>The Return of the King, Psalm 110

>In these days of civil war and natural disasters, spiraling prices and insuperable debt, religious persecution and apocalyptic prophecy, public depravity and private pain, it’s comforting to be reminded from Psalm 110 that God is in control and one day soon Christ will be the visible king.

Editors Ryken and Ryken write about Psalm 110 in the ESV Literary Study Bible, “The focus is on the godly king, with the implied double meaning that the ultimate embodiment of this ideal is Christ” (p. 875). Although I often agree with comments made by this father-son duo, it seems to me that the focus in Psalm 110 is on Christ with an implied double meaning relating to the godly king.

King David seems to find confidence for his own reign by envisioning God the Father speaking to God the Son:

The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool”
(verse 1).

Verse 2 affirms the guarantee of victory over God’s (as well as the king’s and our) enemies:

The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!

In verse 3, incredible imagery and poetic language anticipate the great day of the Lord:

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.


As believers stumble through life in the torn and filthy garments of sin, we take heart in the sure knowledge that one day we will be clothed in “holy garments” of pure linen that have been washed whiter than snow by Christ’s blood. When the Son of Righteousness dawns, the decrepit tent of this current body will burst from the grave like a baby delivered from the womb. The resurrected body will be ageless, neither infantile nor infirm, but forever fresh and timelessly youthful.


Verse 4 refers to the meeting between Abram, who would become Abraham, and Melchizedek, who was “priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18) at Salem, which would become Jerusalem.

The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”

That verse is heavily referenced in Hebrews (5:6, 6:20, 7:17, 7:21), which teaches that Jesus has become our high priest forever.

As our high priest, Christ now sits exalted at the right hand of God, ruling and reigning until his return in judgment.

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
(5-6).

Christ’s victory will be thorough and global. No oppressive king or wicked nation will escape his justice. The execution of his justice also will be swift.

He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head
(7).

John Calvin writes in his commentary on this verse that David intends to convey the military prowess of Christ, like a commander in battle who doesn’t stop for refreshment but quickly drinks from a stream in his path. Matthew Henry believes the “brook on the way” indicates the black stream of God’s wrath from which Christ drank. Both agree that the final line of this psalm confirms Christ’s exaltation.

Christ is our only high priest and our exalted king. When he returns in power to judge the nations, sin will be forever vanquished and the wicked banished into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15, 21:8). But the righteous will enter the rest of their eternal home where the river of the water of life flows. Beside it grows the tree of life, bearing new fruit each month, with leaves for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).

How I long for the return of the king!

All scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV), © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

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