Psalm 110 – The Victorious Messiah
Psalm 110 is more frequently quoted in the New Testament than any other psalm. The opening line’s reference to the Lord “seated at the right hand” of God came to be associated in the minds of the New Testament authors with both the divinity of Jesus and the fulfillment of his mission. Individual instances in which this line is linked directly to Jesus are numerous (Matt 22:44; Mk 14:62; 16:19; Lk 22:69; Acts 2:34-35; 7:55; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb:1:3, 13, :8:1; 10:12; 1Pet 3:22). Furthermore, the early Christians incorporated the phrase directly into both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. Christian tradition understands this psalm in relation to Jesus’ threefold mission: as priest (“You are a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek, v. 4); as prophet (“The Lord’s revelation to my Lord, v. 1); and as king (“The Lord will send from Sion your scepter of power,” v. 2). These three roles demonstrate that Jesus is the fulfillment of all that had preceded him in the Old Testament. As priest, he is both offerer and offering, presenting himself to the Father as the perfect paschal lamb. As prophet, he is the mouthpiece of God who both announces the reign of divine love and lives it to perfection. As king, he mandates a new rule of life within the scope of God’s divine law, judging the world of sin yet proclaiming forgiveness for all who will follow God’s commands. For many, the closing verse of the psalm is full of mysterious portent: “He shall drink from the stream by the wayside, and therefore he shall lift up his head,” (v. 7). With the preceding verses, this closing line depicts the climax of a battle scene in which the victorious Lord brings judgment upon the nations and subdues those who will not submit to the divine rule. Having brought about the defeat of the enemy, he can now pause to refresh himself from the waters of the stream, after which he rises to gaze over the powers that had threatened his people. This becomes for the Church an image of Jesus, who claims the palm of victory in his paschal mystery, triumphant over the powers of sin and death. He has won for us the freedom of the children of God (Rom 8:21); we are no longer slaves to the power of Satan, but free to live in joy as Spirit-filled members of the household of God (Gal 5:1, 13-14). The Book of Revelation adopts similar imagery in speaking of the battle which Christ has won for us: through the shedding of his blood he has cleansed us for our own living out of the paschal mystery. “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children” (Rev 21:6-7). We cannot wonder that the early Church saw such hope in this psalm; Christ’s victory over sin and death is also ours in all its abundance.
1 Of David. A Psalm.
The Lórd’s revelátion to my lórd:
“Sít at my right hánd,
until I máke your fóes your fóotstool.”
2 The Lórd will sénd from Síon
your scépter of pówer:
rúle in the mídst of your fóes.
3 With yóu is príncely rúle
on the dáy of your pówer.
In holy spléndor, from the wómb before the dáwn,
I have begótten yóu.
4 The Lórd has sworn an óath he will not chánge:
“Yóu are a príest foréver,
in the líne of Melchízedek.”
5 The Lórd, stánding at your ríght,
shatters kíngs in the dáy of his wráth.
6 He brings a júdgment amóng the nátions,
and héaps the bódies hígh;
he shatters héads throughóut the wide éarth.
7 He shall drínk from the stréam by the wáyside,
and thérefore he shall líft up his héad.
Prayer for Psalm 110
Lord Jesus Christ, Alpha and Omega, First and Last, we acclaim your wondrous victory over sin and death, lifting up to you our prayers of gratitude for all you have accomplished. Strengthen us in our battle against sin and temptation, that we may experience the fullness of your grace at work in our lives. In your holy name we pray. Amen.