From The Womb Of The Sunrise: The Glories Of King Jesus—Psalm 110 (Part 1)

If you survey the story of David, you must admit that his biography is quite exceptional. He is a remarkable figure. This is in part due to the fact that David is so diverse. He has moments of stunning integrity and days of incredible vice. When David mourned his best friend Jonathan or when he poured his soul out to God for his dying infant son, the tenderness and humanity of David made us love him. But when he ignored his raped daughter, it was difficult to even look at him. As a youth, full of faith and courage, when David struck down Goliath, we would have eagerly rallied to David as one of his mighty men. Yet, as David plotted to kill Uriah, we voted to impeach.

On top of this, there are David’s poems—psalms that are filled with prophetic images of Christ and the great deeds of God. Despite all his ups and downs, few Old Testament saints were granted as many wonderful visions of the things to come as David. So much so, that when the apostles went to prove Jesus’ resurrection from the Old Testament, they turned first to David and his psalms. And chief among these psalms was Psalm 110, which is still for us a most wonderful description of our eternal priest-king, Jesus Christ.

We are all familiar with this psalm, especially verses one and four since they are both quoted in the New Testament about a dozen times each. If these two verses are mountain peaks, then the other verses are shadowed valleys less traveled. Despite our familiarity, there is a certain opaqueness to this little psalm. Hence, it is worthwhile for us to take our time to mine the riches of this psalm. This psalm may be brief, but what it lacks in length, it makes up for in depth.

While we do not know when David wrote this poem, we do know that it comes from the pen of the anointed king of the Lord, the forerunner and type of Christ. David also fashioned it as a psalm, which means it was designated for the worship of God’s people. This psalm found its home in the temple of God. In fact, this is most likely an enthronement psalm. That is, it was sung during the coronation ritual for a new Davidic king. As another king ascended the throne of David, this psalm was sung in hope that one day it would come to pass. Would this king be the one or would they have to wait for another?

Additionally, this psalm stands out because it is an oracle. In fact, one of the confusing things about this psalm is the rather unfortunate translation of its first line: the Lord says to my lord. This sounds a bit like God is talking to himself. Yet, this literally says, “The oracle of Yahweh to my lord or my liege.” Yahweh here is speaking to another figure, who is David’s superior—his royal master. Furthermore, an oracle is Yahweh’s prophetic revelation, a heavenly word delivered to His prophetic servants on earth. This opening line, then, creates a scene. It is as if David is taken up into heaven and he gets to listen in on God speaking to this figure named, “my liege, my monarch.” Of course, we know this monarch is Christ. So, David got to hear the Father speaking to the Son in heaven. He is like a heavenly transcriber, writing down what God the Father spoke to God the Son. This is inspiration in action. It is Yahweh addressing his Son, Jesus Christ, written down by David, and preserved for your faith.

The identity of this “my lord” figure is a bit unclear to David at first, but he is about to learn quite a bit. First, Yahweh declares to “my liege, ‘Sit at my right hand.’” This is God’s declaration of installation as king. This command is the coronation of a monarch. The imagery here is actually tied to a common type of throne in David’s day. We have ancient pictures of double-seated thrones. The main seat would be raised a bit higher, which is where the god would sit. Then, on the right a bit lower, the human king would sit. This is what David sees. He witnesses Yahweh upon His throne and his liege being installed as king at His right hand.

Furthermore, Yahweh tells the liege to rule in the midst of his enemies and promises to extend his kingdom until all his enemies are his footstool. So then, the liege comes to the throne while there are yet enemies to be defeated. He is on the throne, but his domain must still subdue many foes. Clearly this is a reference to the resurrection and ascension of Christ. What David heard in heaven during his day came to pass as our resurrected Lord ascended on high. This means your king Jesus is on his throne. Even though we yet live in a time where there are many foes, Jesus reigns with the certain promise of the Father: all his and our foes will be put under his feet. The scepter of Christ will conquer a universal kingdom—even the new heavens and the new earth.

Indeed, note the capital of Christ’s kingdom, Zion. In the Old Testament, Zion was God’s holy city, considered the center of the world and the link between heaven and earth. Yahweh’s throne is in heaven and Christ’s seat at His right hand in Zion is also in heaven. David witnesses here not some earthly kingdom, but the heavenly kingdom of Christ. As Peter said, this Psalm could not be true of David, for David never ascended to heaven. Yet, Jesus ascended upon high. He took his throne at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Once again, in a sin-cursed world, this is just what our faith needs to hear. Chaos may seem to reign on earth, but Christ is ruling from heaven. No matter what happens in our country or world, Christ is working all things for your good and his glory.

This, however, is not the only thing David learns about Christ. In verse 3 he peers even deeper into the mysterious glory of this liege. Verse 3 is notorious difficult, and some commentators call it an untranslatable verse. You will notice that the ESV’s footnote says, “the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.” Nevertheless, the ancient Greek translation, the bible most of the apostles used, reads verse 3 a bit different from the Hebrew. And this is a situation where the Greek more than likely gets in right. Verse 3 is better read as follows: “Nobility is with you in the day of your birth; with holy garments from the womb of the sunrise; verily, like dew, I begot you.” This is quite different from the Hebrew. But the key point is that verse 3 is about the king, the liege, and it is not about the people.

Thus, this verse is about Yahweh begetting the king as His son. And the begetting of the king to be God’s son did not refer to his birth, but to his coronation—the very moment when he was told to sit at the right hand. This is the divine adoption of the king to be God’s son, which fulfills what God told David in the Davidic covenant: I will be a father to him, and he will be my son. Moreover, there is something particularly special about this begetting, for the king sports “holy garments” or majestic robes of holiness. Majesty and holiness are the quintessential attributes of God. This royal Son is no mere man but shares in the very glory of God.

Yet, when was Christ openly declared the Son of God? It was in his resurrection. As Romans 1:4 says, “Jesus was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.” In verse 3, David beholds the resurrection enthronement of Jesus. In fact, this is likely reflected in the imagery here about the morning sunrise and the dew. A bright dawn with fresh dew was an image of life most blessed life. At dawn, the sun never sets, but an eternal light shines. So also, at dawn the light of Christ’s indestructible life rose as the first born of the dead. In his resurrected glory, Jesus stepped forth from the grave to be announced as God’s victorious Son, the true son of David, adorned in the Spirit of holiness. At the dawn of new creation, Jesus was enthroned the resurrected king, true God and true man.

Without a doubt, this psalm displays the glories of king Jesus to his church. Christ’s very resurrection coronation and his ascension enthronement are the assurance of your salvation; it is your confidence to live by faith. Jesus, the Jewish carpenter who died and rose again, is also the eternal king and Lord exalted to the right hand of God. And this is only the first half of Psalm 110. In our second installment, we will plumb the wonders of the latter half of this glorious psalm.

©Zach Keele. All Rights Reserved.


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