Imagine one of those gaudy balloons you have for someone’s party. Straight out of the packet you can see writing on it but you can’t make it out. You guess you can see the word ‘40’. So it’s either for a birthday or a wedding anniversary. You take a deep breath and blow into it. Yes, it’s definitely a ‘40’ but the words are still obscure. Another blow and you can see that it says ‘congratulations’ above it. But it’s only after four or five puffs that you finally see it says “CONGRATULATIONS! You are 40!”. And after a few more deep breaths the number ‘40’ is huge and looming and ready to thoroughly embarrass its recipient.
Sometimes ideas in the bible grow like the words on a balloon. The meaning of a verse changes and develops over time. The full meaning was always there, but its only as the story grows that you are able to make it out.
[Psalm 110:1] starts off as a very basic proclamation of blessing for the King of Israel. It’s basically a ‘God Save the Queen’ anthem from the high-days of the Jewish Monarchy. It announces the LORD’s blessing over the King (by saying that he sits at God’s right hand) and it describes how the LORD’s favour ensures that this King will be victorious in battle, and all his enemies will fall beneath his feet. “Send him victorious, happy and glorious, etc.”
There is a seed of messiah in there quite clearly. It is predicting a larger than life king. It is looking forward to a day of power or a day of wrath (Ps110:3,5), a specific moment when God will ensure a lasting triumph. Something that hasn’t happened yet. And every time they sang this song for their current king, they recognised that they were still waiting for that special one to come. They were waiting for a king, for a son of David, whose throne would last forever and whose rule would be characterised by His special relationship to the LORD. (see 2 Sam 7:13-14)
And kings would come and go, and none of them matched up to David, and none of them could fill the shoes of this Psalm. It was a puzzle. The words were all there, but just too small to make sense of them.
And then Jesus came, and the balloon got bigger. The jews then still thought they were looking for a king; a man in a palace with a crown. (remember the Wise Men - [Matt 2:2]) but as Jesus developed the concept of what a messiah could and should be, some of them began to wonder: maybe this is the one? Jesus didn’t have a crown but he was always talking about restoring the Kingdom. And when he spoke about Psalm 110 he made it clear that we weren’t looking for just a ‘son of David’, but we were looking for a messiah who would be greater than David, Who even David would refer to as Lord. Jesus took the Psalm 110 Messiah concept and expanded on it. He changed it and made it point to himself. [matt22:45]
And when Jesus died and rose again (on His day of power) his disciples offered themselves to him (Ps110:3), convinced that he was the promised messiah. He was the one that Psalm 110 was pointing towards.
But even then the meaning would keep on growing. The words got bigger.
Peter used Psalm 110 when he preaches to the crowds at Pentecost (Acts 2). And this time he takes Jesus’ interpretation and stretches it further. Since King David called the Christ his superior, it must mean that the risen and ascended Jesus has become not only our Christ but also our Lord [Acts 2:36]. The shift here is that Jesus is no longer a King, he is now Lord. He is not King of the Jews (Βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων) coming to restore Jerusalem, he is now Lord (Κύριον) and the scope of his reign stretches right across the empire. The Son of David that people looked for in Psalm 110 has now grown bigger than anyone could have imagined.
And it doesn’t stop there. The message of Jesus being LORD floods into the rest of the roman empire. Within a hundred years there were churches all over the mediterranean. People who had no Jewish knowledge of a ‘Messiah’, were worshipping Jesus as Lord. People who did not know the Psalms, who didn’t know or care who King David was - had found their freedom and salvation through the living and risen Lord Jesus. And the early leaders of the church, like Paul, had to reflect on this and think deeply about what it meant. The reign of the Lord Jesus was stretching over every political/social/geographical boundary imaginable. And so Paul takes it to it’s natural conclusion. The Messianic core of Psalm 110 now becomes universal and eternal:
...according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Do you see the use of Psalm 110 imagery here, and the way Paul stretches it as far as it can go? Jesus is at the Father’s right hand in the heavenly places, ‘above all…’. He is over everything. And also, all things are now under his feet. All the enemies of God, all things that might have hindered God’s plan of restoration for His people.
These grand statements of Paul are greater than any of the first users of Psalm 110 would have imagined. And yet, as the church grappled with the person of Jesus, they kept realising that his sovereignty and his Messianic destiny was always bigger than they first thought.
The balloon just keeps getting bigger.