Messiah is King/Priest/Judge. Surely no common man is worthy of or capable of such authority. No one can seriously be considered the subject of Psalm 110 except Yeshua of Nazareth. It is no wonder that this psalm is so often used in the New Testament to prove the Messiahship of Yeshua and to teach His power and activities. He will rule and judge, and at that we should tremble. But, He is also our loving, sympathetic High Priest, and at that we can rejoice.
- Rabbinic Support
- Fulfillment in Yeshua
We have just finished interpreting Psalm 110. We have clearly stated our position and the New Testament viewpoint that it is a literal prophecy that will have a literal fulfillment. The psalm summarizes the complete career of Jesus of Nazareth, with an accent on the events of the Second Coming. We believe He is the Messianic King/Priest/Judge. However, is it a valid understanding that the psalm speaks of the Messiah? Perhaps we are just making up some imaginary belief designed to lure unsuspecting and ignorant Jews away from Rabbinic Judaism and into Christianity. With that concern in mind, let us present rabbinic material that confirms our understanding that Psalm 110 speaks of the Messiah.
The Midrash (rabbinic commentary) on Psalms (Book One, 18, 29) states plainly that the Messiah is addressed and told to sit on God’s right hand in Psalm 110:1. The Midrash Rabbah, Genesis LXXXV, 9 affirms that the staff mentioned in Psalm 110:2 refers to the royal Messiah. Also, in regard to Psalm 110:2, the Midrash Rabbah, Numbers XVIII, 23 maintains that the staff is destined to be held in the hand of the Messiah. Midrash Yelamdeinu concurs and states that the Messiah will use the staff to conquer the nations of the world.
The Midrash on Psalm 18:36 specifically asserts that the Messiah is seated on God’s right hand while Abraham is seated on God’s left. Psalm 110:5 is applied to the Messiah and Messianic times in Yalkut stating that the Messiah will be placed on God’s right hand. Yalkut also applies verse 7 to Messianic times.
The influential rabbinic commentator, Rabbi Ovadiah ben Yaacov Sforno asserts that Psalm 110 is dedicated to King Messiah and that he is the one on God’s right hand. The modern rabbinic commentary, The Artscroll Tanach Series, in reference to verse 110:3 states that the Messiah will also inspire His followers.
Finally, there is support in Jewish thinking for the concept of a priestly Messiah. It is not a prominent position, chiefly being found in the Essene thought of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Based on Psalm 110:4 you find the concept of Messiah Son of Aaron who will function in the Order of Melchizidek. In the Dead Sea Scrolls there are three messianic figures that correspond to the three facets of the ideal Jewish state, king, prophet and priest.
We think it is evident that our understanding that the psalm refers to the Messiah is not outside the viewpoint of the Jewish community. The thought that the psalm speaks of the Messiah is not the creation of some Gentile theologian bent on converting Jews at all cost.
If our understanding of Psalm 110 falls within the boundaries of Jewish interpretation, then why do we feel that it speaks of Jesus of Nazareth? Our understanding is based upon the position taken by the Messianic Jews in the First Century and recorded in the New Testament. As they observed Yeshua’s life and ministry, they compared what they saw to the Hebrew Scriptures, to the Tenach. As they did so, they saw a distinct and unmistakable correlation between what Yeshua of Nazareth said and did and what the Bible indicated the Messiah would say and do. As a result, they came to the conclusion that Yeshua perfectly fit all the qualifications expected of the Messianic person. They came to believe that He was, in fact, the long expected Messiah/King. This understanding was not a product of their own imagination or reasoning. They were empowered to come to this conclusion by God Himself. This truth is revealed very dramatically to us through the experience of Peter in Matthew 16:13-17:
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.'”
Just before Yeshua’s ascension to God’s right hand, He commanded His disciples to go into the entire world and proclaim the Good News of His salvation. He commanded them to do this based on the three fold, complete and perfect authority He possesses as king, priest and judge. Matthew 28:18-20 tells us:
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'”
As His followers obeyed this command, they naturally referred to the Hebrew Scriptures for verification of their message. One of the scriptures they frequently referenced is Psalm 110. A few of the many references to Psalm 110 used in the New Testament to verify the Messiahship of Jesus are listed below. All are in direct reference to Psalm 110.
