August 10, 2010 David Balzer

Psalm 110: Priest and King

I want you to imagine you’re back at high school. And there’s two teachers you want to get on well with. One’s your maths teacher, and he’s just great. You’ve had the same teacher for years. You joke around and have a lot of fun. He prepares you well for the exams. Gives you lots of help, and spends a lot of his own time helping.

And he’s great at explaining things, because HE used to struggle with maths, too. He knew what it was like not to have a clue about logarithms, or indices, or algebra, because he’d been there too.

But the problem is he doesn’t get on too well with the SENIOR teachers. They think he’s too soft on your class. And they’re probably right, because there’s a group of kids who sometimes spend the whole lesson mucking up. They give him a terrible time, and he can’t really control them. And in the end he gives up, and sends them to the Deputy Principal.

He’s the OTHER you want to get on well with. He used to be a Maths teacher too. He’s a tough old guy. And a very strict disciplinarian. He’d just as soon give you the cane as look at you. And one day he takes you class because your teacher’s away. And nobody says a word. Not even the rowdy group. The funny thing is, he’s a good teacher too. Not much fun. But he knows his stuff, and he can actually explain it quite well.

Two extremes. One teacher who gets alongside you. Who knew what you’d been through. And who could help, but who in the end was TOO much like you. Didn’t have the power to do what needed to be done.

And another teacher who was so tough everyone was too scared to even talk to him. But who could control the class, and make sure everyone learned.

Now here’s a question for you. Which of these teachers is closer to your picture of Jesus? Is he the strict disciplinarian who you need to steer clear of, except when absolutely necessary? Or is he more like your close buddy. Someone who you can joke around with?

Well, the answer is he’s like BOTH of them. … And he’s not like EITHER of them. The technical terms are TRANSCENDENT and IMMANENT. Jesus is far above us – he’s transcendent. But he’s also close to us – he’s immanent.

He’s the exalted king who sits at God’s right hand, controlling everything that happens. And that’s a comfort to us.

But he’s also the great high priest who’s experienced everything we’ve been through. Who knows what it’s like to be tempted. And who pleads on our behalf before God. And THAT’S a comfort to us, too.

It’s these two pictures of Jesus that King David is painting in Psalm 110. Jesus, the transcendent King over everything. And the immanent High Priest.

1. LORD or Lord? (v1)

And it’s Jesus that David’s talking about right from verse 1. Even if it’s not immediately obvious. “The LORD says to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”.

There’s two Lords. Who’s David talking about here?

Firstly. Notice that the FIRST Lord’s in capitals. That’s the way most English translations write the name for God – Yahweh. So David’s describing something that GOD is saying. That’s the easy bit! “God says to my Lord” But what about the other “Lord”?

a) What does Jesus say? (Mt 22:41-46)

Listen to what Jesus says in Mt 22, verse 41. He’s talking about the Messiah, and he quotes Psalm 110.

(Mt 22:41-46 NIV)  While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, {42} “What do you think about the Christ (the MESSIAH)? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. (That’s what they read in Isaiah and Jeremiah){43} He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, {44} “‘The Lord said to MY LORD: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘ {45} If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” {46} No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

So both Jesus and the Pharisees agree that David is talking about the Messiah.

So verse 1 is describing God speaking to his Messiah. David calls one of them, the LORD (capital letters). And the other one “My Lord” (lower case letters).

You see, David is prophesying about Jesus. The Messiah who was to come. And even though HUMANLY SPEAKING he’s descended from David. Because David calls him “my Lord”, Jesus is saying that the Messiah must be much MORE than David’s son. “Yes, He’s David’s Son. But wait there’s more!” He’s much more than your preconceptions!

2. God’s Promise: (v1-2)

So now we’ve got the two Lord’s worked out. What is that God’s DECLARING to his Messiah? That’s what the REST of the Psalm is about.

And we can break it up into two parts. The first three verses refer to God’s PROMISE. And then in verses 4 to 7 he BACKS UP his promise with an OATH.

So let’s look at what God promises. Verse 1. He promises to seat his Messiah at his right hand until he makes his enemies a footstool for his feet.

