The Messiah Serves as Our Priest and King

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The Lord says to my Lord: “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 ESV)

Key Observation: The Messiah secures the future for God’s people and reigns forever in God’s kingdom.

Psalm 110 is royal psalm celebrating the triumphant reign of Israel’s king. To understand this psalm we need to remember that the book of Psalms is a product of the post-exilic period. Israel no longer had a king. Previous psalms about kingship (e.g., 2, 18, 20, 110) take on a new role. They become prayers of expectation and longing for the Messiah through whom God will usher in his kingdom (cf. Psalm 2). Psalm 89 announced the failure of the Davidic kings, and now Psalm 110 announces the new hope of a coming king who will bring security. Its words audaciously express Israel’s longing for God’s kingdom and liberation from the nations who oppressed them. For Christians, Psalm 110 serves prophetically to announce the coming of Jesus as King and Priest for God’s people. A messianic reading of Psalm 110 has deep roots in the church. Verse 1 is quoted in the New Testament more frequently than any other Old Testament text (Matthew 22:44; Mark 14:62, 16:19; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:34–35; 7:55; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 1 Peter 3:22).

The psalm opens with language similar to how Israel’s prophets spoke. It declares that the Messiah will reign from the right hand of God’s throne (v. 1). The church has consistently understood this to be a statement about King Jesus, Israel’s Messiah. The foundation for this reading rests on the reference to David in the title and the language, “The Lord says to my Lord.” Who would David’s lord be? It would be someone even greater than he—indeed, the coming Messiah who would liberate God’s people from their enemies and inaugurate the kingdom of God.

Verses 1–3 contain imagery used throughout the ancient world for kings. Verse 2 reminds God’s people of the importance of Zion (cf. Psalms 46 and 48), which represented the earthly center of God’s reign. These verses portray a powerful figure who will rule over all of his foes and guide his people to victory.

In the second half of Psalm 110, we see that the Messiah will have two roles: King and Priest. The political and spiritual realms often merged in the ancient world. However, in the Old Testament, though David and Solomon were instrumental in centralizing the role of Jerusalem/Zion, the offices of priest and king were usually kept separate. David brought the ark to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6), and Solomon built the Lord’s temple (1 Kings 6–8). Otherwise, the duties of king (Deuteronomy 17:14–20) and priest (Leviticus 1–7, 21; Deuteronomy 18:1–8) remained distinct. Psalm 110 celebrates the coming Messiah who will combine these roles as both the Son of David and the true High Priest. The language in verses 5–7 (similar to verses 2–3) contains standard imagery from the times for portraying a victorious king. These verses point us toward Jesus Christ’s final victory at the new creation (Revelation 21) and remind us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10) and “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

Questions for Reflection

  1. How does Psalm 110 teach us to pray about God’s kingdom?
  2. How does Psalm 110 enhance your understanding and appreciation of Jesus the Messiah?

Are you interested in learning more about the Psalms? Consider taking a deep dive into the book with a dynamic teacher, Brian Russell. The book of Psalms is often quoted and clichéd, but much less often contextualized. When we understand the Psalter relative to the circumstances in which it was written, we find a rich resource for God’s people. Through these prayers, God both speaks to us and models how we might speak back to Him. At its core, the book of Psalms is an instructional guide to a moment-by-moment walk with God through the world. We have three separate Bible studies & videos on the book of Psalms. Get the books and accompanying videos in our store here.

In these pages you’ll:

  • Discover how the psalms of the Bible can translate to your daily life
  • Allow the psalms to help you find words to express yourself to God when you are unsure of how to pray
  • Learn the historical context in which the psalms were written, adding to their richness

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Dr. Brian Russell is Dean of the School of Urban Ministries and Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is also a consultant and speaker on the missional interpretation of Scripture and creating a missional ethos in communities of faith.

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