Summary: David foresees a future in which the LORD stretches out the sceptre of Jesus from Mount Zion.
THE TWO LORDS
The first thing that strikes us about this passage is the superscription: “A Psalm of David.” The Davidic authorship of this Psalm was taken for granted by all parties in the days of Jesus and the Apostles. Jesus goes so far as to say that David spoke these words ‘by the Holy Ghost’ (Mark 12:36) – thus establishing His own authoritative authentication of both the Davidic and the Divine authorship of Psalm 110.
The passage begins, “The LORD said to my Lord” – literally, “YHWH said to my Lord” (Psalm 110:1). This suggests another Lord over King David (the human author of these words), apart from YHWH Himself. The Apostle Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, re-emphasises the Davidic authorship of this Psalm, and identifies David’s Lord with the risen Lord Jesus (Acts 2:34-36).
The words spoken by the LORD to Lord Jesus (Psalm 110:1) are quoted in Hebrews 1:13. The author of Hebrews has already emphasised the seating of ‘the Son’ at the right hand of ‘the Majesty on high’ (Hebrews 1:2-3). This is where Jesus has been since His ascension into heaven (cf. Daniel 7:13-14).
David sees a future in which the LORD stretches out the sceptre of Jesus from Mount Zion (suggesting a co-regency), and David exhorts Jesus to rule on despite the presence of enemies (Psalm 110:2). It is the gospel that has been on the march from Zion since Pentecost (cf. Isaiah 2:3), and Jesus is not without willing volunteers for the worldwide mission of His church (Psalm 110:3). If there is any so-called ‘holy war’ suggested here, it is being conducted from heaven itself (cf. 2 Kings 6:17).
There is possibly an implicit reference to the resurrection, as David encourages the Lord “from the womb of the morning” (the tomb) to renew, like dew, His youth (Psalm 110:3). Prophecy is a prism, not a timeline: which would explain why we suddenly find ourselves looking back from the post-ascension enthronement to the empty tomb. Jesus came into this world first to die for our sins, and it is in that death that the power for the completion of the victory resides (Hebrews 9:28).
The writer to the Hebrews is also responsible for elucidating the Melchisedec connection, from Hebrews 6:20 onwards. As the argument develops, we become aware that Jesus sits at the right hand of the ‘Majesty in the heavens’ as our High priest (Hebrews 8:1), as well as our King (Hebrews 1:3). The unimpeachable character of God’s oath assures us that it is so (Psalm 110:4).
At this point, David changes the recipient of his speech, and addresses the LORD (YHWH) about the Lord Jesus. David envisages Jesus having accepted the offer of Psalm 110:1, and to have taken His seat at the right hand of God. From there even kings (cf. Psalm 2:2-3) are forced to acknowledge their subjection to Him (Psalm 110:5).
There is a foretaste of ‘the wrath of the Lamb’ (Revelation 6:16), in the strong terminology of Psalm 110:6. It is the whole earth that is coming under the scrutiny and judgment of Jesus. While there is still time and opportunity we should heed the call of the gospel in Psalm 2:10-12 – before it is too late!