I’ve spent some time banging around some thoughts on Psalm 110, what it meant in its Jewish culture and how it was used by the early believers. To think about that I had to first spend some time thinking about the origins.
The roots are found during David’s reign, very likely the day that David became King. The Prophet comes in and announces to David the king that the Lord (God) says to my lord (you, o king) to sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet (this is made slightly more probably by the use of the oracular “A Saying of the Lord” to My Lord bit).
Now we know what David was told. David is to be King, David is to have a perpetual kingdom (in other words, his family will continue). Now a person can break down how the perpetual seed of David can be interpreted (either David has a child and his child has a child, forever world without end or there is one child of David who always sits on the throne). So David very likely writes this Psalm as a testimonial to that announcement.
In addition to the royal mandate (sit on my right hand-position of honor-until your enemies are made your footstool) the King is also told that he is a priest forever, according to the Melchizadekian Priesthood. This position isn’t surprising for a person who is a King in Jerusalem: they’re sitting on the throne that once belonged to Melchizadek, King of Salem.
More than physical position, the King ruling in Israel sat on the throne by God’s mandate. As such, he is the ruler of a kingdom of priests-a royal priesthood. As a first among the people he is, in some respect, the main Royal Priest. Some Kings of course used some sort of priestly prerogative with the things they did (although in many cases, they were incredibly wrong-for example Uzziah). For an example of a King Priest duty check out David dancing “before the Lord” upon the return of the ark while wearing an ephod”. If that’s not priestly I don’t know what is.
It wouldn’t surprise me then that if Psalm 110 became a sort of coronation Psalm or at the very least a dedication to the king psalm.
And yet, I imagine, that if this Psalm was read or recited during a coronation or dedication service each King, including David no doubt, had very real sense of wearing Daddy’s clothes. You know that feeling? You can sort of wear it, your arms are in all the right parts and it’s on the right bit of your torso and neck but its way too big for you.
So as the years went on and there was no king who really filled Daddy’s Clothes of Psalm 110, (and in conjunction with tons of other Scripture) the Jews started looking for a Messiah who would eventually come from the line of David as a Priest King. Of course, there was some disagreement as to where the King would come from or if he would appear suddenly but it seemed generally expected that the King would be of the line of David (John 7).
Enter Jesus (who is a descendent of David) who asks a question that gets to the heart of their discussions: David is the one writing Psalm 110. He’s not merely recording the words of another person; he wrote it. So why is it that the Scribes say that the Messiah is merely the Son of David when David calls this person Master as part of an oracular pronouncement?
You see, in that culture it is not the place of Descendants to be greater than their Patriarchs. Children were a jewel in the crown of the patriarch of the family; they are in no way the focal point of the families devotion and dedication. You don’t call your kid your Lord or Master.
So the fact that David writes this points to a very delicate point. Messiah is more than merely a Son of David-much more. Daddy’s clothes is meant to be worn to the fullest and that can only be fulfilled by a person that fits that Proclamation of Psalm 110 in more than a political requirement and kingdom.
Peter argues that David suffered from an incurable problem, as did all of his descendents. They died and remained convincingly dead. They rotted away, you can go to their tombs and dig them up. Can’t do that with Jesus: He died but His tomb is currently vacant. Know why? He’s alive again.
You see, Peter would explain, David rotted away-he was just a man, but Jesus didn’t rot away. This man was sent from God. This man was perfect. This man’s court ruling was overturned by God Himself and His position was supremely elevated..
If he’s perpetually alive and currently sitting at God’s place of honor that means that He is in fact Lord and Messiah. That means He has the right that’s also placed on Him in Psalm 110: the right to Judge. If these bits are all fulfilled, when do you think that last bit is going to happen?
It’s all about the entire nature of Jesus Christ’s revelation. Paul would point out that Jesus was the Son of David according to the flesh yet the Son of God with Power by the resurrection from the dead: it was the definitive moment where Psalm 110 snaps into place as speaking about an individual who can be a priest forever since He lives forever.
And that perpetual life aspect is what drove the author of Hebrews to spend some time thinking about this part of the Psalms. If Jesus is alive and is labeled as Lord and Messiah and is awaiting a time of judgment, but is currently waiting and not standing doing priestly tasks, He’s completed the main bulk of His priestly work. Sure He intercedes for us (says this author and Paul in Romans) but there is no need to offer sacrifices continually.
For the verses in Scripture point out that God wasn’t merely satisfied with Sacrifices but with Obedience: but about this Jesus we see the words ” A body has been prepared for Me”. So by laying down this body and being obedient (and since He was perfect), the sacrifice happens once for all time. Its completed: no reason for repeats.
In other words everything about Christ’s coming, position, revelation, message, life, understanding of our weaknesses but not sharing in them, sacrifice and cleansing imply that everything that came before was pointing forward at him and what he would do.
As the reality that was promised to come (and at the very least reflected through the model of the Aaronic priesthood and the Israelite Kings) became evidenced in Jesus’ coming and resurrection, it allows him to be a Royal Priest with some proper benefits. He has perfect power to save and is always able to intercede. From a royal position of power and a mandate as belonging to this royal priesthood, his Reigning and Priesthood is better than anything we previously had.
This is the type of Kingdom that will never be overburdened by internal strain from the head down. It will be like that cool draught of water after a hard battle or event: it’s refreshing; it’s satisfying and perpetually invigorating.
Verses for reference: Genesis 14; Psalm 36:2, 2 Sam 7:9-11; Ps 89:22-23; Num 24:3, 2 Sam 23:1, Matt 22:43-45; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:42-44; Acts 2:34-35; Hebrews 5; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7; Hebrews 10, 1 Kings 2:19