- Acts 2:32-35
- Hebrews 1:1-4
- Hebrews 1:13
- Hebrews 5:4-10
- Hebrews 7:11-21
“This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”‘”
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.” (Underlining added.)
“But to which of the angels has He ever said, ‘SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET’?”
“And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, ‘YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU’; just as He says also in another passage, ‘YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.’ In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the one able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.”
“Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him, ‘YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.’ For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. And inasmuch as it was not without an oath (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, ‘THE LORD HAS SWORN AND WILL NOT CHANGE HIS MIND, “YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER”‘).”
Yes, Yeshua is our long awaited Messiah. He is our King/Priest/Judge. We eagerly await His return from the right hand of God. However, as stated earlier, most Jewish people do not accept this position. If you stated to a Jewish person that Psalm 110 refers to Jesus, they would probably go to their rabbi and see what he had to say. Therefore, in order to prepare you for the objections you may be faced with, we have included a brief summary of rabbinic understandings of this psalm.
In the rabbinic community there is no unified and coherent understanding of Psalm 110. Unlike the Messianic Jews of the First Century, many rabbis are confused and unsure about who the author is or about the object of Psalm 110. In spite of the rabbinic material previously quoted affirming that Psalm 110 refers to the Messiah, weaker positions are offered. For example, the Artscroll Tenach commentary “Tehillim” refers to Midrash Shocher Tov and states that this psalm is a hymn of gratitude which God recited to Abraham. This position states the God is the author and Abraham is the object. Interestingly enough, the commentary goes on to say that Midrash Shocher Tov, the Targum and Moed Kattan also see references to King Saul in Psalm 110. The Artscroll Tenach commentary also recognizes the position of Rabbi Malbim, Radak, and Rabbi Moshe that David is the object of Psalm 110.
If you went to the Soncino Books of the Bible, you would be referred to the Talmud (Ned. 32b) and Rashi regarding the object of Psalm 110. Both of these references explain this psalm as relating to Abraham and his victory over King Amraphel in Genesis 14. Furthermore, that commentary would bring out the additional and contradictory views of Rabbi Kimchi and Rabbi Ibn Ezra. Those rabbis attribute the authorship of this psalm to David’s devoted soldiers. Therefore, in this view, the king is David.
There is an old Jewish joke that sums up this situation. It concerns a rabbi who judges a dispute between two congregants. One man says one thing and the rabbi replies, “You know, you are right.” Then the other congregant presents his entirely opposite point of view and the rabbi responds, “You know, you are right.” Exasperated at this contradiction, the wife of the rabbi pipes in, “Rabbi, one man said one thing and you said, ‘You are right.’ The other man said entirely the opposite and you said. ‘You are right.’ Rabbi, they cannot both be right.” To his wife the rabbi replied, “You know, you are right.”
I bring in this joke to point out that only one position regarding Psalm 110 can be right. The contradicting rabbinical positions cannot all be right. Is the author God or David’s soldiers? Is the object of the psalm the Messiah, Abraham, or David? This is too important a revelation to allow our understanding of it to flounder in uncertainty.
To all these competing positions, only one question needs to be asked, “Is it appropriate to apply the magnificent descriptions of Psalm 110 to anyone other than the Messiah?” We believe the obvious answer to that question is a clear, unequivocal “No!” The rabbis who understand this psalm to refer to the Messiah are on the correct path. Once that is determined, it is obvious that there is no one in the Jewish past, present or future who can rightfully receive authority as king, priest and judge other than Jesus of Nazareth. Abraham never was and never could be the king because the king had to be from the Tribe of Judah and the House of David. In addition, Abraham did not live forever; he died and his grave is still with us in Hebron. David could never be a priest because he had been barred from that office entirely since he was from the wrong tribe. The only viable candidate is Yeshua, the Son of God and Son of Man, functioning under the priestly order of Melchizedek.
Even so, Lord, come quickly.
- ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica, “Messiah in Rabbinic Thought,” CD ROM Edition