Psalm 110

Psalm 110 sings confidence: Israel’s God upholds Israel’s king. This royal psalm celebrates the king as the one anointed to rule and empowered to vanquish all of Israel’s enemies.

The LORD says to my lord,
    “Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Much of our Bible assumes a violent culture in the ancient world of its origins. Armies and battles, victories and defeats, walled cities and calls to arms defined daily life for many of these nations and their inhabitants.

For Israel, Yahweh God became the quintessential warrior god. From the Lord’s overwhelming defeat of the army of Egypt to the conquering of the Promised Land to the the establishing of David’s monarchy, God was seen as One who went before them in battle to save and secure Israel.

The LORD sends out from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your foes…

From the womb of the morning,
like dew, your youth will come to you.

In the imagination of Israel, Zion was God the King’s ultimate dwelling place: the holy throne situated in the highest heavenlies.

Thus everything built in the Temple signified and symbolized these invisible realities. Even though Israel often used the words interchangeably, Jerusalem or the Temple were always and only physical metaphors that pointed to the spiritual unseen-ness of God’s presence in Zion.

Psalm 110 sees Yahweh the King as the Source of an eternal divine authority that establishes Israel’s kings with a consequent divine authority.

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

The LORD is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath…

Now here is a twist: along with kingship, the psalmist claims Israel’s leader is also a priest. Not within the Levitical priesthood, from the lineage of Aaron and the priestly tribe of Levi, but rather priest from a more ancient and enigmatic tradition.

In Abraham’s story as told in Genesis, (centuries before the Levitical priesthood) there is an odd little episode when Abraham meets “King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of God Most High…” 

Abraham received a blessing from the priest/king and gave him a tithe as an offering. That’s just about all we know from the original story.

But then the psalmist used this tradition to assign Israel’s monarch to this special category of priest/king. The divine authority to oversee God’s people is magnified beyond the usual authority of a nation’s king. The psalmist expands it to include divine authority to speak for the people directly to the One seated on the Heavenly Throne.

Fast forward to the New Testament and we find Melchizedek again in Hebrews 5.  In the Preacher’s creative use of the Hebrew Scriptures, he re-read his Sacred Texts and re-interpreted them in light of the Christ Event. The ancient “twist” introduced by the psalmist is taken to another level by his theological descendant centuries later.

Hebrews presents Jesus as the One who has divine authority to speak directly to God and to offer sacrifice (in this context, to offer his own life) on behalf of the people.

Luke also used Psalm 110 as a basis for his Christology. In Acts 2, Peter’s Pentecost sermon sees the Risen Christ as heir to David’s throne:

The LORD says to my lord,
    “Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

For the earliest Christian theologians, Jesus the Christ most perfectly completes the picture of the promised Messiah: the Resurrected Lord is Prophet-Priest-King.

Within the Christian tradition, this royal psalm anticipates the Christ as one anointed to rule over all the nations with compassion and justice, to speak God’s Word with divine authority and to abide in God’s presence in order to intercede for all God’s people.

 

Published by

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte lives and blogs in Paris TX. She is ordained within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a graduate of Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth.

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