Jesus is clearly portrayed as king and priest forever in this little psalm with a big message. No wonder this is the most-quoted part of the Old Testament in the New Testament!
- Jesus quotes it in the gospels, trying to get people to think about who the Messiah really is, and what he’ll be like.
- It’s quoted by Peter in Acts, Paul in Romans and 1 Corinthians, and is a big topic in the letter to the Hebrews.
So when you think about it, it’s a bit odd that we don’t know it better than we do. Or at least, we don’t understand it better. But this isn’t just a bit of a Bible study. It’s a revelation of who Jesus is and what he’s doing right now, and then it’s an encouragement to you in the struggles of life.
Jesus is your King (v1-3)
Read Psalm 110:1. Notice how the word “Lord” appears twice.
- The “LORD” (capitals) is the English translation of the actual Hebrew name of God. His personal name.
- The “Lord” (lower case) is someone else.
Someone that God elevates to the place of highest honour and authority.
There’s a solemnity about the moment. It’s a major event. As the CSB puts it, “This is the declaration of the LORD”. The New Testament clearly shows the Lord here to be Jesus. In Acts, Peter quotes v1 to make the point that Jesus is greater than David (Acts 2:34 “For David himself never ascended into heaven, yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand…”’”)
In Hebrews, the writer uses v1 to make the point that Jesus is greater even than angels: Hebrews 1:13 ‘God never said to any of the angels, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand…”’
What kind of Lord must he be, to be so exalted? Read Psalm 110:2. He rules with God’s rule. He is ascribed all the splendour and authority of the infinite creator.
- The line “you will rule over your enemies” is really a command: “Rule over your enemies.”
- In fact, it’s stronger than just “rule” – it’s more along the lines of “Have complete domination over your enemies.”
- This isn’t a wish or a hope. It is a command, and it is the rule that Jesus now has.
Bad news for enemies = good news for followers
The enemies of Christ are utterly dwarfed by his exalted glory. In Acts 2:34-36, Peter quotes Psalm 110:1 to the crowd and then says, ““So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” You may reject him, even crucify him, God has exalted him to be Lord and Messiah over all.
That’s a sobering thought for his enemies. But for those who follow him, we delight to be in his service.
Read Psalm 110:3. Different English translations put the punctuation in slightly different places, but the overall meaning doesn’t change: Jesus reigns in holy splendour. He doesn’t tire in the fight against his enemies. And his people follow willingly.
Jesus is the fulfilment of the promise to David back in 2 Samuel 7. He is the promised king for all time. He is a descendant of David (2 Samuel 7), and yet he is David’s “Lord” (Psalm 110). That’s the conundrum Jesus posed to the listeners of his day, trying to get them to think about the nature of the Messiah king to come. As Ezekiel 34 points out, it’s only possible if God himself were to be born a human, born into David’s line.
So that is something of who and what Jesus is right now: King over all, whether enemies or willing volunteers. And he’s waiting. Waiting “until” – as v1 puts it.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:20-28.
Until. We’ll all be part of that. And only the Son of God, wholly human and wholly divine, could bear the weight of such glory, majesty, and power. Every knee will bow to king Jesus, willingly or otherwise.
And yet, there’s more:
Jesus is your High Priest (v4)
The LORD God made a declaration in v1 that Jesus is king. Now we have a second declaration: Read Psalm 110:4.
This king is also a priest. And that, frankly, is a bit odd.
- Israel had a priesthood. Men in the tribe of Levi only.
- But David was in the tribe of Judah, so how could one of his descendants be a priest?
The New Testament book of Hebrews discusses that very point, and makes it clear that Jesus is a different kind of priest, a better kind, and that his work will make the role of the Levitical priests obsolete. The coming of the Messiah would mark the end of the Levitical priests. No more daily sacrifices. No more physical temple. The Old Covenant (Testament) was gone; the New has come.
This new covenant would be mediated through a different kind of priest, one like Melchizedek. Who was he?
- Back in Genesis 14, Abraham paid tribute to Melchizedek, king and priest of Salem (Jerusalem).
