Ps 110 - The LORD said to My Lord
Martin Luther said this was the greatest psalm, but I had a very difficult time getting it to be enjoyable. I had used tune #708 "The Lord said unto my Lord", which is a fighting tune, but when I would sing it, it just seemed doctrinal. Years later, while singing it, I felt that this psalm motivates us unto consecration today during the time while the Lord's foes seem to be ruling. Then I changed the tune to Fresh as the Dew of the Morning (which is based on and uses the tune of Whispering Hope), and I felt the tender inspiration of the Psalm came out a bit.
Structure of this Psalm
I. The Father speaking about Christ's ministry in the church age vv 1-4
A. Sitting at the right hand of the Father - v1
1. Until the Father makes His enemies a footstool for His feet. - v1
B. Ruling over His willing consecrated people while His foes seem to be in control - vv 2-3
C. Through the Holy Spirit, the dew - v3
D. As High Priest according to Melchizedek forever - v4
II. David's speaking about Christ's 2nd coming vv 5-7
A. Fight His enemies physically - vv 5-6
B. Judge the earth - v6
C. With the Spirit of power, the torrent - v7
1. to head up all things - v7
When I had been saved for about a year, when I came home from college for Thanksgiving, my Mom invited a Chabad rabbi to our home and he invited me to spend the Sabbath at his house. At that time I thought that I knew a lot of the Bible and could win any argument that the Old Testament predicted that Jesus was the Messiah.
But every argument that I brought up to the rabbi he slaughtered. That is because I knew very little and had not studied the contexts of these prophesies. Then I remembered how in Matthew 22 Jesus brought up Psalm 110:1, and that silenced all His opposition. So I brought up Jesus' question, How is it that David calls the Messiah, "my Lord", when the Messiah is the descendant of David? The rabbi laughed at this argument, as he did at all my arguments, and said, 'This psalm was not written by David, but was written by someone else to David.' He said that the relatively rare psalm preamble, "le David mizmor" (to/of David, a psalm) means that it was written to David (There is no basis at all for this based on the Bible usage of the phrase.), whereas the much more common "mizmor le David" (a psalm to/of David) means that it was written by David. That totally surprised me. I asked him if there was any possibility that Psalm 110 was written by David, and he said that there was no possibility of that at all. I asked how he knew that, and he said that everyone knows that. (I should have asked how "everyone" knew that.) I thought I was slaughtered again. I was wondering how Paul could have beaten all the Jews in proving that Jesus was the Messiah if all the Christian OT interpretations had such problems. So I looked at the rest of Ps 110, and I asked concerning v4, Then how could David be a priest according to the order of Melchizedek? The rabbi looked up the cross references, and they were no help. Then he went to the writings of the greatest rabbi of all, Rashi. He read to me what Rashi wrote about this Psalm. Rashi said that Psalm 110 was written by David to Abraham. I stopped him there, Psalm 110 was written by whom? You said that it was impossible that Ps 110 was written by David. He was ashamed because He had spoken so confidently that it was an established fact that this Psalm had not been written by David, and here the top Rabbi affirms that it is written by David. Even though I had lost all the other arguments, this made it seem that I had won overall. The rabbi then told my mother that he needed to kidnap me for a month in order to un-brainwash me, but my mother would not agree to that. When I went back to college, I studied all the passages again in light of the rabbi's arguments and found the obvious fallacies in his arguments, and the more difficult answers to them.
v1 - I am following the KJV convention to translate the Hebrew name of God, Jehovah, as "the LORD" to show the difference between God the Father and the Messiah, my Lord, throughout this psalm.
v1a is David's speaking. Then vv 1b-4 are the Father's speaking.
The Messiah is sitting at God's right hand during the church age while His foes are still active. God the Father will make the Messiah's foes a footstool for His feet.
v2 - During the church age, the day of His army, God extends the strong staff of the Messiah's rule from Zion to the whole earth through the strong preaching of the gospel (Mk 16:19-20). During this time, His foes seem to control the earth, and He rules HIs people in the midst of His foes. Zion is both the physical Zion in Israel where the Messiah's kingdom on earth began, and the spiritual Zion, which is the church (Heb 12:22; Rom 11:26).
