The Case for Jesus the Messiah – Incredible Prophecies that Prove God Exists/Part 9

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©{{{copyright}}}
Psalm 110:1—Who Is David’s “Lord”?

Editor’s Note: This material was first published in book form in 1989 by the John Ankerberg Evangelistic Association (now known as the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute).

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The Biblical Text

The Lord says to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (Psalm 110:1)

The Context of the Passage

In this Psalm Jehovah God makes a declaration addressed to one called, “My Lord.” This cannot be David. This must be the Messiah. Why?

In 2 Samuel 7:16, God promises David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” (Emphasis added) David replied, “O Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant” (2 Sam. 7:19, emphasis added).

God’s promise that He would establish an everlasting kingdom and that David’s house would last forever became the focal point for many later prophecies. Who would be the great King whose throne would last forever? Whoever he would be, he would not only be a male (out of the seed of Eve; remember the third person singular, masculine pronoun “he” found in Genesis 3:15?), but also from the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and now David.

With this in mind, in this Psalm, David records, “Jehovah says to my Lord [my sovereign, therefore superior to David]), ‘Sit at my right hand.’” Since God is stating this, the one addressed would have the high place of honor next to God.

This is evidence that the One described is the coming Messiah. It is only the Messiah whose kingdom and throne will be established forever (according to 2 Samuel 7:16). Only the Messiah can be the future son of David who is “anointed” by God as the eternal King-Priest in Jerusalem after the order of Melchizedek. “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’” Then David states once more that “the Lord is at your [God’s] right hand” (Ps. 110:4, 5; cf. Heb. 7:11-24).

Even though David and Solomon did lead worship-related activities, such as building and overseeing the temple, overseeing the work of the priests and Levites and the temple liturgy, they were not permitted to engage in those specifically priestly functions that had been assigned to the priesthood (see 2 Chronicles 26:16-18).[1]

Therefore Psalm 110 cannot refer to King David or Solomon or any of their royal descendants (other than the Messiah). Only David’s “Lord” will sit at God’s right hand, and will be an eternal priest in the order of Melchizedek. Nowhere does Scripture mention that David or Solomon sat at God’s right hand or that they were eternal priests. Therefore this could only refer to the Messiah.

The Explanation of the Text

Who is this Psalm about? How can it be explained? One person in history presented such a forceful explanation that the leaders in Israel who heard it couldn’t think of any way to refute it.

The teacher who explained this psalm to the leaders in Israel was none other than Jesus Christ. Listen to His articulate explanation of this passage and see if you can argue with Him.

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Christ [Messiah]? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, ‘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 can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mt. 22:41-45, NIV; cf. Acts 2:34-36; Heb. 1:13; 5:6-10; 7:11-28)

Here Jesus argues the text says: 1) the Messiah was a descendant of David (the Pharisees agreed); 2) the Messiah will be more than a descendant of David—He will be David’s Lord. Jesus’ question, “If David then calls him ‘Lord’ how can he be his son” presented a dilemma to the scribes and Pharisees who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah.

Jesus could prove to them He was descended from the lineage of David. If He could show the Pharisees that according to this passage in the Psalms David was addressing someone superior to him who would be given the high place of honor next to God and would also be one of his descendants, then Jesus’ claims to be God and the Messiah would be in line with Scripture.

Repeatedly, the historical accounts of Jesus’ life showed that the Pharisees attempted to stone Jesus for His statements of being God (see below).

The dilemma faced by the religious leaders of Israel is the same one facing us today. How can we escape the logic of Jesus’ argument that the One described as “my Lord” in Psalm 110 could be none other than Jesus Himself, who was a descendant of David? Who else fits the description of being David’s Lord? Who else would claim the high position next to God? Who else could be the Mediator and Priest along the line of Melchizedek? Who else came and gave His life a ransom for the many? There is no one else but Jesus Christ.

In Psalm 110 we are told that the Messiah is to be far more than a mere man. He will sit at God’s right hand. This is a position of privilege and authority given to no one else, human or angel, in the entire Hebrew Scripture. In addition, this One is called “Lord” and will be an eternal priest (Ps. 110:1, 4).

If so, this One will be simultaneously a prophet (Deut. 18:15), eternal priest (Ps. 110:4) and king (Gen. 49:10). But no one in the entire history of the Hebrew nation has ever claimed to be such a One—except Jesus. What is even more amazing is that in the verses to come we will see that the Messiah was to be the eternal One Himself—God. And no prophet, priest or king in all of Israel’s history, has ever claimed to be God.

Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees that He eternally existed before Abraham was born: “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born I AM [Gk. ego eimi, i.e., eternally existed]” (Jn. 8:58).

Jesus also claimed He was one in nature or essence with God: “I and the Father are one [Gk. one in essence]” (Jn. 10:30). The religious leaders were angry with Him because “He was calling God his [very] own Father; making himself equal with God” (Jn. 5:18).

In fact, on three different occasions the religious leaders tried to stone Jesus to death because they realized the implications of what He was saying. They reported He was openly claiming that He was God Himself. The New Testament specifically records they were attempting to stone Him “because you, being a man, make yourself out to be God” (Jn. 10:33; 5:18).

What does this mean? It means that Jesus fits the portrait given of the Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures. (In our next verse, we will prove the Messiah was to be both God and man.)

Was Psalm 110 Recognized by the Jews as Messianic?

In his appendix documenting rabbinic interpretations of Messianic passages, Edersheim states of Psalm 110 that it “…is throughout applied to the Messiah. To begin with, it evidently underlines the Targumic rendering of verse 4…. In the Midrash on Psalm xviii.36…, Psalm cx. [110], verse 1, ‘Sit thou at my right hand’ is specifically applied to the Messiah,…”[2]

This text was acknowledged as Messianic by Jewish rabbis before the time of Christ. Keil and Delitzsch have concluded that by its very usage in the New Testament, the Messianic nature of Psalm 110 had to be understood by the scribes and Pharisees at the time of Christ.[3]

In addition, noted theologian and biblical scholar J. P. Lange observes that because of the very words in the text, “the Messianic interpretation is demanded” and that the psalm was generally understood as Messianic—”Thus, did the Synagogue understand it in earlier times [before the Christian era].”[4]

Also, the NIV Study Bible which represents the best of modern conservative scholarship comments, “Before the Christian era Jews already viewed it as Messianic.”[5]

Clues to Identify the Messiah

Whoever the Messiah is, He must fit the following descriptions:

Clue #1—He, a male child (the Hebrew text specifically uses a 3rd person, singular, masculine pronoun—”he”), will be born of the seed of the woman.

Clue #2—He will come from the race of the Jews, and specifically from the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Clue #3—He will be a great prophet, with the authority to teach like Moses.

Clue #4—He will be mocked, and people will cast lots for His garments while He suffers.

Clue #5—He will be David’s Lord.

Read Part 10


  1. NIV Study Bible, p. 907.
  2. Edersheim, Life and Times, Vol. 2, pp. 720-721.
  3. C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes, Vol. 5, The Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978), pp. 184-185.
  4. John Peter Lange, Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Vol. 5, Psalms—Song of Solomon (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1980), pp. 554-555.
  5. The NIV Study Bible, p. 906.

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