The Glory of Messiah Our Priestly King

a brief study of Psalm 110, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 13 August 2010

Psalm 110 is a very important and in a way, a rather unique Messianic Psalm. It is one of the 13 psalms that are commonly regarded as Messianic,[1] and one of the most frequently quoted in the New Testament. However, it is not Messianic in the same way as most of the other Messianic Psalms are.

Psalm 22 and 69, which are the two most frequently quoted psalms, for example, have Christ as the speaker so that the first person pronouns in it refer ultimately to Christ. Though David wrote these psalms, we are to understand that it is Christ speaking through them.

So when we sing Psalm 22 or 69, we are singing in union with Christ. However, in Psalm 110, it is obvious that the speaker is not Christ. The original speaker is David and Christ is referred to in the 3rd person. “The LORD [Jehovah] said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” David is referring to Christ as his Lord (Adonai).

Thus, when we sing Psalm 110, we are individually owning David’s words, and singing to Christ our Lord and to the Father about Christ.

We may entitle this Psalm: “The Glory of Messiah, our Priestly-King.”

It has three unequal parts. We may subtitle verses 1-3 as “Christ is our King.” Verse 4 may be subtitled, “Christ is our Priest.” And finally, verses 5-8 may be subtitled, “Christ our Priest is a Righteous King.”

1. Christ is our King

1  The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

This verse is famous.

Remember the occasion after the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem when the various Jewish sects tried to trap the Lord? The Herodians came and asked about paying taxes to Caesar. Our Lord’s answer stumped them. Then the Sadducees came and asked about marriage and the resurrection. Our Lord’s answer stumped them. Then the Pharisees came and asked him about the Law. Our Lord gave an answer which they could not refute; but before they could respond, our Lord asked them in return: “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?” (Mt 22:42). They answered, “The Son of David,” and our Lord immediately asked them: “How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?” (v. 44-43). The Lord is quoting from Psalm 110.

You see, the Pharisees, and indeed all the Jews recognize that Psalm 110 is about the Messiah. But what the Lord is doing is to show them that the Messiah, the Son of David is also God, or David would not call him Lord. So Messiah is not just the son of man, but the son of God!

Now, it is clear that by the LORD, Jehovah, David is referring to God the Father. What does the father say to the Son? “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

This is a remarkable picture, isn’t it? It pictures a prince returning from war. He has won the war, but the battles are still raging. Yet the King tells the prince to sit down at his right hand and leave it to him to see to it that the enemies will be thoroughly destroyed.

The apostle to the Hebrews is probably referring to this same thought when he speaks of how Christ, having “purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” upholding all things by the word of his power (Heb 1:3).

David was looking forward to the ascension and enthronement of Christ after he won the war over sin. He won the war by crushing the head of the ancient serpent on the Cross of Calvary.

But the serpent is thrashing about in his death throes seeking to cause as much damage as he can.

The Father assures the son. The victory is secured. I will see to it that all thy enemies are made thy footstool.

How will it be accomplished? Verse 2—

2 The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.

The rod of the Lord’s strength refers to his sceptre. Zion refers to the Church. As Calvin puts it “The preaching of the gospel, which is committed to [the Church], is the spiritual sceptre of Christ, by which he displays his power” (Comm. on Isa 45:14).

By God’s providence and the ministry of the Holy Spirit who is sent in the name of the Son, preachers will be appointed as the heralds of Christ, and the gospel will go forth, so that Christ will subdue those who were hitherto his enemies.

The next verse makes it even clearer:

 3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.

What does this mean? Calvin puts it beautifully when he says:

“In this verse, the psalmist sets forth the honours of Christ’s kingdom in relation to the number of his subjects, and their prompt and cheerful obedience to his commands.”

Through the powerful work of the Spirit of Christ in regeneration, God’s elect will be made willing and holy subjects. Through the new birth, they will emerge out of darkness into the marvelous light to see the loveliness of Christ adorned with the garment of the beauties of holiness. They will see their own natural ugliness of sin and be drawn to Christ irresistibly and will serve Him cheerfully.

In this way, Christ will have the dew of his youth. What does this mean? Edwards paraphrases it as “Thy young converts shall be as numerous as the drops of morning dew.”

Beloved brethren and children, are you one of the dew drops of Christ willingly reflecting the glories of Christ your King?

