New Testament Usage of Psalm 110 – 118


The Grand Messianic Concerto, that’s what I’m calling it for now. In my last post I established what I feel is good evidence to see all nine chapters as one opus with several divisions within it. Now I’m operating on that premise. What is the theme of this concerto?

A good way to open our study would be to put on our New Testament goggles and see how the apostles quoted these psalms. Once we see how Jesus, the apostles, and the average Israelite saw this set of psalms, I believe it will open our eyes to some of the deeper truths contained within. I will cover every direct quotation in the New Testament of the psalms under question. I will begin in Psalm 110 and move to the end of Psalm 118. So we must begin with Psalm 110:1. I will lump Matthew 22:41-46, Mark 12:35-37, and Luke 20:41-44 as one quotation recorded three times. Here is Matthew’s version of the event:

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?" They said to Him, "The Son of David." 43 He said to them, "How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: 44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool" ‘? 45 "If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?" 46 And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.

Of note is the fact that Jesus applies Psalm 110:1 to the Messiah. Since the Pharisees had no answer, and since the common people received this saying gladly, it seems that both groups agreed with the basic premise that Psalm 110:1 is Messianic. One fact that is fairly apparent is that Jesus was bringing out the truth that the Messiah would be David’s Lord. This shattered many Pharisees’ limited view of Messiah who put Him into this little box as the Son of David. But many never take the next step in what Jesus was claiming about David’s view of the Messiah. If David calls the Messiah "Lord", then David knew at the time of writing this psalm that the Messiah would one day be his Lord, or was His Lord already. This leads directly into the next quotation from Acts 2:34-35, which quotes the exact same verse.

Peter is full of the Holy Spirit as he preaches to the children of Israel that the identity of Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. After Peter quotes Psalm 16 in Acts 2:25-28, he launches into an insightful little discourse about David. Peter states that David was a prophet and knew in advance that God would bring forth a Messiah out of the fruit of his loins to sit on his throne. Further, since David knew of this, he wrote of Messiah’s resurrection in Psalm 16. Peter’s earlier point was that David could not have been writing of himself since he was still dead and buried. This point of view serves as a springboard into the next thought concerning Messiah’s ascension into heaven. We are eyewitnesses (says Peter) of Messiah’s resurrection just as David wrote of in Psalm 16, and we are also eyewitnesses of His ascension as David wrote of in Psalm 110. Peter also points out that they (those to whom he is preaching) are eyewitnesses of the results of Messiah’s ascension. This pouring out of the Holy Spirit that you see is a direct result of Messiah’s ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.

Now with premise #1– David knew that He was writing of the Messiah, and with premise #2– David never ascended into the heavens, brings us to our conclusion that David knew that Messiah would ascend into the heavens and wrote about this ascension in Psalm 110:1. It is the voice of Yahweh (I AM) calling to David’s Lord (the Messiah) to ascend into heaven until the time comes to make all Messiah’s enemies a footstool. It’s sort of like, "Come on up here and sit at my right hand in heaven until the appointed time." Because Jesus of Nazareth fulfills Psalm 110:1, He must be Messiah. Since the common people believed Psalm 110:1 applied to Messiah, this convicts them to repent.

Psalm 110:1 is quoted one other time in Hebrews 1:13 which leads us to some brief conclusions. The Son of God has a position above all angels. Since Messiah is the express image of God’s person, He is the only One qualified to sit at the right hand of God, Hebrews 1:3. God has never given any angel a place in heaven like this. But He has given that position to Jesus the Son of God, as it is written in Psalm 110:1. So the writer to the Hebrews believed that this verse referred to none other than Jesus.

The Lord has sworn

And will not relent,

"You are a priest forever

According to the order of Melchizedek."

Psalm 110:4 is quoted three times but inferred to in other places. We will just look at the three direct quotes. In Hebrews 5:5-6 the writer to the Hebrews is establishing that Jesus did not take this position of High Priest by His own authority, but God appointed Him, as it is written in Psalm 110:4, "You are a priest forever…" Then just after that in verse 10 the writer reiterates this by using the phrase "called by God as High Priest". In Hebrews 7:15-17, the word "forever" is being emphasized. Since He is a priest forever, as it is written in Psalm 110:4, His priesthood is superior to the priesthood of Aaron. The final point in Hebrews 7:20-22 shows that God took an oath "The LORD has sworn" to proclaim Messiah Jesus to have this title. Other priests became priests without an oath, but here is God Himself taking an oath in appointing Him to this position.