It’s kingly language, isn’t it? Like Psalm 2. God will sit Jesus at his right hand, in the throne room of heaven. And give him authority over all the nations of the world.

a) What does Peter say? (Acts 2:30-36)

But WHEN is this supposed to happen? DAVID was waiting for it. What about US? Listen to what the Apostle Peter says. Acts 2:30.

(Acts 2:30-36 NIV)  But David was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. {31} Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of THE RESURRECTION OF THE CHRIST, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. {32} GOD HAS RAISED THIS JESUS TO LIFE, and we are all witnesses of the fact. {33} EXALTED TO THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. {34} For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD: “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND {35} UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”‘ {36} “THEREFORE LET ALL ISRAEL BE ASSURED OF THIS: GOD HAS MADE THIS JESUS, WHOM YOU CRUCIFIED, BOTH LORD AND CHRIST.”

God promised to seat Jesus at his right hand. IT WAS A PROMISE THAT WAS FULFILLED WHEN JESUS WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD, AND ASCENDED TO HEAVEN.

So THAT was the day David was looking forward to. The day when God would raise his Messiah, and restore him to the right hand.

b) What does Paul say? (Eph 1:20-23, 2 Tim 2:3-10)

Listen to how Paul describes it in Ephesians 1 verse 20. He adds another bit of information.

(Eph 1:20-22 NIV)  God exerted his power in Christ when he RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD and SEATED HIM AT HIS RIGHT HAND IN THE HEAVENLY REALMS, {21} far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. {22} And God placed all things UNDER HIS FEET and appointed him to be head over everything.

What David looked forward to, God has done NOW. Everything is under Jesus’ feet NOW. We’re living in the time when God has placed Jesus over everything. And it all happened at the resurrection!

But it’s not just a question of TIMING. Paul doesn’t just give us an update. He gives us MORE INFORMATION. Listen.

God placed all things UNDER HIS FEET and appointed him to be head over everything … FOR THE CHURCH, {23} which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Jesus is the king over the world now, FOR THE SAKE OF HIS CHURCH. Isn’t that amazing? All of God’s plans. Which culminate in Jesus’ exaltation. It’s all happened for us. To benefit us!

How does it DO that?

Because the enemies Jesus defeats – the ones he’s got his feet all over – are the ones we can’t beat on our own. At his resurrection he defeated SIN AND DEATH. The two greatest enemies of mankind. And God put them under Jesus’ feet. For us. Because we can’t do it ourselves.

We can’t beat SIN, because we’re born sinners. That’s our nature.

And we can’t beat DEATH, because that’s what happens to sinful people. No matter how hard we try.

Jesus sitting at God’s right hand means that sin and death are guaranteed to be gone. Complete pest extermination. With a money back guarantee.

And that’s good news for us, Jesus’ church!

3. God’s people (v3) 2 Tim 2:3-10

And it’s his people that PSALM 110 goes on to describe. God’s people. Verse 3. His troops. Listen to how David puts into EARTHLY language the HEAVENLY realities of Jesus’ kingdom.

(Psa 110:3 NIV)  YOUR TROOPS will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth.

It’s not an EARTHLY army being described here, because David’s not describing an earthly KING. But the sort of battle that’s taking place NOW between the army of King Jesus – that’s us, the church. And the armies of the world.

The last part of verse 3 is tricky. But I think the basic idea is that as the troops do battle, they SUPPORT and REFRESH their king. Just like dew first thing in the morning.

So what SORT of battle are we involved in? How do we go about supporting our king like that?

Listen to the battle plan. 2 Tim 2. Verse 3. It’s not the sort of blood and gore we might expect. In fact, it’s not about EARTHLY victory at all. How do you be a good soldier for Jesus?

(2 Tim 2:3-10 NIV)  ENDURE HARDSHIP with us LIKE A GOOD SOLDIER OF CHRIST JESUS. {4} No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer. … {8} Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, {9} FOR WHICH I AM SUFFERING even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. {10} THEREFORE I ENDURE EVERYTHING for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

The battle that Jesus’ soldiers are in, is about SUFFERING FOR THE GOSPEL. That’s the way the battle is fought and won. That’s the way we can bring victory for our captain. … So don’t be surprised when that happens to you!