As is common, Jehovah speaks of Himself in the 3rd person using the name "Jehovah"
The Hebrew word "rule" means to "have dominion". It is 1st used in Gen 1:26,28.
As God is sending forth the staff of Christ's strength to all the earth, we should pray and labor for this. The staff that God sends is of Christ's strength. We should pray for strong salvations, strong gospel preaching, strong testimonies, strong Christian living and strong churches established. The strength is in being under Christ's rule, in being fully offered to Him.
v3 - Charles Spurgeon said of this verse, "Never verse in the Scripture has puzzled me more than this to find out its meaning and its connection." (Sermon on Psalm 110:3 "A Willing People and an Immutable Leader")
His wife writes in his autobiography:
"An extraordinary incident occurred in this early period of our history. One Saturday evening, my dear husband was deeply perplexed by the difficulties presented by a text on which he desired to preach the next morning. It was in Psalm. 110:3, ... and, with his usual painstaking
preparation, he consulted all the Commentaries he then possessed, seeking light from the Holy Spirit upon their words and his own thoughts; but, as it seemed, in vain. I was as much distressed as he was, but I could not help him in such an emergency. At least, I thought I could not; but the Lord had a great favor in store for me, and used me to deliver His servant out of his serious embarrassment. He sat up very late, and was utterly worn out and dispirited, for all his efforts to get at the heart of the text were unavailing. I advised him to retire to rest, and soothed him by suggesting that, if he would try to sleep then, he would probably in the morning feel quite refreshed, and able to study to better purpose. “If I go to sleep now, wifey, will you wake me very early, so that I may have plenty of time to prepare?” With my loving assurance that I would watch the time for him, and call him soon enough, he was satisfied; and, like a trusting, tired child, he laid his head upon the pillow, and slept soundly and sweetly at once.
By-and-by, a wonderful thing happened. During the first dawning hours of the Sabbath, I heard him talking in his sleep, and roused myself to listen attentively. Soon, I realized that he was going over the subject of the verse
which had been so obscure to him, and was giving a clear and distinct exposition of its meaning, with much force and freshness. I set myself with almost trembling joy, to understand and follow all that he was saying, for I knew that, if I could but seize and remember the salient: points of the discourse, he would have no difficulty in developing and enlarging upon them. Never preacher had a more eager and anxious hearer! What if I should let the precious words slip? I had no means at hand of “taking notes,” so, like Nehemiah, “I prayed to the God of Heaven,” and asked that I might receive and retain the thoughts which He had given to His servant in his sleep, and which were so singularly entrusted to my keeping. As I lay, repeating over and over again the chief points I wished to remember, my happiness was very great in anticipation of his surprise and delight on awaking; but I had kept vigil so long, cherishing my .joy, that I must have been overcome with slumber just when the usual time for rising came, for he awoke with a frightened start, and seeing the tell-tale clock, said, “Oh, wiley, you said you would wake me very early, and now see the time! Oh, why did you let me sleep? What shall I do? What shall I do? ....
Listen, beloved,” I answered; and I told him all I had heard. “Why! that’s just what I wanted,” he exclaimed; “that is the true explanation of the whole verse! And you say I preached it in my sleep? .... It is wonderful,” he
repeated again and again, and we both praised the Lord for so remarkable a manifestation of His power and love. Joyfully my dear one went down to his study, and prepared this God-given sermon, and it was delivered that same morning, April 13, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel. ... Its opening paragraph gives the dear preacher’s own account of the difficulty he experienced in dealing with the text. Naturally, he refrained from telling the congregation the specific details which I have here recorded; but, many years after, he told the tale to his students at one of their ever-to-be-remembered Friday afternoon gatherings, and some of them still keep it fresh in their memories."