He has dispersed abroad,

He has given to the poor;

His righteousness endures forever;

His horn will be exalted with honor.

For the longest time, I wondered how in the world Psalm 112:9 wound up being quoted in II Corinthians 9:9. If we follow the pattern of the psalms which precede Psalm 112, we see a progression. Psalm 110 focuses on the Messiah, briefly mentioning "Your people". Psalm 111 explains how God treats His covenant people. Then in Psalm 112 we have the individual characteristics of one who is included in the covenant people of God. Psalm 112 is sort of like a check list for those who are blessed by God. They fear the LORD, delight in His commandments, their offspring will be mighty, they will possess wealth, and so on. When we get down to verse 9 we see that these people "disperse" as they give to the poor and their righteousness remains forever. So Psalm 112:9 is talking about how someone who belongs to God treats those who have less than they do, as they are being blessed with more. They share their material possessions with those who don’t have as much.

II Corinthians 8-9 contain Paul’s official announcement to the Corinthians that he is coming to receive the offering that they have collected for the poor saints at Jerusalem, Romans 15:25-27. Paul has appealed to them to be generous as Jerusalem was going through economic hardship, especially the Christians. The scriptures in II Corinthians 9 concerning giving such as "He which sows sparingly shall reap sparingly, and he which sows bountifully shall reap bountifully", also, "God loves a cheerful giver", and another, "God is able to make all grace abound toward you", all these scriptures are about giving to the poor. Then after Paul encourages them to give to those less fortunate, he quotes Psalm 112:9. Upon reading this verse only from II Corinthians 9:9, one may get the impression that Paul thought that God was the one doing the dispersing and giving to the poor, but this only takes into consideration the previous verse and not the entire context. It was the Corinthian believers who were being encouraged to give to the poor.

In quoting from Psalm 112:9, Paul was placing the Corinthians believers in the context of encouraging them to have the characteristics of God’s covenant people. In essence Paul was saying, "Remember what has been written about what type of people belong to God. It is the one who gives to the poor when they have an abundance. These are the people whose righteousness remains forever." Then II Corinthians 9:10 picks up the thought of God adding His blessing to those who are doing the giving in multiplying the gift they have given or the seed that they have sown.

Forgive me for the following tirade if it offends you. So many preachers are taking these verses out of context. They will tell you to send them money to sow a seed. They will tell you that God loves it when you put money in the offering plate "at church" with a cheerful heart. These verses in their original context are about giving to those who are less fortunate within the body of Christ. The principle may apply to other types of giving, but the main point is that God wants us to take care of each other. The man or woman who is to be a part of God’s people is to take care of the poor, specifically, those within the church. Paul was challenging the Corinthian believers to prove their sincerity to Christ by giving to poor saints that they had never met and probably never would meet. How many of you reading my blog are involved in meeting the needs of those less fortunate than yourself? Or are you giving your money to your church which in turn is spending it on different building projects? If you are in a position to devote even a small portion of your income to the poor, I would encourage you to do something. In today’s economy, the poor are right in your neighborhood. This may just prompt me to start writing on social distinctions again.

I believed, therefore I spoke, "I am greatly afflicted."

I don’t believe that the quotation of Psalm 116:10 in II Corinthians 4:13 will do us much good in our study of eschatology. Psalm 116 is Messianic but focuses on a voice going through the pains of death. More prominently displayed is the salvation that the LORD provides to this One whose soul is delivered from death. While the term "gates of death/grave" is not specifically used here in this psalm, in Isaiah 38:10 the term "land of the living" is contrasted with the term "gates of the grave". So the victory of this One over death to walk in the land of the living (116:9) can certainly be seen as a victory from beyond the gates of death (or gates of hell). Somehow in this victory speech over death, this Messianic voice blurts out, "I believed therefore I spoke."

