1 The Lord says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’ 2 The Lord sends out from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your foes. 3 Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day you lead your forces on the holy mountains. From the womb of the morning, like dew, your youth will come to you. 4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.’ 5 The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. 6 He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter heads over the wide earth. 7 He will drink from the stream by the path; therefore he will lift up his head.
It’s Coronation Day
My five and a half year old daughter has finally gotten interested in something other than the Disney movie Frozen. It may be surprising to you that my reflection on Psalm 110 would have any relation to Frozen, but it does. As the film unfolds, Elsa, following her parents’ tragic death, is the royal heir, the next one in line to become the Queen of Arondale. Recall Elsa’s coronation day. In ceremonial fashion Elsa is crowned Queen before her people. At that moment she reaches to grasp the scepter, but only after she places her gloves on her hands to guard against wielding the scepter through fear.
Psalm 110 anticipates the coronation of a righteous leader who will rule over Israel. The psalm clearly anticipates a messianic ruler, one who is not only the king of a nation, but a priest for the people, specifically a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Unlike a priest according to Levi, a priest according to Melchizedek would have no successor; he would be priest forever. As the writer of Hebrews explains: ‘King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him’; 2and to him Abraham apportioned ‘one-tenth of everything’. His name, in the first place, means ‘king of righteousness’; next he is also king of Salem, that is, ‘king of peace’. 3Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever (Hebrews 7:1-3).
At the time this psalm was written it’s clear that Israel was longing for a leader who would be their king and priest. It’s difficult to suggest that the writer of the psalm would have had Jesus in mind. At the same time, it’s equally difficult for Christians today to read this psalm and come away from it not seeing Jesus as the fulfillment of its messianic expectation. The gospel writers themselves, Mark in particular, proclaim Jesus as the one who is the priestly king described in the psalm, i.e. 35While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, ‘How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’ (Mark 12: 35-36).
The royal priest and king described in Psalm 110 anticipate Jesus, the Son of God, who takes a position of authority at God’s “right hand.” In this position of power Jesus’ rule subdues Israel’s enemies, making them “a footstool” as he dies on the cross. Unlike Elsa, the scepter is not wielded through fear, but executed through justice as Jesus is crowned with thorns. Jesus, the Messiah, sacrifices himself for his people; therefore, his people do not offer themselves to him out of fear, but out of a willing heart.