Spurgeon's sermon on this verse emphasized the willing beautiful consecration of Christ's people and Christ's ever freshness.
Christ's people are those who consecrate themselves willingly to Him. They consecrate themselves to Him willingly (Rom 12:1; etc) while in the midst of His foes. This qualifies them to be His army (Rev 17:14; etc) and is gloriously beautiful (Rom 14:15, etc). He rules over them, and through them He rules the world today.
The day of His army is the church age culminating in the day He returns to earth with His army of saints. Then He will rule over all, whether they are willing or not.
The last sentence of v3, as I have translated it, requires that Jehovah is still speaking here.
The 2nd 1/2 of this verse, I think, is the hardest verse to translate in the Bible. Calvin says, "It would not be for edification to recount all the interpretations which have been given of this clause." Most literally it says:
From the womb, from the dawn, to You is dew, I have begotten You.
Most translate the 1st phrase here as "From the womb of the dawn", but that is wrong because both "womb" and "dawn" have the preposition "from". The Hebrew word "from the dawn" is mi-shachar, where mi is the preposition, "from" and shachar means dawn. Translators that translate this phrase as "from the womb of the dawn" have invented a new word mishachar used only in this verse to mean "dawn" without the preposition. This is not reasonable.
The last phrase, "I have begotten You" is vowelled in the MT to say, "Your childhood". The vowels here are not part of the inspired text. I believe that the meaning here is "I have begotten You", not "Your childhood" because:
1. The LXX translated this word as "I have begotten You".
2. The consonants here are exactly the same as Psalm 2:7. Psalm 2 is also a prophetic Messianic psalm by David, quite similar to this Psalm.
3. "Your childhood" does not make sense here. Since "childhood" does not make sense here, it is usually translated as "Your youth", but the Hebrew word here is yeled, "childhood", elementary school age, not what we today mean by "youth", a young man, Hebrew naar.
4. It follows the phrase, "from the womb".
The phrase "from the womb" at the beginning of the sentence is strongly connected to "I have begotten You" at the sentence's end. Thus the whole 2nd 1/2 of v3 is one sentence. The basic sentence is, "From the womb I have begotten You." This refers to Christ's resurrection from the dead (Acts 13:33; Ps 2:7). Jehovah begot Jesus, the Son of Man, to be the 1stborn Son of God on the day of resurrection . The womb was death (Col 1:18).
In between the phrases "From the womb" and "I have begotten You" is "from dawn to You dew".
"Dawn" is strongly connected to "dew", just as "womb" to "I have begotten You." "Dawn" means the beginning of a new age, which is "the day of Your army" in the 1st 1/2 of this verse. This is the New Testament age, when Christ rules over His willing people in the midst of His foes.
The Dew is the Holy Spirit (Ps 133:3; etc) through Whom Christ resurrected (Rom 8:11) and Whom Christ sent in resurrection (John 14:26) when God the Father begot Him as the 1stborn Son.
It is only by the Holy Spirit that Christ's people can be freewill offerings to Him in the glorious beauty of consecration (Rom 15:16). We receive the Spirit by obeying Christ (Acts 5:32).
From the sentence structure, "from the womb" not only modifies "I have begotten You", but also "to You is the dew". Similarly "from the dawn" modifies not only "to You is the dew", but also "I have begotten You".
The only way to put all this meaning in English is to make it into 2 sentences as I have done.
In Peter's message at Pentecost, he says that at Christ's resurrection, God exalted Christ to God's right hand whence Christ received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father (Acts 2:31-35).
The book of Hebrews puts together Christ sitting at the right hand of God (v1) with the Father's begetting Christ in resurrection (Ps 2:7; Heb 1:4, 13), and also puts together the Father begetting Christ on the day of resurrection with His being made Priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:5-6, v4).
Dew symbolizes the life-giving, gracious and gentle aspects of the Spirit. This is the major characteristic of the Spirit during the church age. The Spirit is also of power, but that is mainly for the next age (Heb 6:5), of which the symbol is a torrent (v7).