- Melchizedek means, “King of righteousness”
- And Salem comes from “Shalom”, so he was King of Peace too.
- And because Abraham paid Melchizedek tribute, and then Melchizedek blessed Abraham, then it’s given that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham.
So for Jesus to be a priest in the order of Melchizedek, he would be greater than Abraham, king of righteousness, king of peace, and one to make the whole Levitical priesthood obsolete. He would be king and priest forever. In the Old Testament, priests served year after year and then died. But Jesus is the eternal king and priest: forever.
Sacrifice and priest
And what would the sacrifice be? Himself, of course. He was given over to death to be a substitute for us, dying to take the punishment you deserve. But he rose. And he’s now exalted above all: So Hebrews 10:
- 11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 13 There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. 14 For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.
And what’s he doing, right now, in this exalted position? Romans 8:34 (CSB) Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.
This king left his glory to become human. Only in his humanity can he be a sacrifice in your place. Only in his humanity can he be a priest, representing you and interceding for you at the throne of God.
He came for you.
His glory is incomparable; his majesty unchallengeable. And his love for you outshines the sun, the moon and the stars. He is king and priest forever. He came to save you and will not let you go once you call on his name. Christ is glorious in the presence of the Father – who is unseen except by looking on the Son.
And your name is on his lips. Your prayers are in his ears. And all of this really, really matters:
Calling all volunteers (v5-7)
Because here’s the thing: We’re all in the “until” of v1. The enemy is still at large. Satan is livid that Christ has condemned him and served him notice. And he’s on a warpath against Christ’s people.
Do peace and righteousness reign in the world? Not yet. You see plenty of deception, division, and sin. There are evil powers and influences at work in the world. Things around us that have become “normal” but are actually opposed to God (and therefore evil):
- The media and social media are full of it.
- There are fads and movements that are really modern idolatries and false worship.
- On the news you see plenty of political and military tensions all around the world.
- Peace and righteousness do not reign. Not yet.
The news is full of disasters – natural, political, social. Covid is just the latest of terrible diseases that have killed millions for thousands of years. And still, 1 in 1 die. Death takes us all.
The earth groans with the weight of human sin. More so, as we burn up this beautiful planet with our insatiable appetites. The earth groans. Until.
But even now, the “until” time, Christ is growing his kingdom. He’s the priest and king who already rules over all, and is waiting for the day when all these enemies lie beneath his feet – vanquished, quashed, out of sight and power forever. And, in this “until” time, you’re in the front line of the spiritual warfare. The battle is within you, and all around you, at your right hand, even.
The Lord is near to help
But read Psalm 110:5.
- Notice the “Lord”, not “LORD”
- The risen king and priest is here with you, at your right hand in the fight. In it with you.
So read Psalm 110:6-7.
- That’s the language of a king who is victorious over enemies, but also a king who is himself actively engaged in the battle.
- You’re on the front line; Jesus fights with you, at your right hand.
If you are in despair at the state of the world, he is with you. Or if you struggle with temptation and sin, he fights with you. He is your strength and shield. If your long term health situation is a burden, or age means you just don’t recover like you used to, Christ is with you.
Whatever is in your life that causes you to struggle to stand, Christ is at your right hand. He will defeat all enemies. He will lead you home. Jesus is the firstfruits from among the dead and your hope of resurrection life and hope and bliss. He knows your name, and you will see his face in joy.
Why remain his enemy?
But lastly, there may be someone reading this still choosing to stand against this Jesus, this eternal, ascended, powerful and victorious priest and king seated at the throne of heaven.
- Will you persist in being his enemy?
- Your sin and rejection of him isn’t neutral – your sin makes you his enemy.
- And yet it is his priestly delight to bring you to himself, if only you will turn from your sin and come to him.
- Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That’s the absolute wonder and majesty of Psalm 110.
So, whether you’re doing for the first time or the ten thousandth, bow before him now. Ask his forgiveness; live for him every day; in his strength. All your hope and confidence is in him – who he is and what he’s done, for you.