The Triumph of David's Greater Son
by Dr. David L. Cooper
The 110th Psalm is in many respects the most important of all the Psalms and is, together with Isaiah 53, the highest mountain peak of the Old Testament revelation of God. It is built upon Genesis 14. In order that the reader may appreciate more fully its importance, I will weave into the exposition of it a conversation which I had with the president of an orthodox synagogue.
While I was at the University of Chicago Divinity School, we did special exegetical work in the 110th Psalm. When we reached verse 3, the professor threw the book on the table and said, “Well, if you can make any sense out of this you have more sense than I have!" Now I am glad to say that I can make some sense out of this Psalm, and I believe that by God's grace I have more sense than he.
The conversation to which I refer was in the home of a dear old man (we shall refer to as 'Mr. Rabin' which is not his real name) of about seventy two years, the president of a synagogue, whom my wife and I went to visit. After we had exchanged greetings, our friend said, “Let us look into 'Torah' (the Hebrew name for the five books of Moses). So he brought out his Torah while I opened my Hebrew Bible, and we began to study.
“Let us turn to the 110th Psalm," I suggested and he readily assented. After requesting him to read verse 1 in Hebrew which he did, I asked, “What does that mean, Mr. Rabin?"
“Why, this is a song of David," he began.
“What does the verse say?"
“God said unto my God."
“Then there must be two Gods," I replied. “Otherwise what can it mean?"
The president looked puzzled and said slowly but — but, “I don't understand that."
“Mr. Rabin, do you believe that Psalm 110 is God's Word?" I asked.
“Yes I do," he responded promptly.
“Do you believe that it is God's Word in the sense that the Torah is the Word of God?"
“I certainly do," he replied.
It was evident that he had a correct understanding of the Psalm's inspired character. “Well, then, let us see what God said to David's God."
“I do not understand that," the old man said again. “God said unto my God, Let me see it in Yiddish." I handed him a Yiddish Bible and he read, “'The Lord said unto my Lord.' I don't understand it. I do not see how that can be," he added.
“You told me, Mr. Rabin, that you believed this Psalm to be God's Word," I reminded him. “We may not be able to understand everything about the Scriptures, but we can and should take it at plain statements. You have read this passage in both Hebrew and Yiddish: 'God said unto my God.' So much for that. “Now in grammar we say that the speaker is the first person, the one to whom he is speaking is the second person, and the one spoken of is the third person. Since it is God Almighty who is speaking to David's God, let us say for convenience that God Number 1 spoke to God Number 2." My friend nodded agreement and I continued, “Now what did God Number 1 say to God Number 2?"
“He said, 'Sit thou at my right hand.' "
“Well, where is God Number 1?" I asked.”
“In 'himmel' (heaven).”
“Then God Number 1 invited God Number 2 to sit at His right hand in heaven.”
“But where is God Number 2?" he asked. "Is He in heaven?"
“Let us look to the text: 'Until I make thine enemies thy footstool.' "
“Oh," said my friend, "then God Number 2 has enemies."
“According to this verse He has," I replied.
“Who are these enemies?" he queried.
“Well, let us see," I answered. "Could a person be an enemy of one whom he had never met? You told me today that you really loved me, Mr. Rabin, and were glad to see me. But did you love me five years ago?"
“Because I had never met you."
“Could you have hated me five years ago?"
“No. I could neither love nor hate you before I had met you."
“Then to say that God Number 2 is loved or hated would imply He has met certain ones who have become His friends or enemies."
“That seems to be correct," the old gentleman replied. "Who are these enemies of God Number 2?"
“Look at the next verse," I answered. 'The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.'
“Now Mr. Rabin, do you know who those enemies are?"
“Oh!" he exclaimed, looking around at Mrs. Rabin ...and at my wife. "Can it be the Jews in Jerusalem?"
“What do you think about it?"
“It must be from the text," he said slowly.
“The Jews in Jerusalem become the enemies of God Number 2. Now God Number 1 tells God Number 2, who is in Jerusalem, to leave the place of His enemies and ascend to His right hand in heaven, to take His seat there and to remain until He, God Number 1, puts these Jews, Messiah's enemies, under His feet."
“I see that but I do not understand it," said my Friend.
“Let us read on a little farther. 'Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.' Who are these people? They are Messiah's people. They offer themselves willingly in the day of His power. They do not offer themselves willingly when He first comes to Jerusalem. But now they offer themselves willing. Does not this statement mean that the Jewish people become ardent and enthusiastic supporters when He returns in the day of His power, literally, in the day of the marshaling of His forces? So there is coming a time when Messiah is to return and to marshal all His forces. Then the Jewish people become ardent supporters, rally around His cause, and are willing to do everything He desires. There is nothing they withhold from Him."
My friend and I continued to follow the text. “'In the beauty of holiness,' " we read. “In the law of Moses, Mr. Rabin,” I told my friend, “occurs this same expression, which is the ordinary word referring to the priestly garments worn on festive occasions. It is here translated 'the beauty of holiness.' This prediction means that all of restored Israel will become a nation of priests and will wear garments such as the priests wore anciently. Thus will be fulfilled the promise of God, 'If ye will obey my voice indeed ... ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.' At the time here foretold by the psalmist, Israel will hearken to the voice of God, obey His commands, and become a nation of priests.”