In the church age, the Messiah is forming His army. The weapon of this army is the Spirit as the gentle Dew. Based on Christ sitting at the right hand of God, and God sending forth the staff of Christ's strength to rule, we pray. When we pray, we must always be paying attention to the gentle Spirit within us and within others.
v4 - This could not refer to David because David was king, not a priest. There is no place in the Bible where David or any King of Israel is called a priest, except for the Messiah (Zech 6:13).
The priesthood given to the Messiah here is much greater than the Aaronic priesthood because:
1. Melchizedek was much greater than Abraham the father of all of Israel including Aaron, because Melchizedek blessed Abraham, and Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils (Heb 7:1-10).
2. He is a priest forever. Aaronic High priests served until their death (Heb 7:8; 16-17, 23-25).
3. He is made a priest by the Lord's oath, but the Aaronic priests were made priests without the Lord's oath (Heb 7:20-22).
The Stone Tanach orthodox Jewish translation explains this verse: "The function of Jewish kinghood is truly one of priesthood - the drawing of God's people closer to His service."
Then why would God swear to this? God swears to something so that we will be fully assured it will happen (Heb 6:13-19). And why would God say that, You are a priest forever?
It says literally "according to the word about Melchizedek," that is, according to what is written about Melchizedek in Gen 14. Melchizedek interceded for Abraham when he fought against 4 kings to rescue Lot, his brother's son. Melchizedek blessed Abraham of the Most High God, and ministered to him bread and wine (Gen 14:8-20), which are signs of Christ's body and blood shed for us.
When we fight for our brothers and fellow men by means of prayer with the gentle Spirit, Christ as the High Priest intercedes for us in our prayer and ministers Himself as life and cleansing forgiveness to us.
v5 - This verse continues David's speaking in v1a. He uses the same words "my Lord" and God's "right hand".
The 1st 4 verses took place at the Messiah's resurrection. These last 3 take place at His 2nd coming. Almost every prophecy of Christ in the Old Testament presents Christ's 2nd coming as if it was right after His 1st coming, skipping over the approximately 2,000 year gap in between. This gap is called "the times of the Gentiles" (Lk 21:24; etc). It is the time outside of the 70 weeks given to Israel (Daniel's 70 weeks).
The 1st 4 verses were spoken by God to the Messiah, but verses 5-7 are David speaking to God about the Messiah. "Your right hand" is God the Father's right hand from v1.
The word for "Lord" here is Adonai, the same word as "my Lord" in v1 (, but vowelled differently by the MT scribes). Thus "the Lord" or "my Lord" in v5 refers back to "my Lord", the Messiah in v1.
The 2nd person pronoun in each of the 1st 4 verses refers to the Messiah. Verses 5-7 clearly are not spoken to the Messiah because of all the 3rd person pronouns referring Christ. I believe verses 5-7 are spoken by David to the Father because he addresses the Father in the 2nd person with "Your right hand".
v6 - The dead are the ones who fight against Christ at the battle of Armageddon.
The one who is head over much of earth is Satan. He is not head over all the earth because he is not head over the Christians or faithful Jews or righteous gentiles. The Messiah has already destroyed him by His death (Heb 2:14) on the cross.
v7 - The Torrent is the River of Water of Life in the New Jerusalem (Rev 22:1). The Way is Christ (Jn 14:6). In the Way there is the mighty flowing Torrent of water of life.
What does this have to do with all the fighting in verses 5-6?
I think v7 is the conclusion of the whole Psalm. It takes place after Armageddon in the previous verse, but also today in a foretaste.
The Head is Christ, by Whom the Father heads up all things to the church (Eph 1:10; etc). Christ the true Head is in contrast to the head over much of the earth in v6, who is either satan or the beast who is often called the antichrist (2 Thes 2:8).
-added Spurgeon story on v3 12/9/2018
-changed tune 6/26/2017
-copyright Steve Miller 4/22/10