The Table Podcast

Jesus and the Royal Psalms

In this episode, Mikel Del Rosario, Darrell Bock, and Gordon Johnston discuss the Royal Psalms in the Old Testament and their connection to Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

Timecodes
00:36
Bock and Johnston are introduced
1:19
The importance of 2 Samuel 7 for understanding the Royal Psalms
4:03
What are the Royal Psalms?
9:06
How did Jews understand the Royal Psalms after the exile?
13:11
How does the New Testament connect Psalm 2 to Jesus?
20:31
What is the original context for Psalm 110?
27:35
How did Jews understand Psalm 110 after the end of the royal line?
31:48
How did Jesus use Psalm 110?
40:36
How did the early church use Psalm 110?
Resources Jesus the Messiah by Bateman IV, Bock, and Johnston
Transcript
Mikel Del Rosario
Welcome to The Table, where we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Mikel Del Rosario, Cultural Engagement Manager here at the Hendricks Center. And our topic for today is Jesus and the royal psalms. Jesus and the royal psalms. We’re gonna be talking about messianic ideas in a couple of psalms, and highlighting one way that we’ve had this conversation here on campus. I have two guests in the studio with me today. First guest is Dr. Darrell Bock, Executive Director of Cultural Engagement and Senior Research Professor of the New Testament here at DTS. Welcome, Darrell.
Darrell Bock
My pleasure to be here.
Mikel Del Rosario
So good to have you. And the second guest is Dr. Gordon Johnston, who is the Professor of Old Testament here at DTS. Thanks for being on the show.
Gordon Johnston
Happy to be here.
Mikel Del Rosario
You guys both authored a book called Jesus the Messiah that in part dealt our topic today. So I’m real excited to have you guys on the show and help us walk through some of these ideas, messianic ideas in the psalms.

But, Gordon, we were talking yesterday about this, the whole idea of the royal psalms, and you said that there’s a really important text that we need to start with as we approach the royal psalms, and that’s a text in 2 Samuel.

Gordon Johnston
2 Samuel 7, Nathan’s oracle.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. So I wanted to just read a short portion of that real quick and have you help us work through what we need to know before we move into a discussion of the royal psalms. So, this is 2 Samuel, verse 12-16. And Nathan here, the prophet, is talking to David. And he’s telling him what God told him to say. And here’s what he says.

“When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, on of your own sons to succeed you. And I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for my name, and I will make his dynasty permanent. I will become his father, and he will become my son. When he sins, I will correct him with the rod of men, and with wounds inflicted by human beings. But my loyal love will not be removed from him, as I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will stand before me permanently. Your dynasty will be permanent.”

So Gordon, help us understand what this has to do with the royal psalms, and why we need this text in the back of our minds as we approach the psalms.

Gordon Johnston
Sure. So the royal psalms we’re gonna look at today … and there’s a number of them … but the two we’re gonna look at are Psalm 2 and Psalm 110. And both of those two psalms reflect the theology, the themes that are in Nathan’s oracle. First of all, Yahweh had promised that David, that he would establish this dynasty for David. David wanted to build a temple for Yahweh, but Yahweh said, “It’s not for you to build a temple, but I’m gonna raise up your son,” who turns out to be Solomon who built the temple, “I’m gonna establish … David, I’m gonna establish your throne, so you can successfully pass this on to your son. I’ll establish his throne. He’ll be the one that’s gonna build the temple.” And then Yahweh promises that he’s gonna have a father/son relationship, not only with David, but with Solomon and father/son relationship in the sense that he’s gonna correct him, like a good father does to make sure that David’s son is faithful to him, but also that his love is gonna be irrevocable. And so he’s gonna establish this dynasty that’s gonna be ongoing.

And so both of those themes, as far as this sonship, Davidic sonship, and then David’s son taking the throne, and Yahweh putting upon the throne, and having this father/son relationship for this irrevocable kingdom. And ultimately that lays the foundation for the messianic kingdom, and the messianic king, one day to come.

Mikel Del Rosario
Okay. So with that in mind, as we turn to the royal psalms, let me ask what, Darrell, what royal psalms in general are. We have a number of psalms called the royal psalms, including the ones we’ll talk about today, Psalm 2 and Psalm 110. But help us understand what a royal psalm, in general, is.
Darrell L. Bock
A royal psalm is a psalm about royalty. [Laughter]
Mikel Del Rosario
That makes sense.
Darrell Bock
Let’s make this as difficult as we can. Okay. So it’s a psalm about the king.
Mikel Del Rosario
Okay. And so this has to do with the Davidic king. Then, when we get to Psalm 2, how is that specifically used in terms of the royal coronation, and things like that?
Gordon Johnston
Right. So Psalm 2, it starts off where Yahweh says, “I’ve installed my king on Zion.” He proclaims, “You’re my son. Today I become your father.” And he says, “Ask of me, and I’ll make the nations your inheritance, the end of the earth your land and possessions.” So you’ve got Yahweh installing the Davidic king upon the throne. He refers to him as his mashiach, his anointed one, so he’s been anointed. And then there’s this oracle in which he proclaims that he’s got the father/son relationship.

