The Kingdom: Psalm 110:1 and Matthew 22:43

Many of the psalms are Messianic and are concerned directly or indirectly  with the kingdom of God. David wrote many of psalms (some estimate at least half) and how many of the ones which are inscribed to no writer were actually written by David is anyone’s guess. While there is uncertainty as to who wrote some of them, there is no uncertainty regarding the authorship of Psalm 110. David wrote it; it is ascribed to him in its heading and while some may believe that headings were not originally part of the psalms, with Psalm 110 there can be no dispute: both Jesus and Peter identify David as the author (Matt. 22:43; Acts 2:34).

Psalm 110 has only seven verses yet is one of the psalms most frequently quoted in the New Testament. There are at least seven different places where verse one is quoted or alluded to. Verse four also is cited at least three times by New Testament writers.

Psalm 110:1 reads, “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” The passage, wherever it is found in the New Testament, is to be understood as affirming the ultimate subjugation of all authorities and enemies to the Messiah, thus His Sovereign power over all things. Nevertheless, it is also interesting to notice other wonderful truths elicited from the psalm as well.

Matthew 22:44 records one of the first instances where verse one appears in the New Testament, and both Mark and Luke record the same incident and citation (Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44). The passage was quoted by our Savior but His use of it was not so much to call attention to the ultimate extent of His rule, but rather to address the nature of the Messiah largely overlooked by the Jewish teachers of His day. He had questioned the Pharisees about who the Messiah was the son of. To the rulers this may have appeared as child’s play; didn’t everyone know who He was the son of? They responded, “The son of David” and they were correct. God promised David that of the fruit of his loins He would raise up one to sit on His throne (Psalm 132:11) and the angel Gabriel, in announcing to Mary she would have a son, promised that the “Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father, David” (Luke 1:32). Yes, the Messiah was to be a descendant of David. But there was more to His nature than the flesh and Psalm 110:1 served to show that. After the Pharisees had answered Jesus that the Messiah was to be David’s son, Jesus then asked, “How then doth David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand till I put thine enemies underneath thy feet? If David called him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matt. 22:43-45). A question, which on the surface appeared to be very rudimentary in nature, led to another question so profound that “no one was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions” (Mt. 22:46). Jesus’ question brought into sharp focus the nature of the Messiah His questioners had apparently never given thought to.

The Messiah was the Son of David, but He was more than that. He was God. Paul wrote that Jesus “was born of the seed of David, according to the flesh, who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). It is true that this aspect of the divine nature of the Messiah was revealed in the Old Testament. Isaiah had written of the coming Messiah saying, “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6), as well as saying in Isaiah 7:14 that the virgin’s son’s name would be called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” The Messiah’s nature was there for all to see, but the teachers of Jesus’ day had somehow failed to grasp that facet of Him for had they realized this truth, they might not have been so hasty to call Him a blasphemer because “he made himself to be the son of God” (John 19:7). Still, whatever the nation and its teachers did not perceive about the Messiah’s nature did not remove the truth that the prophets had revealed centuries before. Jesus focused that issue by asking, “If David called him Lord, how is he his son?”

The learned teachers overlooked what God had revealed about the Messiah, but what was lost to them, Jesus’ ignorant and unlearned disciples were able, by the miracles He wrought, to perceive (John 20:30-31). When Jesus questioned the disciples who they thought He was, Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16). Without doubt Peter verbally expressed what all the twelve believed about Him. Thomas, convicted of His resurrection, exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” Years later John wrote of Him, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that hath been made” (John 1:1-3). This awesome truth Jesus drew from a psalm written 1,000 years earlier when David wrote, “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand until I make thy enemies thy footstool.”

Jim McDonald