In fact, I felt a bit that way yesterday when Robert and Jenny and I went out DOOR-KNOCKING. Suffering for the gospel! Actually it wasn’t too bad at all. But I couldn’t help thinking, “This is what God’s called us to do. It’s part of what the Christian life is about”

Not necessarily door-knocking. But ANYTHING that you do where you put yourself out for Jesus’ sake. It’s the battle plan. The job description for Jesus’ soldiers.

Or Youth Group Friday nights. Now, that’s a battle! The kids arrive nearly jumping out of their skins. School’s over, and the weekend’s about to begin. And they can’t wait!

And then leaders arrive. Dragging their feet. Exhausted after a week’s work. Mostly I reckon they’d rather be home in front of the tele. It’s tough work sometimes, but they do it because they follow Jesus.

Suffering for the gospel is the job description of one of Jesus’ soldiers.

And when we do THAT, that’s fighting the battle for our king. And bringing him the refreshment that Psalm 110 is talking about.

4. God’s Oath: (v4-7)

So we’ve seen God’s PROMISE, and God’s PEOPLE. Next David turns to God’s OATH. God doesn’t just promise. He swears an OATH. Verse 4.

(Psa 110:4 NIV)  The LORD has SWORN and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

David’ introducing a different picture. We’ve got Jesus the KING. Seated at God’s right hand. Someone so great, even DAVID calls him “My Lord”. The transcendent, majestic ruler.

But the flip side of that, is that God makes Jesus a PRIEST LIKE MELCHIZEDEK. But who on earth was Melchizedek?

a) Melchizedek: (Gen 14:18)

Well, to find Melchizedek, we need to turn to Gen 14 verse 18. He’s only there for three verses. He’s the king of Jerusalem, or Salem, in the time of Abraam. That’s before the Jewish nation existed. So he’s a Gentile. A Canaanite. And as well as being king, we read that he’s priest of the Most High God.

And God promises that Jesus will be a priest like Melchizedek. Not only is he a KING like no other. (Even King David calls him “Lord”). But he’s a PRIEST like no other. Cause Melchizedek certainly not like the normal Jewish priests.

b) What does Hebrews say? (Heb 7; 10:11-14)

But to really understand what David’s getting at, we need to look at what the Book of Hebrews says about Melchizedek. Ch 7 v1. Turn there with me.

(Heb 7:1-3 NIV)  This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, {2} and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” {3} Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.

So what’s the writer doing here? He’s using Melchizedek as an illustration. A living parable. In the same way I might use an illustration. Say, to describe God the Trinity. “Well, it’s a bit like an egg. There’s one egg, but three parts. The shell, the yoke and the white. And God is one God, but three beings – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Terrible example, but you get the idea!

The writer’s saying, “What’s Jesus like?” He’s a bit like Melchizedek. For a start, he was king of Salem. Which means king of peace. That’s not a bad description of Jesus. And he was a priest. And THAT’S like Jesus. And his name means King of Righteousness – which isn’t a bad description of Jesus.

And there’s even a sense in which he’s a priest forever. Because we don’t know anything about when he was born, or when he died. And Jesus is a priest forever in a much more complete way than that.

The idea is to get us to consider what JESUS is like. If we get bogged down on Melchizedek, we’ve missed the point. It’d be like focussing on the egg rather than on God as trinity.

And in the rest of Ch 7 of Hebrews we read what Jesus’ priesthood was like. From v11. Just like Melchizedek, Jesus wasn’t a priest from the tribe of Levi. So he didn’t follow the OLD way of doing things. Verse 16.

He has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry, but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. {17} For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” {18} The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless {19} (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

It’s exactly because Jesus ISN’T a priest like all the rest that WE can confidently draw near to God. We can HOPE, because Jesus lives FOREVER. We don’t need to keep replacing OUR priest everytime one dies. Verse 24.