Now the background, there’s an important background to all this, and it would be helpful for us to get to. First, in I Kings, chapter 1, David’s on his death bed. This is where he’s old, he’s dying. And Adonijah, another son, wants to be king. And he’s rallied supporters behind him, including Abiathar the priest, Joab the general, and he’s got about 50 military behind him, and he’s trying to usurp the throne so that it won’t come to Solomon. Bathsheba gets word of this and Zadok the priest gets word of this, and they come into David and they tell David that Adonijah, this upstart son, has gone down to the En-rogel, the spring outside of Jerusalem, south of town, to anoint Adonijah. And Solomon’s life would be on the line. Bathsheba would be at risk for this. And so David tells Zadok, a faithful priest, Nathan, a faithful prophet, to go take Solomon, and not take him to En-rogel, the spring of En-rogel, but a nearer spring, Gihon spring, and there anoint Solomon as king, mashiach, pour the anointing oil on him, and then take him up to the palace and put him on the throne and proclaim him to be king.

So you have both a prophet and priest involved in the anointing and the proclamation. And that’s the background of Psalm 2, and the background of Psalm 110, likely the background of Psalm 72. All three of these psalms are written to legitimatize Solomon’s enthronement, Solomon’s rule. And they would have been reused for every Davidic king from that point on. And then serving as a foundational ultimately to lay for messianic, eschatological king. So this is the background.

It’s interesting, even Psalm 2 begins by asking why are the enemies, the peoples, the rebels devising this vain thing? We typically read that, it sounds like hostile gentile nations. But in this case it may have been people within Israel beginning to rebel, but foreshadowing the fact that the people as a whole are gonna be opposed.

And so, and there Yahweh proclaims that he’s the one that’s putting his son, Solomon’s son on the throne. “I’m the one that’s installing him. He’s my anointed one. I’ve got a father/son relationship with him, and I’m gonna establish his reign.” And so the father/son imagery in Psalm 2 is not directly messianic. It does have … Darrell’s gonna explain how it gets teased out. So we often read Psalm 2 where it says, “You’re my son. Today I’ve begotten you.” And sometimes we assume that that’s directly messianic.

Darrell Bock
Son of God.
Mikel Del Rosario
Son of God.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Gordon Johnston
And then the question is, well, it says today I’ve begotten you, so how could the second person of the trinity be eternal if the Father, the first person the trinity gave birth to him at some point. But likely that’s really just picking up on that 2 Samuel 7, that I’m gonna be a father to him, he’ll be a son to me. So when did Solomon become the Davidic son? That was when he became the Davidic king.
Mikel Del Rosario
You mentioned a couple lines. Let me go ahead and read just that section that you were talking about, Psalm 2:6-8. It says, “I myself have installed my king on Zion, my holy hill. The king says I will announce the Lord’s decree. He said to me, you are my son. This very day I have become your father. Ask me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the ends of the earth as your personal property.” And so you’re saying this is not a literal begetting.
Gordon Johnston
Right. It’s metaphorical in the same way that in 2 Samuel 7 where God says to David, “Your son that I’m gonna put upon your throne, David, I’ll be like a father to him. He’ll be like a son to me.” And even 2 Samuel 7, “When he sins, I’ll correct him.” So clearly this is not the divine son.
Mikel Del Rosario
So this was written in the pre-exilic period. How did people begin to interpret this after there was no monarchy?
Gordon Johnston
So right. This is interesting. So we have … there was likely three psalms that were associated that David wrote on the occasion of Solomon’s coronation. Psalm 2, Psalm 110 we’ll get to, and then likely Psalm 72, celebrating Solomon’s coronation. These three psalms likely were kind of in a packet by themselves together. And then, when the Psalter itself began to be put together, Psalm 2 was included in what we call Book One, which is Psalms 1 to 42. Book Two is Psalms 42 to 72. And Psalm 72 is another Davidic psalm, is at the end of that one. Both of those would be early hymn books, if you will. Book One and Book Two, Psalm 1 to 42, and 43 to 72 were pre-exilic hymn books.

There was lots of psalms that had been written. Moses had written a psalm, early, early, early. But these were the ones that were used on a regular basis for the worship of the people of God. Then the people went into exile. And some of the pre-exilic psalms continued to be used among the exiles. And so we actually have Book Three and Book Four of the Psalter. Psalm 73 through 89, and Psalm 90 through 106 were likely the hymn books of the exiles. They contain both pre-exilic psalms that had been cherished, as well as some exilic psalms that are lamenting the fact that we’re in exile now. That’s why we know it’s an exilic, ’cause there’s we’re in exile. And so they were hoping and praying for God to restore them.

Then we have Book Five, which is Psalm 107 through 150. And that’s a post-exilic collection. We know that because it opens with, praise God, he brought us back from exile. It includes pre-exilic psalms that had been loved, exilic psalms, as well as post-exilic psalms. Now here’s the interesting thing. Although Psalm 2 and Psalm 72, what we call Psalm 2, 72, and Psalm 110, were originally pre-exilic in composition, written by David, Psalm 110, when it became part of this hymn book of the post-exilic community, it was originally psalm written time of David celebrating Solomon’s coronation. And it would have been reused every time a Davidic king came to the throne. But what in the world, why is it part of the hymn book of the post-exilic community when they’re back in the land, and they’ve got a temple and a priest, but they don’t have a king, and they don’t have a palace?