There is an underlying principle that when one really believes something, it doesn’t just remain as a thought within their head; they blurt it out. This Messianic voice truly believed certain things, so He declared them publicly. This is the way in which Paul uses this OT quote. Since he truly believes that Jesus died and rose again, he makes no apologies for talking about it. Paul is saying that he must blurt it out.

We could go a bit further and see the victory over death in Psalm 116 as perhaps being alluded to in II Corinthians 4:11-14. Paul is certainly proclaiming victory over death by being identified with the death of the Lord Jesus. He also is proclaiming the future resurrection of our own bodies because Jesus has already been resurrected. But this does little to advance any type of eschatology beyond what we already know.

Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!

Psalm 117:1 is quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 15:11 in the midst of a passage devoted to showing that Gentile Christians in the church are instructed to glorify God right alongside the nation of Israel. In each previous passage we have examined, we see that the nation of Israel is God’s focus, but God intends to open up the door for all Gentiles to give Him praise. Psalm 18:49 and Deuteronomy 32:43 both demonstrated this truth. Psalm 117:1 will demonstrate it after we examine Psalm 110-118 in its entirety. Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 11:10 will prove the exact same conclusion.

Have you never read in the Scriptures:

The stone which the builders rejected

Has become the chief cornerstone.

This was the Lord’s doing;

It is marvelous in our eyes.

Here is where it gets interesting. Psalm 118:22-23 has a most distinct place in our NT theology and eschatology. Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10-11, and Luke 20:17 record Jesus quoting this psalm after a parable. Jesus intimates that the heir of the vineyard shows up but is rejected and killed. Then He quotes the Grand Messianic Concerto to show that as He is being rejected and killed, it is fulfilling the Messianic prophecies. Jesus wording is quite pointed, "Haven’t you read the scriptures?" It’s almost as if Jesus is taunting them with His divine knowledge as He displays their lack of knowledge. "It’s right there in the scripture that you will reject the Messiah and kill Him, just like you are going to do to Me."

After Pentecost, Peter has quite grasped the meaning of this scripture in Acts 4:10-12. Peter first proclaims that it is by the power of Jesus the Messiah, crucified and raised from the dead, that the miracle has been done. He quotes Psalm 118:22 to show that the current rejection of Jesus is fulfilling the scriptures which prophesied the rejection of the Messiah. This makes Peter’s statement that there is salvation in no other name than in the name of this rejected Messiah to be a truth clearly rooted in Old Testament scripture. Peter likes this scripture so much he fits it into his first epistle in I Peter 2:7 just after quoting Isaiah 28:16. Paul also references the language of chief cornerstone in Ephesians 2:20. To not understand the rejection of Messiah as prophesied by the Old Testament scriptures is to miss a fundamental truth which should be evident from our New Testament perspective.

Save now

, I pray, O Lord;

O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.

I must close this post with a reference to this final scripture, Psalm 118:25-26. As Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem riding on the back of the foal of a donkey, the crowds were chanting. They cried out a word that many overlook: Hosanna. The word has a Hebrew origin which means "save now". Here the children of Israel are crying "save now" and "blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD." Both phrases are taken from the above passage. The average person in Israel in the days of Jesus’ ministry believed these verses to be Messianic and were not ashamed to cry them out as Jesus entered Jerusalem. This would explain the Pharisees’ irritation with Jesus in allowing His followers to proclaim these things about Him. Jesus’ response that if they were silent, that the rocks would cry these very words, show that it was ordained that He would fulfill these verses.

From our perspective, we can point out the crowds misunderstanding quite easily. Triumph and prosperity they understood as being Messianic principles. But they couldn’t fathom rejection and death as being Messianic principles. Even today, the prosperity gospel cannot fathom rejection and death as being necessary principles for following the Messiah. Hopefully this post will serve as a launch into a fuller disclosure of what this Grand Messianic Concerto is really all about. It is an opus with an overarching story type narration with many themes woven into it. Preliminarily, I will say it is about Messiah, and Messiah’s people.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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2 Responses to New Testament Usage of Psalm 110 – 118

  1. Pingback: Links for the Series on Prophetic Apocalypse in the Psalms | The Orange Mailman

  2. Pingback: The Salvation of the Gentiles in Romans 15:8-12 | The Orange Mailman

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