A sermon on Psalm 110 by Rev Richard Keith on Sunday 10 October 2021
Psalm 110 may not be the longest psalm or the most beautiful psalm or anyone’s favourite psalm. But it is one of the most important psalms. In fact, it is the one chapter in the whole Old Testament that is quoted the most in the New Testament. To understand this psalm, is to grow in understanding of who Jesus is and what he does. And what Psalm 110 speaks most of is the gathering of every power under the name of Jesus Christ.
In our democracy we are familiar with the separation of power under the parliament, the executive and the judiciary. No one person, no one institution has the right to control every aspect of our lives. In the olden days kings and queens ruled supreme over their kingdoms. They made the laws. They were the judge and jury of those laws. They controlled economic and foreign policy. They alone could declare war and make peace. They ruled supreme.
But about 500 years ago we started to discover that no one person should have that kind of control. And so we have separated the supremacy of the monarchy into three different institutions. Now Australia is still a monarchy. We made that decision back in 1999. But we are a constitutional monarchy. Parliament makes the laws. The laws are decided by a majority of representatives elected by the citizens of Australia. But the laws are judged by the judiciary, by judges and jurors. In fact, the judges can decide if our laws are legal or constitutional. That’s right, a law could be illegal and could be overturned. That’s the rule of law that we enjoy in Australia. While executive power is managed by the government, the ministers of the majority party. They declare war or make peace. They impose lockdowns and publish public health orders. They make or withdraw government grants. We separate these three powers because we believe that no one person can be trusted to have them all.
This separation of powers also happened in the Old Testament. Moses was for the Israelites what the old kings were for us. Moses spoke to God. He spoke for God to the people. He received God’s laws. He judged the laws as well. But not even Moses’ character was strong enough to bear than kind of power. And after his death the powers were separated into the institutions of the prophet, priest and king. The prophets spoke for God, even to the kings and the priests if they went off the track.. While the priests spoke to God on behalf of the people offering sacrifices to him on their behalf. While judges and kings ruled over the people. Again the power was separated, because no one person could be trusted to have it all.
But Psalm 110 speaks of the coming of a man under whose name all power would be gathered. A man of such character who could bear and hold that power. A man after God’s heart who could use that power well. A man who would be both king and priest, and would rule supreme forever. The New Testament says that that man’s name is Jesus Christ. We have it, in fact, on Jesus’ own authority.
In Matthew chapter 22, for example, Jesus asked a group of Pharisees, “Whose son is the Christ?”
They replied, “The son of David,” meaning that the Messiah is God’s promised king and will come from the royal line of David.
“How is it then,” said Jesus, “that David calls him Lord.” And Jesus quoted Psalm 110, a psalm of David. Jesus quoted it’s opening line:
The Lord said to my Lord.
Jesus was pointing out that Psalm 110 promises the coming of one who won’t come at the end of a line. The last of a line of kings. A faint echo, a dim reflection of the glory of the past. Instead, Psalm 110 promises the coming of the Lord. One who may come after the kings of old in time but will surpass them all in glory and majesty. One who will demonstrate all the characteristics that the kings before him never had. One that even the great David, the first of the dynasty, one that even he will call Lord.
It reminds us that Jesus is Lord. He isn’t just a chip off the old block. He is not just a representative of all that is best in the human race. He is Lord. Lord of all the saints. Lord of all the angels. Lord of believers and unbelievers. Lord of the mountains and the sea. Lord of heaven and earth. Most days we live and make decisions as if we were the centre of the universe and everything revolves around us. But that place belongs to Jesus Christ. Because Psalm 110 teaches us that Jesus has gone up as far as anyone can go. He sits at the right hand of God.
The right hand is a place of honour. The Father is the great king. He sits upon his throne in heaven. He is the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. By whom and for whom all things were made. Everyone else in his throne room is either standing ready to serve or kneeling in submission. But his beloved son is seated at his right hand side.
The right hand is a position of trust and of influence. The one at the king’s right hand can give advice and can receive instructions. It is the place reserved for the king’s most trusted advisor or for his heir.