So why is Psalm 110 being used by the exiles as part of their hymn book? Likely it was giving voice to their expectation and hope that God would restore a Davidic king, ’cause a prophet said that one day God’s gonna raise up a new David and put a new David on the throne that we know as Messiah. And they began to read Psalm 110 as giving voice to that expectation that God will restore a Davidic king. And along that line, Psalm 2 would have been reread. Even though it’s in the first hymn book it’s reread, begins to get reread, in terms of pointing toward a future eschatological king.

Mikel Del Rosario
Interesting that I think … correct me if I’m wrong on this … but I think in the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is a Psalm 2 as replacing what we know as Psalm 1.
Gordon Johnston
What we’d say, it was the original … one of the collections. They had several collections of psalms at Qumran. One of them opens with Psalm 2. And then, in the traditional Hebrew canon we have today, Psalm 1 introduces that, because after Jerusalem was destroyed, there’s not a Davidic king on the throne.
Mikel Del Rosario
So that expectation has just continued on through into even to the time of Jesus. And so, Darrell, now let’s think about Jesus, and how he is connected to this. The language of you are my son, sounds an awful lot to me like the transfiguration, the baptism of Jesus. How does the New Testament connect this psalm to Jesus?
Darrell Bock
Well, New Testament connects it at the transfiguration and at the baptism. Baptism is a private experience, primarily between Jesus and God, which John the Baptist is a witness to. John’s gospel tells us that. Many people will see paintings of this and think, “Oh, everybody experienced this at the same time. The crowd saw it.” But John the Baptist doesn’t need to be a witness to it if the people present saw it. So, this is a private experience in which God is affirming Jesus. In effect, your ministry’s beginning and it’s beginning as my son. And it’s not informative as much as it is an imprimatur, an endorsement, and an indication that now is the time to begin.

The transfiguration, slightly different experience. This is for the disciples. This is, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased,” or, “whom I have chosen,” depending on whether you’re listening to Matthew, Mark, or Luke. And then it goes on, “Listen to him.” They’re told, through the language of Deuteronomy 18, Jesus, a prophet like Moses, a leader, deliverer prophet, if you will, who they now need to listen to because he’s gonna tell them things they weren’t expecting, like the Messiah’s gonna suffer. And so they need to incorporate that into their understanding of who Jesus is.

I think we also need to appreciate kind of the throne to which Jesus is headed. Now this’ll be clearer when we get to Psalm 110. But I want to read a passage out of the Old Testament most people don’t even know about. It’s very important in this regard. It deals with the anointing of Solomon by Zadok. And it’s I Chronicles 29
23. And it says this, “Solomon sat on the Lord’s throne as king in place of his father David. He was successful, and all Israel was loyal to him.” Kind of a summary and a review of the installation of Solomon as David’s descendant. And the key thing here to note is, is that the throne on which Solomon is sitting, which is on the Earth, is called the Lord’s throne.

The passage that you read from Psalm 2 talks about having authority to the ends of the Earth. Well, how in the world does that happen? Israel is this little bitty country that doesn’t have much going for it, doesn’t have much power, et cetera. So how can we believe that? Well, this is in anticipation of the sovereignty that the son, ultimately The Son, ultimately will have. And in the midst of that, this, what some people think is strictly a heavenly throne … the Lord’s throne is a heavenly throne, and then David’s throne is something else on earth. No, no, no, no, no. That’s not what this text is saying. This text is saying, no, the heavenly throne and the earthly throne, the authority that is wrapped up in this king ultimately is an ultimate authority. That’s where the Davidic dynasty is headed. And that’s what this kingship ultimately represents. And so, when we get to Jesus, all this language that was tied to an earthly king in a little nation of Israel gets filled in and escalated … escalated might be one way to think about it … actually is realized in this total authority that the Son of God has.

One of the things that typology does is it repeats a pattern, but it escalates it, it heightens it. And so there’s more than what you had before. I call it thinking about a passage and the passage goes on steroids. It just amps up a level. And so, so this passage is amped up, and now the Son of God, who is a king, who’s been, in once sense, adopted … loose sense of that term … now is the Son of God, not adopted, not just …

