110:4) This is significant because the kings of Israel were not typically understood as priests. The Levites carried out the priestly functions; however, the leader of Israel was expected to build the temple. If that temple became corrupt, it was the king’s job to purify and re-dedicate it. The anointed king in Psalm 110 was an unusual priest. He was not a priest according to the order of Aaron and Levi as was traditional, but according to the order of Melchizedek, the King of Salem.
The Psalmist goes on to describe the signs of this priestly king’s power: “The Lord is at your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.” (Psalm 110:5)
The last verse of this Psalm is a reference to the king after battle: “He will drink from the brook by the wayside; Therefore He will lift up His head.” (Psalm 110:7) This is probably a reference to a ceremonial act. The king is not fatigued or defeated with his head down. He drinks and is refreshed; this may be a reference to the Stream of Gihon which flowed out of the Garden of Life.
The Answer Was Right in Front of Them
Who could this exalted priestly king possibly be? The Israelites knew that this anointed one would be a descendant of King David, a king appointed by the LORD God, but beyond that the Old Testament didn’t give them a direct answer.
Jesus took advantage of this mystery in Mark 12, when the Jewish leaders tried to trap Him near the end of His life:
Jesus began to say, as He taught in the Temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? David himself said in the Holy Spirit,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at My right hand,
Until I put your enemies beneath Your feet.’” (Mark 12:35-36)
Jesus challenged the Jewish scribes and teachers with a riddle: if Messiah is David’s son, how can David call his own son Lord, as he does in Psalm 110?
Obviously the theologians couldn’t answer him, because there’s no answer given in the Old Testament text. We are told that the large crowd that had gathered enjoyed Jesus’ dispute with the Jewish leaders and theologians. He stumped them, and it’s easy to imagine that the crowd must have laughed. The peasant preacher stumped the scribes, Pharisees, and theologians who were trying to trap him.
The Answer Revealed to All
Peter later referenced the mysterious figure when he delivered the first Christian sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. It’s easy to imagine that he might have quoted this passage with a wry smile:
Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. (Acts 2:29)
It was not David who ascended into heaven; David himself predicted that he would be surpassed by a descendant greater than himself. “Therefore,” Peter says, “Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)
Jesus the Messiah is the enthroned one, the exalted lord that David foresaw in Psalm 110. He is the king through whom God will cause all the nations to give him worship.
We must bear witness to the unfolding of Christ’s kingship, which will be consummated on the last day. He is the king, and we owe him our loyalty, our obedience, and our commitment.
The preceding was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon Dr. Robert Sloan delivered at Kingsland Baptist Church on May 5, 2013. A video of his original address may be viewed here.