October 20, 2019
Psalm 110: A Psalm of David
The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”
The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.
After his resurrection from the dead our Lord Jesus opened his disciples’ minds to understand the Scriptures and he taught them that everything written about him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled (Luke 24:44). The Psalms are about Jesus. When you read, listen to, or sing the Psalms, you should be listening for Jesus. In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus demonstrates to the Pharisees that Psalm 110 not only can be interpreted to be about him, but it must be interpreted to be about Jesus Christ, true God and man, otherwise it makes no sense.
Jesus asks the Pharisees, whose son the Christ is. They respond, “The son of David.” This is a softball question. Any Jew who attended Sabbath worship somewhat regularly knew this answer. Psalm 132 states, “The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: ‘One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.’” And God promised David that this son would reign forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13; 1 Chronicles 17:11-12). Because of this sure promise from God, Jews believed that a descendent of David would be the Christ, that is, the anointed Savior of God’s people. This is why it is significant that the crowds called Jesus the “son of David” when he entered Jerusalem on a donkey. (Matthew 21:9, 15) They were calling Jesus the promised Christ.
Yet, Jesus’ next question is not a softball. Rather, it can only be understood through the light of faith. Jesus asks, “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’?
If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” This is a difficult question. The Christ is David’s son, yet David calls the Christ Lord. David wouldn’t call his son Lord, would he? Well, he would if his son were the Lord God.
David had many sons sit on his throne. Yet, none of them were the Christ. The greatest of David’s sons, who sat on his throne were Solomon, Hezekiah, and Josiah. These kings did right in the eyes of the Lord. Yet, Solomon was not the Christ. He was a sinner, who married foreign women and set up their false gods in Israel. As soon as he died, God divided the kingdom in two. Hezekiah was a great king, more righteous than Solomon, yet he was a sinner, who could not keep himself alive or prevent the disaster that would later befall Jerusalem. God said that Josiah was the best king, better than any before or after him. Yet, Josiah was killed by Pharoah Neco and buried in a tomb. Even though Josiah was so good, God still said that he would punish Judah for her sins. None of these kings were the Christ. They couldn’t save Israel, let alone you or me. And David certainly wouldn’t call them his Lord.
Rather, David is speaking of Jesus Christ, who is true God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, born of house of David. David calls his son Lord, because his Son is God almighty, the Second Person in the Holy Trinity, through whom and by whom all things were made. When David wrote Psalm 110, he prophesied of Jesus Christ, true God and man.
An ordinary man could not be the Christ. An ordinary man could not save us from our sins. The Christ needed to be God. He needed to be God in order to have power over Satan and our sins. He needed to be God in order for his death on the cross to be a sufficient price to pay for our sins. He needed to be God, so that he would have power over death and rise from the dead. Yet, the Christ needed to be a man as well. He needed to be a man in order for him to take our place under the law and fulfill the laws demands on us. He needed to be a man, so that he could die for our sins and pay our wages on our behalf. The Christ needed to be both God and man in order to save us from sin, death, and hell. The holy Scriptures prophesied that the Christ would be both God and man, David’s son, yet David’s Lord. Jesus is the Christ, God’s own Son in human flesh, the Son of David, who came to save us from our sins.
Before this talk about who Christ is, Jesus answered a question from a lawyer about what the greatest commandment in the Law is. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, which is the greatest commandment. And love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the Prophets.”
Jesus teaches us that love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10) The purpose of every commandment, whether it is “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet, etc.” is to love. This shows us how great God’s Law is. He commands us to love. This is the greatest good. You can find no fault in God’s commandments. They are perfect, holy, and good. To follow God’s commandments, to love God with all your being and to love your neighbor as yourself is the most wonderful thing you can do.