Gordon Johnston
Not metaphorical.
Darrell Bock
Not metaphorical, not merely … not created in any sense, but totally pre-existent and co laboring with the Father from the very beginning. And the New Testament is beginning to push in that direction. As we get these texts we see a glorified Jesus at the transfiguration in which the message is, “This is my son in whom I’ve chosen,” and this authority of being on the Lord’s throne is what this is all about. And the exhortation of Psalm 2, ultimately, which is to kiss the son, to show respect for the sovereignty of the son, is the point, part of the point of this is my son. This is the one I’m working through. Ultimately, if you’re going to deal with what God is doing and what salvation is about, you’re going to have to do it through this son.
Mikel Del Rosario
Interesting. And so we see this messianic expectation, and eschatological hope that’s being pushed through, ever since Psalm 2 was written. And it’s kind of like informing all of this that’s happening with Jesus. Interesting even later on, the rabbis in the Talmud in Sukkah 52, has this connected with the son of David, the Messiah. God will say to him, ask me, I’ll give the nations to you. And so they’re quoting this as well. And so that expectation goes on.
Darrell Bock
The ultimate expectation is is that the righteous will be vindicated through the one whom … through whom the one God is ruling. And that’s what you’re seeing here is that’s a declaration of that’s who this person is. So this is Jesus saying, he’s the one … this is God saying to Jesus he’s the one.
Gordon Johnston
He’s the greater son of David.
Darrell Bock
That’s right. He’s the greater son. He is the Son of God. And I’m doing that voice on purpose, because I want to distinguish between son of God in kind of it’s normal sense, in which it was originally being used, and what it came to mean as the story was unfolding, and as the program of God was becoming progressively revealed, as we move through scripture.

Now I will say this in fairness. Some people think that Psalm 2 and Psalm 110, the passage that we will be talking about, are directly prophetic. They’re just about the son. The hard part of this is is the 2 Samuel background, which shows that sonship is tied to earthly figures who will sin. And so, it’s foundation is that relationship, that royal, regal, relationship. But, of course, what we know is, is that Jesus is unique. And in his uniqueness comes the escalation of the pattern. That’s why I think it’s more likely to be typological than strictly messianic. But having said that, it’s two paths to get to the same landing point. That’s the most important thing to see. And so, although Christians discuss with themselves, “Well, is it directly prophetic, or is it typological?” they’re both landing in the same place.

Gordon Johnston
And it’s prophetic in one way or another.
Darrell Bock
It’s prophetic in one way or another. And the son of God is … and Jesus, Son of God, in the fullest sense of that term. We just talk about which interstate did we take to get there?
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. Well, Psalm 2 is jam packed with all of this expectation, and then you see it just escalating. But let’s talk about Psalm 110 now, Psalm 110, another royal psalm used in coronations. How is 110 used in a different way than Psalm 2 in its original context?
Gordon Johnston
So Psalm 2 is looking at the anointing and the declaration that he’s my son. Psalm 110 is putting him on the throne. So Psalm 110 starts out saying this is a psalm of David. And then David says, “Yahweh said to my Lord,” this is adoni, lower case, not Adonay, upper case. Upper case is in verse 5. So Yahweh said to David’s human lord, the original context, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” So this is where, in the background of 1 Kings 1, where Nathan the prophet, Zadok the priest took Solomon, put him on the throne, just like David said. And when they did that, Yahweh invited the Davidic king, historically, to sit upon the throne. Now it’s called, it says, “Sit at my right hand,” Yahweh says this. David says that this one who’s taking the throne is his adoni, instead of A-D-O-N-I, where God’s is ADONAY, Adonay, vs. adoni.

So one of the questions is, when would … who would David’s adoni, lower case l, who would that be? Well, that would be Solomon, when Solomon became his lord. That’s the very term that’s used, by the way, in I Kings 1, when Bathsheba and Zadok came in and said, “adoni just trying … adoni, my king, David, adoni, just trying to take the throne.” So that’s a term that they actually used address David. So David is saying that Yahweh said to his human lord, Solomon, “Sit at my right hand.”

Now, Darrell talked about the background of the throne a few minutes ago in Chronicles. In 2 Samuel 7, where God says to David, “I’ll establish your throne in his throne, I’ll establish your kingdom in his kingdom,” the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 17, God says, “I’ll establish my throne in my kingdom.” Because the Davidic throne and the Davidic kingdom was God’s throne and God’s kingdom, because the Davidic king was God’s co-regent, and the one through whom he was exercising his rule. The Davidic king was supposed to represent God’s authority, God’s power, call people to obey God. And the Davidic king was ruling on behalf of God, and by God as his co-regent.

So if you can even think of the geography, if you will, my Hebrew Bible, which is bigger, let’s say that this is north and this is south. This is the city of Jerusalem. Yahweh is enthroned in the tabernacle, in the temple, on the high ground at Jerusalem. The palace is on the lower ground, and the hoi polloi are all out here. Yahweh is enthroned here on higher ground, and he’s enthroned in heaven. The ark is the footstool of his feet, okay. And he’s … his throne is facing east. The Davidic palace is on lower ground facing east. Yahweh is the great king sitting upon his throne. The Davidic king would literally, geographically, be at God’s right hand.

