A Messianic Declaration
(H) Of David. A psalm. (1) The declaration of Yahweh to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (2) Yahweh sends forth the rod of your strength from Zion. Rule in the midst of your enemies! (3) Your people will gladly volunteer on your day of battle. In holy array, from the womb of the morning, the dew of the youth (will be) yours. (4) Yahweh has taken an oath and will not repent: “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchisedek.” (5) The Lord (is) at your right hand. He will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. (6) He will judge the nations, filling them with corpses. He will shatter rulers over the whole earth. (7) He will drink from the brook on the way. Therefore, he will lift up his head.
Several repetitions should be noted in this brief messianic psalm: “Yahweh” (vss. 1, 2, & 4), “Lord” (vss. 1 & 5), “your enemies” (vss. 1 & 2), and “shatter” (vss. 5 & 6). Jesus quoted this psalm in Mark 12, pointing out its messianic references to those who were seeking to discredit him: “While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, ‘How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’” David himself calls him Lord. How then can he be his son’” (Mk. 12:35-37)?
The issue Jesus raised, which his opponents could not answer, had to do with Messiah’s dual identity as both the offspring of David, that is, David’s son by human descent, as well as the incarnate Son of God, David’s Lord by his deity. Only Messiah can fulfill the prophecies given in Psalm 110. By citing this psalm in the closing days of his earthly ministry, Jesus was declaring to the Jewish leaders, “This is who I am if you only had the spiritual discernment to see it.”
I. Yahweh’s oracle: Messiah will rule the nations as Israel’s King. (1-3)
II. Yahweh’s oath: Messiah will judge the nations as Israel’s High Priest. (4-7)
Yahweh’s Messiah will conquer and rule the nations as Israel’s priestly king.
The last verse of Psalm 110 at first glance seems out of place with the rest of the psalm. For six verses, David has extolled the greatness and glories of Messiah, declaring that Yahweh will establish his Son as both king and high priest over Israel and over all the nations of the earth. However, the final verse does not quite fit with this scenario. Why do we find such an anticlimactic statement regarding his drinking water at a brook at the end of this grand declaration of messianic triumph?
A possible answer to this question can be found in the uniqueness of Messiah’s person. Over the centuries, the church has wrestled long and hard to develop a satisfactory understanding of Jesus’ essential being. Was he simply a man? Was he God disguised to look like a man? Or was he both fully God and fully human at the same time? And if he was both, how could one person be both God and man simultaneously? In formulating the doctrine of the Incarnation, the church fathers finally agreed that the second person of the Godhead, the eternal Word, took on human flesh in the person of Jesus (Jn. 1:14). He who is fully God became fully human at a specific moment in history at a specific location in geography and, from that point on, has continued to exist as one unique person, the God/man, with two distinct natures, divine and human.
Theologians have long puzzled over this mystery. As God, the Son has eternally possessed all the attributes of deity. In becoming man, he took on the limitations of humanity including growing hungry and thirsty, needing sleep, and experiencing temptation. Mark 4:35-41 is one place where we see this seeming contradiction portrayed in a particularly vivid way when the disciples roused Jesus from sleep during the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Humanly speaking, he was exhausted and needed to rest, so he had fallen asleep in the back of the boat. Yet, when awakened, he immediately stilled the fury of the tempest because, as God, he ruled the wind and the waves and had the power to calm them with a simple command.
Psalm 110 likewise describes the Messiah as our conquering victor who, in the midst of battle, stops to slake his thirst and revive himself at a nearby stream. We must never forget that while Jesus is the fully divine Messiah, he remains our fully human Savior from sin as evidenced by his becoming thirsty. This is a mystery which we may never completely understand but something that should bring us to our knees in wonder and adoration. He is truly “God with us,” fully identified as one of us, our Immanuel.