Psalm 110: Who can fill such big shoes?

Have you ever had this experience?  Someone leaves to go on vacation–your mom, your boss, your principal, (you!)–and her tasks are spread out over a whole committee of people.  It’s not just that no one has the time to cover her whole job, but that no one is qualified to do it.  Her gifts, capacities, creativity, energy, and heart don’t find a perfect match in anyone else.  That’s when we stop and say, “It takes ten people to cover her bases!”

That’s a little bit of what I feel when I read Psalm 110.  In its seven brief verses we see a person sketched with a few bold lines.  Not all of the details are filled in, but one thing is sure.  This person has at least two, possibly three, job descriptions that have never before been filled by one individual.  What kind of person could fill such big shoes?  Who is he?

Digging into Psalm 110. I recognize that this Psalm is not warm and fuzzy, like Psalm 23, nor is it an easy study.  However, as we will see it is incredibly important as a link to the New Testament.  It is the most quoted psalm by New Testament authors.  That should rouse our curiosity to delve into its riddle.  Or to use another analogy, there’s buried treasure here — well worth the effort to dig it up!

Because it’s Thanksgiving week, and because this Psalm is (thankfully!) short, we’re going to follow a three day study plan. The divisions are from Derek Kidner’s Psalms commentary, which I will post in the side bar:

Day 1: The King vv. 1-3

  1. David’s voice. David begins this Psalm by reporting on an overheard announcement. Who are the 2 characters of v. 1 and what is being announced? Is David, the current king, pointing to himself or away from himself?
  2. David goes on to add his comment in vv. 2-3. What does he assert (v. 2), plead (v. 2), promise (v. 3)?
  3. What kind of king is this?  How would you describe him from these verses as he relates to his enemies and to his people?
  4. Jesus’ voice. Read Matt 22:41-46 (compare to Mark 12:36, and Luke 20:42, 43.)  Why does Jesus quote this psalm?  How does he interpret it?  What does that say about his self-understanding of his identity and mission?  How does his first coming affect the number of enemies he must conquer in his second coming?
  5. My voice. We are entering an election year.  More than ever we feel the need for strong, wise, good leadership in the face of enemies and other problems.  How do these verses speak to that need?

Day 2: The Priest v. 4

  1. David’s voice. The roles of priest and king were distinct and separate in the Old Testament.  What was God’s opinion when a king tried to take on the role of priest? See 1 Samuel 13:8-15.
  2. This verse presents not just an announcement but an oath, overheard and reported by David.  Who is speaking and to whom is it spoken?  What is announced?  How would it have sounded revolutionary to the people of David’s day in light of question 1?
  3. Who is Melchizedek? See Genesis 14:18-20.  How is his priesthood different from the priesthood set up under Aaron?  For some quick comparisons see Hebrews 7:4, 11, 16, 22, 23-25.
  4. Jesus’ voice. Jesus humbled himself to become a man.  How did being a man qualify him to be a priest?  See Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:15, 5:2, 7-8.  How did his humility keep him from claiming the priesthood?  See Hebrews 5:5, 10.  Why was this important?
  5. My voice. We don’t talk about priests much in our church.  There are a lot of bad priests in the news.  But a good priest helps people draw near to God.  Are you having trouble drawing near to God?  Thank him for Jesus, who was appointed by God to help us do just that!

Day 3: The Warrior vv. 5-7

  1. David’s voice. The change of pronouns makes these 3 verses a little confusing.  Who is the “your” of “your right hand?”  Who is “he”?
  2. These verses can strike our ears as offensively violent, unless we realize that this is not gratuitous violence, but justice.  To see that we need a clear view of evil and of the patience of God in delaying the day of wrath. For evil look at how people treated the Son of God when he came.  See Mark 12:1-10.  For patience see 2 Peter 3:9-10.
  3. The last verse is a snapshot from the scrapbook of David the Warrior-King.  What effect does it leave us with?
  4. Jesus’ voice. This psalm isn’t limited to the earthly life of our Savior, but reaches to the end of history.  Read Revelation 19:11-16 for a description of the battle that will follow his return.  Read 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 for a description of the final victory that follows the victory of the resurrection.
  5. My voice. What enemy is defeating you today?  What causes you to fear?  Lose hope?  Rejoice in your Warrior-King, whose victory is yours, both today and forever!  1 Corinthians 15:54-57.

Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58

Happy Thanksgiving!

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