Darrell Bock
Even though you’re illustrating it with your left hand. [Laughs]
Gordon Johnston
Well, it’s because my Hebrew Bible is bigger, and it’s actually on higher ground now, and it’s easier for people to conceive of north in this direction. Yeah. I’m in the Kidron Valley right now.
Mikel Del Rosario
And those who are listening have no idea what …
Darrell Bock
Well, just think about it this way. The holy of holies is pointed towards the Mount of Olives.
Mikel Del Rosario
Okay.
Darrell Bock
Okay?
Gordon Johnston
So I’m at the Mount of Olives.
Darrell Bock
That’s right. You’re at the Mount of Olives, and I’m facing towards the Mount of Olives. And the holy of holies is here. And at the right hand is what is called the City of David. So the point is, the geography of Jerusalem illustrates the language of the psalm. “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” So, the picture is … The king doesn’t sit on the throne in the holy of holies, but he does sit on the throne …
Gordon Johnston
In the palace.
Darrell Bock
In the palace. And so …
Gordon Johnston
And he’s the, if you will, the right hand man, the co-regent … and even when the queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon, Solomon had a throne put at his right hand for the queen of Sheba to be an honorary guest there. So it’s this idea of a subordinate. But I interrupted. Go ahead.
Darrell Bock
But an honorary spot. Now there’s another thing going on here that’s counter culture that we shouldn’t miss. And that is, in a patriarchal society, how is it that David would call a descendant his lord? In the normal scheme of things, the honor goes to the ancestor. So this is breaking the normal pattern, which tells you something’s going on.

And, of course, we get to the New Testament, Jesus is gonna raise the same question. How is it that David could call his son … actually it’s gonna be his great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grate, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grate, grate, grate grandson his lord, when in the normal scheme of things the honor would go to the ancestor, and let’s make it even stronger, it would go to the founder of the dynasty. And so this break of pattern is designed to raise a question. In fact, Jesus asked the question of the Jewish leadership when he poses this initially. He doesn’t answer the question, he just poses it. Kind of a think about this a little bit. What’s going on here? And so it’s designed to say, God is doing something. God is at work in the figure that has now been given the authority of being the co-regent of God, or, to use the language of Psalm 2, son of God.

Mikel Del Rosario
That’s quite a riddle, Matthew 22. The Pharisees didn’t know what to say either.
Darrell Bock
They didn’t know what to say.
Mikel Del Rosario
So this is a mystery that’s unraveling.
Darrell Bock
And he’s presenting it as a conundrum initially. And, like I say, he doesn’t … And he isn’t saying … this is important to say … he isn’t saying that the Messiah’s not the son of David. He’s not trying to say that. Why does he call him lord, instead of son? That’s not the point. The point is to say that the lordship idea is the dominant thing that’s going on in this psalm. The recognition of the authority of this figure is the dominant thing that’s going on in this psalm. And then, when we get to how he answers that question when he’s before the Jewish leadership, then there’s a whole ‘nother level of things that he’s doing. But I’ll save that for later on.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, yeah. Well, before we get to the time of Jesus and explore that more fully, help us understand, Gordon, how the messianic expectation came out of that inter-testamental period, and how did that morph?
Gordon Johnston
Oh, this is marvelous. So, historically, Yahweh put Solomon, and every Davidic king upon the physical throne on Earth. So this is the metaphorical. They’re sitting at the metaphorical right hand of God. So, but what happened then was, unfortunately the Davidic kings … Yahweh said, “If you sin I’ll discipline you. I’ll never remove my love.” But unfortunately, the Davidic kings, as time went on, became faithless. And he tore down the dynasty, tore down the throne, sent the people into exile. But he never removed the promise. The promise remained. And so the prophets began to look for, called the people to repentance. If the people will repent, he’ll bring them back to the land. They’ll rebuild the temple, and eventually restore the Davidic throne, and bring about a new David, a greater David.

So when the people came back to the land, they’ve got a temple, but there’s no Davidic king. So this is why it’s so interesting that Psalm 110 is in this post exilic hymn book. It’s interesting, too, by the way, if we read Psalm 107 … 107, 108, 109, and 110. 107 is praising God for bring us back from exile. Psalm 108 and 109, though, are two old Davidic laments, when David had lamented he’d sinned and God had disciplined him. And Psalm 109, David is repenting and asking God to restore him to his good graces. And at the end of Psalm 109, David says, “I know that God stands at my right hand. He protects me.”

So David had sinned. He’d asked for God to restore him. And he’s got confidence that God is gonna restore him and protect him, and he stands at my right hand. Psalm 110 opens with God saying to David’s son, “Come sit at my right hand.” So it’s interest … Now why … before we get to Psalm 110 … Why would you have, in the post-exilic period, two psalms, early psalms of David, written centuries before, confessing David’s sin, and asking God to forgive him? Could it be that the post-exilic people understand the Davidic kings had sinned, and the people now are using Psalm 108 and 109 to give voice for their hope that God will restore the Davidic dynasty, and bring about this greater son of David? In Psalm 110, if you will, is answering that by saying, yes, God will bring about the Davidic son, the Davidic king, a greater David, a greater Solomon, put him on the throne.

So Psalm 110 then begins … is rightfully so. The people aren’t playing fast and loose with the text, because they know that God had promised to establish an eternal kingdom. The promise still remained. And the prophets had proclaimed that God’s gonna raise up a new David. So they’re reading Psalm 110, not just historically, but canonically and eschatologically, messianically. So Psalm 110 is giving voice to their understanding of the prophets, and even understanding of the original prophesy and proclamation of Nathan, that God’s gonna establish this throne forever. And so, if you will, Psalm 110 is looking forward to the enthronement of the future Davidic king.

