From The Womb Of The Sunrise: The Glories Of King Jesus—Psalm 110 (Part 2)

As we noted in part one, Psalm 110 can be divided in two parts: verses 1–3 and verses 4–7. Whereas the first half opens with a heavenly oracle, the second starts with an eternal oath of Yahweh. After listening to the oracle, now David gets to hear Yahweh swear an oath. Of course, all of God’s oaths are unbreakable. Yet, just in case we might miss it, God makes doubly sure that this is a permanent oath—he will never change his mind. God will never revoke this heavenly oath. Once again, David gets to hear the Father swear an oath to the Son. It is as if he is a witness to that eternal covenant of redemption. This is remarkable.

And Yahweh swears to his royal Son, “You are a priest forever.” Again, this word of God is an installation. It makes the royal Son also a priest; he is not just a king, but he is a priest-king. This oath does something quite extraordinary. It brings together two offices that the law strictly kept apart. According to the law, a king could not be a priest. To encroach upon the holy priesthood meant death. But this word makes this king a priest. So, this oath does something that is contrary to and above the law. What the Torah separated this oath brings together.

What did the priesthood do? Overall, the priesthood brought the people near to God. Through sacrifice, the holy calendar, and maintaining the tabernacle, the priest kept God close and ushered the people near to God. So, hand in hand with priesthood comes all the rules for approaching God—that is, the law. The law of the Mosaic covenant contained the rules, the path, for how God’s people could draw near to Him through the Aaronic priesthood. And the law strictly forbade a Davidic king from being a priest upon pain of death. This oath, however, declares this royal Son to be a priest. It does what the law cannot.

Hence, this king is a priest not after the order of Aaron, but of Melchizedek. A different order of priest means a different law, a different covenant. Indeed, if Melchizedek walked up to the temple in Jerusalem, he would not have been able to officiate, to serve. You had to be of the line of Aaron to serve in Jerusalem. Yet, Melchizedek from Genesis 14 is clearly called a priest of the Most High. This means there is access to God through him. And his priesthood predates the Mosaic covenant, so the rules of his priesthood are different from the law. For the royal Son to be a Melchizedek priest signals a new and different covenant. Through this priest-king, God’s people find another way to draw near to God, which is the best possible news for us.

For what was the prescription in the Mosaic law for drawing near to God through Aaron? You had to be obedient, you had to bring your own animal sacrifice for your sins, and you needed a holy priest to intercede for you. And then, even after all this, you could not come any closer to God that the outer court. As a lay person, you could never see inside the temple. According to the law, this was the only path to access God.

The problems with this path are clearly manifold. For one, you are a sinner—your obedience was never good enough. Second, you could slaughter a million lambs and goats, but it would never be enough. A river of animal blood could not pay for your sins. And then, what if you got a bad priest? If the priest messed up your offering, it did not count for you. The priest could be lazy or mean. A bad priest left you in the dark. And even if you got a good priest, eventually he would die and who knows what the next priest would be like. But now in this oath, God installs the royal Son to be a forever priest like Melchizedek. He is the priest who will never die, never be removed from office.

And being like Melchizedek, he brings us to God in a different way than the law. Indeed, as this oath is spoken to Christ and fulfilled by Him, we see this new way diverge. Instead of approaching by your obedience, you come to God in His obedience. To enter God’s presence, one must be weighed in the scales of obedience. And where we would always be found wanting, Christ is our perfect priest. He is the man without sin. We have access because of Christ’s righteousness alone.

Likewise, under the priesthood of Melchizedek, you do not have to bring a sacrifice. For, Jesus is your priest who became your sacrifice. He shed His own blood, which can truly take way your sins, wash you pure, and make you holy. And where Christ’s sacrifice was once for all, His priesthood endures forever for you. Jesus continually prays for you, so that you may receive grace and mercy from the Father. Surely, in this one oath, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,” the lavish riches and comforts of the gospel are beautifully displayed for us.

Yet, for David, after hearing this oath, the Lord goes on to speak about another task of this priest-king—namely, to judge. When we think of priests, we typically do not think of judgment, but this was one of the jobs of the high priest. He was to administer the justice of God. And for this task, Yahweh and the liege switch positions, verse 5. Now, Yahweh is at the right hand of the priest-king. This posture communicates God’s help, power, and assurance of success. You cannot fail when God is at your right hand. With God at his right hand, now the priest-king, Christ, goes forth to judge the world.

The day of his wrath is the Day of the Lord—it is judgment day. And on this day, Christ will shatter kings, execute justice, and crush the head of the wide world. This is the Father putting all enemies under the feet of His Son, and it is Christ’s second coming judgment of the world. With this, it becomes clear that Psalm 110 pictures for us the entire ministry of Jesus Christ: verse 1 is Christ’s ascension, verse 3 points to his resurrection, verse 4 covers Christ’s cross and ongoing intercession, and verses 5–6 showcase the final judgment. It is all here—the whole gospel, the entire work of Christ, all sealed in an eternal oath.

A Jewish rabbi died and was raised from the dead to become your Savior and the judge of the World. This is what this psalm is about. It is about the most important truth ever. On this truth rides everything, your whole faith, your life, even eternity. To embrace this psalm in faith means Christ is your forever priest, your royal Savior. But, to reject Christ is to perish in the way; it is to meet Christ on the day of his wrath, when all his enemies will be put under his feet. Of course, this psalm also reminds us that this Jesus, this Hebrew carpenter, was not just man, but he was also David’s Lord. He is begotten of God—God’s true Son, truly God come in the flesh.

Though, there is one final line to this psalm. Verse 7 is a bit opaque, but it most likely refers to the final victory and glorification of the priest-king. The image builds off the conquering warrior picture of verses 5–6. Like a thirsty warrior after battle, the priest-king stops by a stream to take a drink and then lift his head in confident victory. This is the drink after battle; it is the raised head of glorious victory, which is Christ receiving the name above all names and God becoming all in all. And for you in Christ, this pictures you entering your everlasting Sabbath rest and the eternal joy of the resurrection, when we will obtain our chief end all of grace—to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

As you can see, Psalm 110 surely deserves its place as one of the great psalms. No wonder the book of Hebrews is practically a sermon on this psalm. In this psalm, we have the entire work of our eternal priest-king Jesus summarized for us. And that is why this psalm is just what the doctor ordered for your faith—the perfect remedy to pull out during the ills of this life. Faith is built up in holiness and comfort through the gospel, the person and work of Jesus Christ. Let this psalm be written on our hearts; may we memorize it and let us sing it. For as we do, this psalm lifts our eyes to see Christ seated at the right hand of God and to seek the things that are above and not the things that are on earth, so that we might glorify Jesus Christ, our eternal priest-king, who has the name above all names.

©Zach Keele. All Rights Reserved.


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