(Heb 7:24-27 NIV)  but because Jesus lives forever, he has a PERMANENT PRIESTHOOD. {25} Therefore he is able to save COMPLETELY those who come to God through him, because he ALWAYS LIVES to intercede for them. {26} Such a high priest meets our need–one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

And there’s something special about the SACRIFICE Jesus offers, too. Verse 27.

{27} Unlike the OTHER high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins ONCE FOR ALL when he offered HIMSELF.

It’s because Jesus offered the PERFECT sacrifice that he only had to do it once. HIS OWN BODY was the sacrifice that satisified God’s justice.

The writer continues the argument a bit further on in Ch 10. Verse 11. He compares the OLD system with the NEW one Jesus introduced.

(Heb 10:11-14 NIV)  Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; AGAIN AND AGAIN he offers the same sacrifices, WHICH CAN NEVER TAKE AWAY SINS. {12} But when THIS PRIEST (Jesus) had offered FOR ALL TIME ONE SACRIFICE for sins, he SAT DOWN at the right hand of God. {13} SINCE THAT TIME HE WAITS FOR HIS ENEMIES TO BE MADE HIS FOOTSTOOL, {14} because by ONE SACRIFICE HE HAS MADE PERFECT FOREVER THOSE WHO ARE BEING MADE HOLY.

So it’s not just Jesus the KING who sits at God’s right hand. It’s Jesus the PRIEST who sits at God’s right hand. It’s his PRIESTLY ACTIVITY. His death and resurrection. That enables his enemies to be subdued.

And why does he SIT DOWN? Because he’s finished the job. You sit down when the task’s completed. What was the last thing Jesus said on the cross? “It is finished”. There’s nothing more to do!

Heb 12:2 describes Jesus as the AUTHOR .. AND .. PERFECTER of our faith. Or the STARTER and the FINISHER of our faith. He started it. And he finished it.

And that’s great news for us. We don’t have to keep striving and straining. Worrying whether we’ve done enough. Checking our balance sheet. “How do my sins match up to my good deeds this week?” Have we done enough to make it across the line?

Because it’s important that we get on the right side of God. Because Psalm 110 goes on to describe what Jesus the priest has saved us from. God’s judgement is waiting for everyone who’s not on the side of Jesus. Verse 5 and 6 of Psalm 110.

(Psa 110:5-6 NIV)  The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. {6} He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.

That’s a scary power to be on the wrong side of, isn’t it? But it’s the prefect priesthood of Jesus that gives us confidence that we can avoid that. We’ve got hope and confidence in what God’s got in store for us. Listen to how the writer to the Hebrews sums it up. How these truths should affect our attitudes and behaviour.

5. Two lettuce patches (Heb 4:14-16; 10:19-25)

Let’s go for a trip to his lettuce patches. There’s two great LETTUCE PATCHES in Hebrews. “Since such and such is true, LET US do this, or do that”. Get it – lettuce patches?!

The first lettuce patch is in Ch 4. Verse 14.

(Heb 4:14-16 NIV)  Therefore, since we have A GREAT HIGH PRIEST who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, LET US HOLD FIRMLY TO THE FAITH WE PROFESS.

It’s our CONFIDENCE in the work of Jesus that enables us to hold firmly onto our faith.

He continues in v15.

{15} For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–YET WAS WITHOUT SIN. {16} Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Jesus wasn’t like every other sinful, human, fallible priest. His work was perfect. And that gives us the confidence to approach God in prayer. There doesn’t need to be any uncertainty. Just complete confidence and trust. Trust in what Jesus has done.

I’ll finish with the second lettuce patch. Chapter 10. Verse 19. It’s more of the same, but there’s also implications for what we do at church.

(Heb 10:19-25 NIV)  Therefore, brothers, since we have CONFIDENCE to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, {20} by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, {21} and SINCE WE HAVE A GREAT PRIEST OVER THE HOUSE OF GOD, {22} let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. {23} Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. {24} And LET US CONSIDER HOW WE MAY SPUR ONE ANOTHER ON TOWARD LOVE AND GOOD DEEDS. {25} LET US NOT GIVE UP MEETING TOGETHER, as some are in the habit of doing, but LET US ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Let us make sure that’s what we continue to do!

Let us pray!

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