Now, one thing I don’t think they were expecting was that this right hand rule is going to go from the palace in Jerusalem up into heaven, although some are beginning to go in that direction. Some are beginning to see a transcended figure. But it’s … So it … What Jesus does with it is not coming out of the blue. They’re already beginning to start seeing some of these things. But Jesus takes to a completely different level.

Mikel Del Rosario
There’s this hope, then that what is metaphorically true of this Davidic king would become realized, eschatologically in the ultimate Davidic king.
Gordon Johnston
Yeah. So the Davidic … saying sit at my right hand, when it was said of David or Solomon, what was metaphorically true of David and Solomon’s gonna be come literally true of Jesus. And that’s that typological escalation that Darrell was talking about.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well let’s go now to Jesus, and let’s talk about the Jewish examination in Mark 14 and other … and in Luke. What, then, does Jesus do with this Psalm 110 idea at his Jewish examination?
Darrell Bock
Remember, he’s posed the question as a conundrum for people. How is it that David could call a descendant lord in a society that’s basically patriarchal, and in which the authority resides, generally speaking, and the honor goes to the ancestor? And here we’ve got it going, clearly, to a descendant. So this is breaking the pattern. What Jesus does when he is queried about whether he is the Christ is he replies in terms of two texts. One is Psalm 110:1, and the second is Daniel 7:14. He combines the picture of the son of man riding on the clouds … and this is an aside, ’cause this could be its own podcast by itself. The son of man is an Aramaic idiom that means a human being. It’s basically what it means. But, when you tie it to Daniel 7, it’s a human being who rides the clouds. Now in the Old Testament there’s only basically one figure who rides the clouds, or one kind of figure who rides the clouds. And you can ask Gordon who that is.
Gordon Johnston
Psalm 68. It’s Yahweh.
Darrell Bock
That’s right. Okay.
Gordon Johnston
He’s the rider on the clouds.
Darrell Bock
So God rides the clouds. So I’ve got a human being riding on the clouds, coming to receive judgment and authority from the ancient of days.
Gordon Johnston
It’s important to know. It doesn’t picture him going from Earth to heaven on a cloud, it pictures him being heavenly in origin.
Darrell Bock
That’s right. So the whole point here is is that I’ve got a human being doing, for lack of description, divine stuff, and getting divine like authority to exercise this judgment. So Jesus says that … and again, this depends on which version you’re reading in terms of how this is introduced. But basically, that the son of man is gonna be seated at the right hand of the power, is the way Mark expresses it, coming on the clouds of heaven. And so he’s actually doing couple things at once. First, he’s making clear that this authority that he has is a heavenly authority. And we talk about whether this is literal or figurative or not. Well it’s actually a mix, because on the one hand it’s more literal in that Jesus is proximate to God in heaven. But, if you ask, does God have right hand? Just ponder that for a moment.
Gordon Johnston
Does he have a beard?
Darrell Bock
Does he … [Laughter] Yeah.
Gordon Johnston
Does he have a literal throne?
Darrell Bock
This is an anthromorphism. This is a description of God as if he’s a human figure. And, of course, God is a spirit, and he doesn’t have limitation, and that kind of thing. So this is a way of picturing heavenly authority. There’s still metaphors wrapped up in what’s being described. But it is an escalation, because the authority has gone from the Earth up to the heaven.

And so the second thing that’s being said … this is just cool. Remember, Jesus is a defendant, in effect, before the Jewish leadership. He is on trial. They are deciding whether he is guilty of something that would allow them to take those charges to Pilate, as the Roman prefect, and issue a verdict that he deserves to be crucified. And when they ask if he’s the Christ, they’re basically saying, “Are you a king?” And if he says he’s a king, then they can take the charges to Pilate, and they can, in effect say, “Jesus proclaimed himself to be a king. But Pilate, your job is to protect Cesar’s interest. And Rome is very interested in people who declare themselves to be king that Rome did not appoint. ‘Cause Rome believes in law and order. You follow our law or we’ll put you in order.

And so, in the process, there’s this challenge that they’re fishing for. Well, they actually get more than they bargained for, because they ask if he’s a king, and he says, “Well, not only a king, but I am going to be riding the clouds like the son of man, and I’m gonna be seated with God in heaven with divine authority.” Well that just … they …

Gordon Johnston
It’d be like if somebody got arrested at Target under suspicion for stealing a coffee pot. And the person says, “Did you steal the coffee pot?” “Well, not only did I steal the coffee pot, I stole the stereo, and I …
Darrell Bock
I took the store. [Laughter] And so the picture here is is, “That you may think I’m on trial here. But there’s coming a day in which I will be your judge, and I’m gonna exercise divine authority, and you will be answering to me.” So they didn’t like this answer for a whole series of reasons. “I’m gonna be seated with God in heaven. I’m gonna be riding the clouds with judgment authority. And one day, regardless of what you do to me, God is gonna vindicate me, and I will be your judge.” They went, “That’s blasphemy.” But they couldn’t go to Pilate and say, “Oh, Jesus just committed blasphemy.” Pilate would go, “So what? I don’t care. That’s your religion.” But if they go to Pilate and say, “He claims to be a king that Rome didn’t appoint,” which is sedition, now Pilate, who’s there to protect Cesar’s interest, has gotta act. This is right on his job description. And so, even though he’s hesitant, ’cause he looks around and he says, “That guy doesn’t have an army. I don’t sense any threat. This is not a big deal.” But the pressure on him to do something, ’cause this is in his area, leads him eventually to say, “Okay. We’ll crucify him and we’ll put King of the Jews over the cross to say what he’s being crucified for.”