“Now, Mr. Rabin, let us look at the next verse: 'Out of the womb of the morning thou hast the dew of thy youth.' In this statement we have two figures of speech blended: 'Out of the womb of the morning,' being the first, and 'the dew of thy youth,' the second. This morning, the opening of the perfect day which immediately follows the time of Jacob's trouble, is represented as the mother of those Jews who turn to the Lord with all their hearts. The second figure emphasizes the great multitude of them. 'Thou hast the dew of thy youthful ones,' is what the Hebrew literally says. In this statement restored, converted Israel is represented by the dewdrops on the grass. When I was a boy and used to drive the cows to pasture in the early morning, I loved to watch the dew sparkle in the sunshine. We associate dew with the idea of youth, vigor, vitality hope, and the like. In order to express the conversion of all Israel to her long rejected Messiah the writer uses these two figures of a nation newly born and of an innumerable multitude of dewdrops. My friend had been listening intently, and as I paused he exclaimed with surprise and delight over the exposition.
“Since all Israel is to be a nation of priests, Mr. Rabin, I continued, “it is fitting and proper that their King, their Messiah, should likewise be a priest. Therefore, in verse 4 the statement is made that God swore with an oath to King Messiah that He should be a priest forever, not after the order of the Levitical priesthood, but after the order of Melchizidek. Now Melchizedek, according to Genesis 14, was King of Jerusalem. His name means 'king of righteousness.' God had a kingdom there in Palestine in the days of Abraham with Melchizidek as its king and priest. In his kingdom certain laws obtained. Abraham's father was an idolater who lived in Chaldea, and God did not wish Abraham to remain there. So God called him from his home and put him in association with this king-priest in order that he might become what God wanted him to be. King Messiah, Israel's future King, is to come back and to establish God's kingdom, a reign of righteousness here upon the earth. He will lead back into fellowship with God all those Jews who accept Him, at which time the glory of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” My venerable Jewish friend was amazed at the depth of truth embedded in these few portions of Scripture. He did not raise a single objection to my explanations.
In verse 5 we see that the Messiah and God have exchanged places. In verse 1 the Lord is on the throne in heaven and Messiah takes His seat at the right hand of God. But when Messiah comes as pictured in verse 5, He is in the limelight, so to speak, and God number 1 is at His right hand. When Messiah comes he strikes through his enemies, the kings of the earth. The word translated 'strike' or 'shall strike' is a very strong one in Hebrew, מחץ which means to deal a crushing blow. Messiah is wrathful because of the sinful condition of the world and the opposition of these kings, as we learn from Psalm 2. Therefore He slays these hostile rulers, and with them all who are unalterably opposed to Him, after he becomes judge of the nations. We have here the regular expression found in the records of the other Semitic nations. He shall fill the places with the dead bodies. The great prophecy which follows, He shall strike through the head in many countries, is literally 'He shall strike through the headman over a vast territory.' According to other Scriptures, this headman over a vast territory is to be a wicked atheist, an anti-Semite and the coming prince who is to gain the ascendancy over all the nations. But the time is coming when King Messiah in power and glory will come and take over the government of the world for His dominion.
“Now comes the final note of triumph in verse 7. 'He,' that is, King Messiah, 'shall drink of the brook in the way.' This expression is an echo of what we find in the book of judges when the Midianites came into the land of Israel. At that time Gideon was chosen to be judge and deliver. Thirty two thousand responded to his call to be mobilized for battle. But God said, 'I can not give victory to so large a number, Reduce it.' All the fearful and timid were therefore released and the number reduced to 10,000. But God said that the number must be still further reduced. So the men were taken down to the brook to drink, and only those three hundred who lapped the water were chosen. This was a practical test. Those soldiers who were half hearted would prostrate themselves and quench their thirst in a leisurely manner, whereas those whose hearts were in the battle and were determined to press the victory to completion at once would quickly lap up sufficient water to quench their thirst temporarily before rushing on to rout their enemies. King Messiah when he comes to battle in Israel's behalf, will act as did those three hundred warriors. He will allow nothing to distract Him, but will press the battle until he becomes the victorious conqueror of the world. His final triumph is aptly expressed in the words 'He will lift up His head.'
As I concluded the exposition of this wonderful Psalm my friend asked earnestly, “Now tell me truly, who is the King?"
“Who do you think He is?" I questioned in reply.
“I think He is Jesus," the old man answered.
Yes I said softly.
I had another conversation with him a short time afterward. A few months later he passed away very suddenly. As soon as I heard the news I went to his home. When I met his niece, she said, “I want to tell you something unusual came into Uncle's life during the last two months. He was of a nature that would worry and become upset at things which did not please him. But he became a different man during the last two months of his life. I never saw such a peaceful expression. I can not understand it."
But I understood. The dear old man had learned the lesson of Psalm 110 and had taken the truth into the depths of his heart. He had accepted Jesus as his Messiah and Saviour and with Him had entered into peace and joy.