“The LORD said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” Psalm 110:1

Psalm 110 begins with the most extraordinary invitation. It is an invitation made by the LORD, the Triune God, to a human king, a son of David, to sit at His right hand. This language may or may not be familiar to us, but to those who first heard this Psalm read it would have come as an immense shock and surprise. In the Old Testament, references to the LORD’s right hand served as a symbol for His mighty power and glorious authority and thus as a symbol for His rule over His world. The invitation for a king to sit at the LORD’s right hand, was thus an invitation to that king to share in the LORD’s powerful and glorious rule, an invitation that no ordinary king could receive, never mind accept!  And yet there the invitation was for all to read in David’s own words and with David’s clear recognition that this invitation was beyond even him, despite the fact that he was God’s chosen king, the anointed one, the king after the LORD’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). For it is David who speaks in the Psalm and who refers to this king as ‘my Lord’. How then could a son of David also be David’s Lord?

It was precisely this important and searching question that Jesus asked the Pharisees while He was in Jerusalem in the period leading up to His betrayal and death. Matthew tells us that Jesus had faced a series of questions, all designed to “trap Him in his words” (Matthew 22:15). Each time Jesus had given a clear and challenging response until the time came for Him to ask a question of them – “What do you think of the Christ? Whose Son is He?” (Matthew 22:42). They of course answered in traditional fashion: “the son of David”, at which point Jesus takes them to David’s own words in Psalm 110:1 that this Messiah would not only be David’s son, but also David’s Lord! (Matthew 22:43-46). What the Pharisees failed to see was that Jesus’ question and its answer were designed to point to the fact that He is the one to whom Psalm 110 is referring; that He, Jesus, is indeed not only the son of David, but the Lord before whom even the great king David would one day bow. In Jesus they were thus face to face with the King who would one day rule at God’s right hand!

What Jesus’ disciples made of His words at that time we do not know. But we do know that after Jesus was raised to life and had ascended to heaven, they fully understood that Jesus was indeed God’s great King, the Lord who would indeed rule at God’s right hand. This is what Peter taught, quoting and explaining Psalm 110:1, in his famous sermon preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:29-36). This is what lies behind Paul’s words in Romans 1:1-4 where he refers to Jesus both as the son of David and the Son of God and therefore as Jesus Christ our Lord! And this is precisely what generations of Christians have affirmed whenever they say the words of the Apostles’ Creed, affirming that they believe in Jesus Christ who not only “was crucified, died and was buried” but who also “rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” Strikingly the Creed then goes on to declare that this Jesus will return from His place at God’s right hand in the heavens to “judge both the living and the dead”. This is the early church’s recognition that the time will come when, in fulfilment of Psalm 110:1, Jesus’ enemies will indeed be made a footstool for His feet and thus be brought into submission under His everlasting rule.

Until that time Jesus, the King at God’s right hand continues to rule in the heavens with all the authority of God Himself. And, as the rest of Psalm 110 makes clear, that rule and authority is seen in a most remarkable way, namely through the fellowship of willing volunteers who are made holy and who serve within His army for the extension of His rule (Psalm 110:2-3). How these volunteers can indeed be holy is not discussed in full but it is surely related to the fact that the One who is their King is also a priest appointed by God’s oath and according to the “order of Melchizedek”. It is thus through both His priestly work and His kingly authority that this King rules the world. And it is this very fact that lies behind Jesus’ final words in the gospel of Matthew. Having gone to the cross and risen as victorious over sin and death, Jesus about to ascend to God ‘s right hand, tells His disciples, the first of the willing volunteers, that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him” and that they are thus to extend His kingdom by “making disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-19). Here then is the final application of Psalm 110 to the person of Jesus, and the marching orders for every Christian who by the grace of this King Priest has become a willing volunteer in service of His kingdom.