Jesus shows us that God’s Law is wonderfully good. Yet, he also shows us that God’s Law is awesomely terrifying. Because, the Law does not simply command that you do outwardly good works. That’s not impossible to do for the most part. You can refrain from saying prayers to other gods. You could go to church every week and read your Bible every day. You can be respectful to your parents and not break any laws, refrain from murder, refrain from cheating on your spouse, and so forth. But Jesus shows us that the Law does not command simply outward works, but love. Love must begin in the heart. You must love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. You must not only openly worship him, but trust in him at all times and forsake all others in your heart. You must hold his word as your most precious treasure in your heart. You must not only refrain from doing bad things against your neighbor, but you must love him! Not only must you not cheat on your wife, but you must love her from your heart, desire her welfare before your own. The Law commands that you love your enemy, pray for him, and desire what’s best for him.
When you recognize from Jesus’ words just what the Law demands, it is terrifying. This wonderful Law exposes even the sin hidden in your heart. This Law accuses you and condemns you. The Law says, you must die.
Yet, Jesus is David’s Son and David’s Lord. He loved God with his whole being. He was obedient even to death on the cross. It is for that very reason that the Lord exalted him above every name and placed all his enemies under his feet. And Jesus died not only in love and obedience to God, but out of love for you. Jesus truly loved his neighbor as himself. Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends. Jesus laid down his life for you.
Jesus fulfilled the demands of the Law for us. All the law and the prophets depend on this fact. Jesus is love incarnate. The demands of the Law are met in Jesus, yet for our sake he bore the curse of the Law intended for us. The righteous one died for the unrighteous ones. This is why St. Paul called all his works of the law rubbish in order to gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of his own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. (Philippians 3:8-10)
God put all Jesus’ enemies under his feet. This speaks of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The enemies Christ conquered were not the Philistines or the Ammonites or even the Babylonians. The enemies Christ conquered were sin, death, and the devil. Christ took our sins away by dying for them in our stead. He defeated Satan by taking away his ability to accuse us and drag us to hell. The last enemy he defeated was death, who could not hold him in the tomb. And through Jesus Christ we are victors over these enemies as well.
Not even the Law, the good, holy, wonderful, and righteous Law can condemn us. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1) The Law, which judges the very intentions of your heart and which threatens you with death and hell cannot condemn you! Because Christ Jesus, David’s Son and Lord has fulfilled the Law and has been punished under the Law in your stead.
David continues in his Psalm, “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments.” Christ does for us through faith what the threats of the Law could never do. The Law tries to get you to love from the heart with threats. That doesn’t work. Jesus changes your heart by forgiving you your sins and giving you his Holy Spirit to change your heart. This is why St. Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
The Gospel does not coerce you. Rather, it changes you to have a willing heart. Christ’s people will offer themselves freely on the day of his power, because by the power of his resurrection we are forgiven. And by the power of his resurrection we too will rise! Christ himself clothes us in holy garments, covering our shame, so that we might love God and our neighbor without fear.
Of course, we know that we do not always live this way. We’re Christians. We trust in Jesus for forgiveness. We believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in us to lead us to do what is right. Yet, we must lament with St. Paul, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing!” (Romans 7:19) Even as Christians, we still sin in weakness!
Yet, this Psalm of David gives us comfort here too. “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’” Jesus is our priest forever. Priests make intercession between God and the people by means of sacrifices, so that God does not punish the people for their sins. Now, if you are clever you might remember that the priests are from the tribe of Levi. Yet, Jesus is the Son of David, from the tribe of Judah. There is nothing in the Bible about priests coming from the tribe of Judah. Yet, Jesus is a priest not after the order of Levi. The Levitical priests offered sacrifices first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people, until they died. And they had to offer these sacrifices repeatedly. Yet, Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, the King of Righteousness. This is a better priesthood that goes on forever. Jesus offered the sacrifice of his own body and blood once and for all. And he stands as a priest making intercession for our sins forever.
This means that when you sin, Christ stands their ready to make intercession for you to God the Father. Christ stands ready to forgive. In Psalm 110, King David prophesied that Christ would be both his son and our God. Christ is our King, who has conquered all our spiritual enemies. And Christ is our priest, who intercedes for us every day and will do so forever. We know who the Christ is. He is Jesus, who has freed us from the curse of the Law and gives us eternal life through faith. Amen.