So, Psalm 110 is being used here, it’s being pushed in all its language. Again, there’s discussion among Christians about whether this is directly prophetic and unique about Jesus, or whether it’s typological. We’re ending up in the same place, which is that the authority that Jesus possesses as the Lord is a authority he has because he gets to sit with God in heaven. Now let’s play with that metaphor for a second. We’re still somewhat figurative here, ’cause where does God sit? What kind of a chair does he sit in? That’s a good question. Don’t ponder that too long. But we’ve got him and God being equally honored. Who gets to sit with God in heaven? Not stand before him, or bow before him, or be in his presence, but sit with him. And then God turns around and makes all of his enemies a footstool for his feet.

So what Jesus is proclaiming ultimately is a vindication of who he is before these people who are questioning who he is. And the interesting thing about Christmas is, of course, that we come and we stand before, and we rejoice in the fact that God took on human flesh, and we think about this little baby in a manger, and it’s sweet, and everybody gets all teary eyed, thinking about God coming in the flesh, et cetera, and it’s this nice, tender scene. But on the other end of this tender scene, on the other end, is this glorious picture of who this child is gonna become, and the authority that he bears.

And so that is ultimately what’s at stake, because that legitimizes his death on the cross, and his ability to take our place. It legitimizes his claim that he is the son of God in the face of the alternative, which is blasphemy. And by the time you got to the end of the gospels, you only have two choices about who Jesus is. He’s either everything that he’s claimed to be, or he is a deceiver about what it is that he’s claiming for himself. And God’s vote in that dispute, which are put forward as the two options, is the empty tomb. Because the prediction is, God is gonna vindicate me. God is gonna vindicate me, and in that vindication you will come to understand, or you should come to understand who I am.

Gordon Johnston
Yeah.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. Well, let’s move to Acts, chapter 2 now, because I think we’re gonna see this Psalm 110 coming full circle here. We saw how it was interpreted in the pre-exilic and the post-exilic period, how Jesus interpreted it. And now I want to talk about how Peter interpreted it.
Darrell Bock
So we got pre-exilic …
Gordon Johnston
Can I ask, too, when you talk about that, help us understand … we were talking about whether it was directly prophetic, or typological prophetic … help us understand that the apostles are not just playing with the text and elevating it. It was actually part of the divine design.
Darrell Bock
That’s exactly right. That’s the whole point. The whole point of typological pattern is is that God has designed this history as a part of his program so that you can see this. You can see it short term in an initial picture that has some of what’s going on, and you can see it ultimately in the ultimate picture in which the base has been elevated in such way that you go, “That’s completely unique.” That is the fulfillment.
Gordon Johnston
So God has both reference in mind from the beginning.
Darrell Bock
Exactly right.
Gordon Johnston
Even though the human author, Nathan, or the psalmist might not have understood everything.
Darrell Bock
That’s exactly right. And so, it’s interesting. So we got pre-exilic, post-exilic, and now we got Pentecost. So that’ll preach. We got three ps. That’s good, so that’ll satisfy all the pastors who want alliteration. And so, of course, what we get in Acts 2 is a question about what in the world is going on that these people are speaking in tongues. And Peter answer … one solution is, well, they had a long night. They’re drunk. And Peter goes, “No. That’s not what’s going on. This is evidence that Jesus has been vindicated and raised to the right hand of the Father. He has received the spirit from the Father, and he’s poured out what you see and hear. Therefore let all Israel know that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

So this distribution of the spirit into the people of God, which enacts the hopes of the new covenant … the new covenant is about two things. It’s about forgiveness of sins, and the writing of the law on the heart. Or forgiveness of sins, and the washing that takes place that allows the spirit of God to indwell people. That depends on whether you’re reading Jeremiah or Ezekiel. But it’s the same picture, and it’s the same hope. And so, this is the arrival of the promise that Messiah longed for. In fact, Jesus said to his own disciples, “Kings and prophets long to see what you’re experiencing, and didn’t see it and experience it.”

So, this is the real … So Pentecost becomes, Psalm 110 becomes the proof text to explain what has happened to Jesus as a result of his crucifixion and resurrection. Well he found, to use the German word, a parkplatz, a parking place. And he parked at the right hand of God, which raises the question of who can sit with God in heaven and survive? And not only is it who can sit with God in heaven and survive, but God is actually responsible for Jesus sitting at his right hand, because it is the Lord who raised … it is the Father who raised the Son. And the expression is, Jesus was raised from the dead. It’s always passive.