But Christ is not only our King. He is also our Priest.

2. Christ is our Priest

 4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

The apostle to the Hebrews speaks of Christ as the Great High priest who was tempted at all points like as we are (Heb 4:14-15).

Christ must be a priest in order to reconcile his people unto God. For it is sin that makes his people the children of God’s wrath. Sin must be atoned for if they are to be reconciled to God.

But how could Christ be priest when he descended from David? Old Testament priests were to descend from Levi. The kings who tried to do the duties of priests were severely chastised. Think of Saul and Uzziah. God’s answer was to appoint him as priest forever by oath! Indeed he is appointed to an order of priesthood that is higher than the Levitical priesthood.

The apostle to the Hebrews makes this very clear in Hebrews 7 where he not only shows that Christ can be King and Priest at the same time, but that the Melchizedic priesthood is superior to the Levitical priest. He shows this by pointing out that Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. Since the lesser pays tithes to the greater, Melchizedek must be greater than Abraham. Since Levi descended from Abraham, in a sense Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek, and therefore Melchizedek is greater than all the priests of the Old Testament. He is the Great High Priest!

Now, this is very significant because as the Great High Priest, our Lord accomplished what all the Old Testament priests could not accomplish; and he is doing what the Old Testament priests could not do by reason of death.

The Old Testament priests offered sacrifice daily which could not take away sin. “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb 10:12).

The Old Testament priests could not continue their ministry as intercessors for the people. “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood” (Heb 7:24).

Thank God for Christ Jesus our priest. Were it not for his sacrifice on our behalf and his continual intercession, we will still be wallowing in sin as the enemies of God and the slaves of Satan.

Let us, beloved brethren and children, respond to him with gratitude and a hatred for sin in our lives.

For let us remember that though Christ is our Priest for our reconciliation, he does not tolerate sin. Indeed, let us be reminded that…

3. Christ, our Priest is a Righteous King

Actually, the name Melchizedek means, “My king is righteous or just.” Christ is our priestly-king to save us and to represent us before God. But let us remember that he is not an unprincipled, indulgent, and compromising king.

So the last part of the psalm reminds us:

5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. 6 He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.

These words are addressed unto the Father. Notice how these words refer to Christ seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

By these words we are acknowledging to the Father that we understand that Christ our King and Priest does not in any way dilute the holiness and righteousness of God though he saves us and makes us his people. In other words, he does not simply overlook our rebellion against God when he takes us to be his people.

We know because he will judge all who remain in sin. The apostle John reminds us that “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (Jn 5:22). And in the day of His wrath, know as the day of wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:16), He shall pour down judgement upon kings and all who remain in rebellion against the Father.

Isn’t this remarkable? “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb 13:8). The Christ who saves us and loves us as our priestly king hates sin so much that he will execute justice against sin in unmitigated wrath!

How is it then, that we can escape so great a judgement when we are sinners with the rest of mankind?

The answer is found in the last verse of this psalm:

7 He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.

Many different meanings have been assigned to this verse, but perhaps the best way to understand this verse is to look at the brook as a brook of suffering rather than refreshment. Think of Psalm 42:7—“Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.”

Our Lord speaks of drinking the cup in the Garden of Gethsemane. But it is not a small cup of God’s wrath, but rather an entire brook. “The sufferings of the Messiah were unspeakably more and heavier than the sufferings of other men, and that he should drink up not a small cup, but the whole river or sea of his Father’s wrath due to our sins” says Matthew Poole.

Though Christ our Lord would gather a people unto himself, he does not violate justice and righteousness to accomplish it. Rather he suffered the wrath of God on our behalf. In this way, “he shall lift up his head.” He shall be exalted. He shall be blameless. He shall judge the heathen without hypocrisy. He shall have a people for all eternity to enjoy his fellowship and love. What a Saviour He is!


This is Psalm 110: A difficult psalm in many ways, but a very instructive and beautiful one. May God grant us that we may indeed respond unto Him with love and willingness to serve Christ our Lord!

May we adorn the beauty of his holiness, and seek to magnify him to all who behold us. May we pray that more will come to know him as their priestly-king rather than as their Judge in the day of wrath. Amen. Ω

[1] Psalms 2, 8, 16, 22, 40, 45, 69, 72, 89, 102, 109, 110, 132