The lord Jesus Christ, crucified, risen and ascended, is the Father’s beloved son and the sole heir to his kingdom. He had been sent on a mission to earth. To announce the kingdom of God. To proclaim the great king’s rule. But the rulers refused to recognise his claim. They dismissed his words. They grabbed him, and insulted him. They whipped him and crucified him. And he died in weakness and shame. But the great king raised him up. The Father vindicated his faithful son. He proved him right and defended his claim. He restored his honour and power and welcomed him home. And now he sits at the right hand of the Father. And from there, Jesus, the heir of the kingdom of God, God’s beloved son is ruling. As David prophesied in Psalm 110 in a verse quoted in the New Testament more times than any other,
The Lord says to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
A prophecy fulfilled in Jesus. It is a position of honour. It is a position of power and authority. Jesus is king of kings and lord of lords.
This is the heart of the gospel, God’s good news. The heart of the gospel is not that God loves you. The heart of the gospel is not that God has a wonderful plan for your life. The heart of the gospel is not that God has provided a way for you to enjoy heaven forever. I’m not saying that these things aren’t true. God has good news for you, but his good news is not about you. The heart of the gospel is that Jesus Christ is Lord. It’s not about you it’s about him. He is risen from the dead and he is Lord.
Of course God loves you. I don’t mean he doesn’t. Of course he does have a wonderful plan for your life. But his good news isn’t about you, it’s about his Son. Jesus is Lord. He sits at the right hand of the Father, and he rules as king. He is the sole head and ruler of his church and his people live by his word and they do what he says.
Let me put it this way, the gospel is like a birthday party that you’ve been invited to. There’s cake. There’s party food. There’s party drinks. There’s party music. Everyone is having a great time. It good for you to be there. But it’s not about you, because it’s not your birthday. In the same way the gospel is good for you. But it’s not about you. Because you aren’t lord. Jesus is.
But wait, there’s more. Jesus is king, but he is more.
Psalm 110 reminds us that he is also our priest. These powers separated in the Old Testament of king and priest, because no one human being was worthy to hold them, are gathered together under the name of Jesus. As Psalm 110 says,
The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
This is the heavenly Lord addressing the Messiah, his chosen king, and calling him “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” He is a priest. One who represents the people before their God, offering a sacrifice for them to make atonement for them and to repair their broken relationship with God. Offering a life for their life so that their lives may be spared. Like a mediator, he builds a bridge so that the holy God and sinful human beings can make peace and enjoy fellowship.
This is fulfilled in Jesus. As son of God, he comes to us on behalf of his Father. But as one of us, he has earned to right to represent us. He has gone through all our struggles. He understands us and our weaknesses. We don’t have to be ashamed of admitting them to him. Although he sits at the right hand of God, he does not live in an ivory tower, so far above us that he does not care for us. But he shared our life. He was born in a stable. Laid in a manger. He learned a trade. He didn’t ride in carriages, but he walked life’s dusty roads. He slept when he was tired. He drank when he got thirsty. He wept when he was sad. And on the cross he offers, not a sacrifice of a sheep or bull, but his own life for ours.
He is our priest. But not temporarily, like the other priests in Jesus’ day, who were born the sons of priests and grew up to take their father’s place before they too grew old and died and handed on their role to their sons in turn. Instead, he is a priest forever. Jesus gave his life. He died. He was buried. But he was raised to life on the third day. Having overcome death, death no longer has any power over him. The life he now lives can never die. And so the work he does, he will never need to hand over to anyone else. He will never need to be replaced. And what he achieved on the cross will never have to be done again. Seated at the right hand of God, he has his Father’s ear. He has influence with the ruler of all things. And through him we have access to our creator and peace with our holy God that will never end.
This is because he is a priest in the order of Melchizedek. Not in the order of Aaron, who served as priest and then his sons and then his sons and so on until the order was dissolved in 70 AD when Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by the Romans. But in the order of Melchizedek, who in Abraham’s time was king of Jerusalem and priest of God Almighty.
In the same way Jesus is both king and priest in the kingdom of God. These powers, separated in the Old Testament, because no human being was worthy to bear them all, are gathered under the name Jesus, the one man tested almost to breaking point but still found worthy. As Paul says in Philippians chapter 2,
God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Psalm 110 is no one’s favourite psalm. But it is one of the most, if not the most important psalm. Because to understand it is to know who Jesus is and what he does. Jesus is our king. He rules and one day he will crush all evil under his heel. He will use the powers of evil as a stool for his feet. And he is our priest. He makes peace between us and our holy God. And so Jesus is Lord. The gospel is good for us, but it is only good for us because it is not about us, but about him.