Theme: Jesus: Son of David, Son of God
This weeks lesson proves the authenticity of Scripture as it proclaims Jesus as Lord and King,
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”’?
What about the first verse, the verse Jesus throws to his questioners? In Hebrew, which they well knew, the first word of the verse is Jehovah or Yahweh (rendered “Lord”), a fact indicated in our English translations of Psalm 110 by “LORD” being printed in capital letters.1 It refers to the God of Israel. The second word for Lord is Adonai. Adonai refers to an individual greater than the speaker. So here is a case of David citing a word of God in which God tells another personage, who is greater than David, to sit at His right hand until He makes His enemies a footstool for His feet. This person can only be a divine Messiah, who is Jesus Christ.
This argument depends on two assumptions, of course. The first is that the psalm is by David. Otherwise, it could be construed only as an inferior member of the court flattering David by calling David “Lord,” suggesting that he was to rule by God’s special blessing. The second is that David wrote by inspiration so that what he said about this divine figure is true and is an actual prophecy of Jesus Christ, Jesus made both these assumptions when he spoke of “David, speaking by the Spirit.”
Which makes it astonishing that so many commentators, including even some so called evangelicals, refer Psalm 110 to another human writer. They see it as flattery of a merely human king (though with messianic overtones), and they explain Jesus’ words as a concession to the widespread but mistaken opinions of his age regarding Davids authorship of the psalms.2 This is a terrible error, and it misses the point of the psalm completely.
The most able commentators both on the psalm and Matthew discuss this matter, and the best writers demolish the liberal point of view. Those who deny that the psalm is by David say that “my Lord” refers to a king and that the psalm must therefore be addressed either to David or to one of the kings who followed him. They also argue that much of the psalm is about earthly battles and conquests and that it must therefore be about an earthly ruler. Additionally, they say, it refers to a figure who is both a king and priest, and, since this is an idea foreign to the Old Testament, the psalm must date not from the time of David or even for hundreds of years after David but from the time of the Maccabees, nearly a thousand years later.3
None of these points hold up. And in any case, in Matthew Jesus sets his seal upon the Davidic authorship of Psalm 110, even adding that David was speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he wrote it.
Derek Kidner expressed the issue well. Nowhere in the Psalter does so much hang on the familiar title A Psalm of David as it does here; nor is the authorship of any other psalm quite so emphatically endorsed in other parts of Scripture. To amputate this opening phrase, or to allow it no reference to the authorship of the psalm, is to be at odds with the New Testament, which finds King David’s acknowledgment of his ‘Lord’ highly significant. For while other psalms share with this one the exalted language which points beyond the reigning king to the Messiah, here alone the king himself does homage to this personage – thereby settling two important questions: whether the perfect king was someone to come, or simply the present ruler idealized; and whether the one to come would be merely man at his best, or more than this.
Peter preached on this text on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:34-36), and his conclusion is as valid today as it was then or when David penned the verse a thousand years before Peter. Peter said, “Therefore . . . be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people were convicted by his preaching and cried out, “Brothers, what shall we do” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven” (Acts 2:36-38). So also should we repent and commit ourselves to Jesus Christ today.
1 This is not the case in Matthew 22:44, where Jesus cites Psalm 110:1, because the New Testament is written in Greek and the word in Matthews text is kyrios, which means “lord” only.
2 For example, Leslie C. Allen largely ignores its claims to have been written by David, even though much is at stake; see Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 21, Psalms 101-150 (Waco, Tex: Word Books, 1983), pp. 83-87.
3 See John A. Broadus, Commentary on Matthew (Grand Rapids; Kregel Publications, 1990), pp. 459, 460, for a good discussion of these arguments.
What two assumptions must we make about the words of David in Psalm 110 to understand why Jesus used them here?
Why do some commentators claim that Psalm 110 is not messianic? If they make such a claim, what are they saying about Jesus?
What does ‘LORD’ [caps intentional] mean?