And the picture is, Jesus didn’t raise himself from the dead, the Father raised Jesus as an act of vindication. And then the proof of the vindication is, on the one hand the empty tomb, but secondly the arrival of the spirit, which is the arrival of the promise, and the arrival of benefits that were achieved because Jesus went to the cross and ended up dying for our sin, and ended up being raised by God in vindication so he can now distribute the elements of judgment authority that he possesses, ’cause judgment is not only negative. Sometimes it’s positive. And the positive part of the judgment that we’re seeing is the distribution of the spirit, and the right to distribute the spirit to the people of God. So when the spirit shows up, they’re supposed to realize, not only has the sprite showed up, but the eschaton has showed up, the Messiah has shown up, and the Messiah is Jesus. And that Messiah is Lord. Well, how do we know he’s Lord? [Sings the Jeopardy tune] Look at Psalm 110:1. The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.

Mikel Del Rosario
Wow. This is fascinating. I love thinking about this because, as I was telling Gordon the other day, I think that this is … correct me if I’m wrong … but I think this is the earliest Jewish apologetic for Jesus as Lord and Messiah.
Darrell Bock
That’s right.
Mikel Del Rosario
And it’s tied to his death, resurrection, and ascension, almost like they’re one event. It’s this vindication with Psalm 110 in the background, and the royal psalms. And it’s just amazing. It’s something we don’t often think about.
Darrell Bock
And it goes back to another text the people don’t think about, and that’s Luke 3:16. I like to tell people, Luke 3:16 is as important for the study and understanding of salvation as John 3:16 is. Everyone knows John 3:16, “For God so loved the world … gave his only begotten son, that whosoever should believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It’s the only time I use the word believeth. And so … But when you come to Luke 3:16, Luke tells us that the crowd is contemplating whether John the Baptist might be the Messiah. And John answers the question, “No. Not me. I only baptize with water. There is one coming after me who’s stronger than me. I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandal.” That’s a cultural remark.

In Judaism, if a Jew became a slave, they weren’t supposed to, but if they did there was one thing they were said not to do, and that was to untie the strap of their master’s sandal in order to wash their feet. And John the Baptist says this as a prophet. So that’s pretty high up on the vocational ladder. So the difference between the one to come and John the Baptist is so great that a prophet, in fact Jesus said, he was the greatest born of woman up to that time. So you can’t get any higher on the human level than John the Baptist.

But the difference is so great that he’s not worthy to perform the most menial task of a slave, and that a slave is not to perform. He’s created this gulf between the two of them. And then he says this, “I baptize with water, but the one coming after me is gonna baptize with the spirit and fire.” So what he’s saying is the way you can know who the Messiah is, and the way you can know that the eschatological era has come, is the one who brings the spirit of God to the people of God. And so this Pentecost, Acts 2, actually goes back to something John the Baptist said in Luke 3:16. And if you read Luke-Acts as a narrative, that remark actually gets repeated as something John says, as something Jesus said, as something that happens at Pentecost, as something that gets reflected on by Peter about Pentecost when the spirit descends on Cornelius, and it also gets talked about by Paul at Pisidian Antioch. So we’ve got John the Baptist saying it, Jesus saying it, Luke saying it, Peter saying it, Paul saying it. And, of course, John the gospel writer also said it, because in the upper room discourse he said, “I have to go so I can send another.” So this is at the core of what that little baby Jesus came to do.

Mikel Del Rosario
That’s amazing. Well, our time has slipped away from us, but thank you so much for helping us think through the royal psalms, and how we connect that to Jesus, especially around Christmastime, as we think about the incarnation and who Jesus is. Thanks so much, Darrel.
Darrell Bock
Glad to be here.
Mikel Del Rosario
Thank you, Gordon.
Gordon Johnston
Absolutely.
Mikel Del Rosario
And we thank you so much for joining us on The Table, once again, today. If you have a topic you’d like us to consider for a future episode, please email us at thetable@dts.edu. I’m Mikel Del Rosario, and we hope to see you again next time on The Table where we discuss issues of God and culture.
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Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than forty books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
Gordon H. Johnston
Dr. Johnston possesses a generalist’s breadth and a specialist’s depth. He is known for thorough research and meticulous detail, as well as his ability to pull together all the pieces so students can see the whole of Scripture in all its color and beauty. Dr. Johnston has degrees in Classical Greek (BA), Biblical Greek and Hebrew (ThM), as well as Hebrew and Semitic languages (ThD). During his 2010-11 sabbatical, he was visiting research professor at the University of Chicago, where he studied Hittite. He has participated in archaeological excavations in Israel and has taught overseas in India. His research, writing and teaching interests include the wisdom literature (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs), selected topics in Old Testament biblical theology (Biblical Covenants, Law of God), and special issues in hermeneutics (Messianic Prophecy, Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament). Dr. Johnston has published many scholarly articles and essays; regularly presents papers at national meetings of academic societies; and has published a book on the Messiah in the Old Testament. Gordon and his wife, Danielle, have been married more than thirty years; they have three children.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mikel Del Rosario is a PhD student in New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Project Manager for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center, and Adjunct Professor of Apologetics and World Religion at William Jessup University. Mikel co-authors The Table Briefing articles in Bibliotheca Sacra with Darrell Bock, manages the Table Podcast, and helps Christians defend the faith with courage and compassion through his apologetics speaking ministry. He holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from DTS and an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University.
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