The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head (Psalms 110:1-7.)
Psalm 110 is a key Messianic prophecy cited by Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the writer of Hebrews. For our purposes, I would like to examine three aspects of the prophecy over the next three blog posts, if the Lord is willing:
The Messiah is the Son of David
The Messiah is superior to David
The Messiah is a priest
While we can draw more from Psalm 110, these three predictions are key to the Messiahship of Jesus.
Psalm 110 never identifies David as the forefather of the Messiah. However, Jesus uses Psalm 110 in His final confrontation with members of the Sanhedrin. In Matthew 22:41-46, Jesus turns the tables on His opposition with the question, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” The Pharisees answered, “The Son of David.” Jesus countered, “How is it then David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” The simple logic of Jesus confounds the Pharisees. How can David call the Messiah “Lord” if that descendant is simply a blood relation? By calling the Messiah “Lord,” David alludes to the Messiah’s superiority. Remember though, Psalm 110 never identifies David as the forefather of the Messiah. Why then did the Jewish leaders believe the Messiah would descend from David?
Alfred Edersheim in his work, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, tells us that ancient Jewish rabbis considered Psalm 110 Messianic in nature (see Book 6, Appendix 9, part 1). According to Edersheim, they also considered portions of Isaiah 11 and Jeremiah 23 Messianic (see Book 6, Appendix 9, part2). These two Old Testament prophecies predict that an important person would descend from David. The Lord declares through Jeremiah:
The days are coming…when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness (23:5-6).
Isaiah also forecasts:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD–and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked (Isaiah 11:1-4).
The prophecies of Jeremiah and Isaiah contain striking similarities. Jesse was the father of David so both predict a descendant from the same line (see 1 Samuel 16:19). Both predictions call their descendant “a Branch.” Jeremiah says he “will do what is just and right in the land” and Isaiah talks of one who will give decisions with justice. They both mention righteousness as a defining quality. While Jeremiah talks of salvation and safety for Israel and Judah, Isaiah forecasts judgment for the wicked. These two ideas seem connected. Based on the similarities of the two prophecies, we can at least stipulate if not conclude they talk of the same descendant of David. However, neither Jeremiah nor Isaiah connects the Son of David with the Messiah. How can we be sure the Messiah would descend from David?
The word Messiah is found only twice in some English translations of the Old Testament. Several translations of Daniel 9:25-26 mention “Messiah, the prince.” Others translate the same passage “the anointed one, the prince.” Why are they different? The English word Messiah comes from the Hebrew word “mashiyach” which means either anointed or anointed one. The word occurs 39 times in the Old Testament and refers in most cases to either the king of Israel or the Levitical priesthood. God commissioned the priests and kings of Israel by the anointing of oil (see Lev. 21:10-12, 1 Samuel 16:13, 1 Kings 1:34; 2 Chronicles 23:9-11). For instance, David would not harm King Saul because he was “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 26:9-11). In Old Testament terms, one could call a king of Israel “an anointed one.”
Jeremiah says the Branch who descends from David will rule as a king. Since the term “the Lord’s anointed” often referred to the king of Israel, it would be entirely appropriate to call the kingly descendant predicted by Jeremiah an “anointed one” or “Messiah.” Although the term Messiah goes unmentioned by Jeremiah, the rightful heir to David’s throne would be “the Anointed One.”
Isaiah tells us the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon the descendent of Jesse. This is interesting because the Old Testament connects the Holy Spirit with anointing. For instance, in the cases of both Saul and David, they received a measure of the Holy Spirit upon their anointing with oil (see 1 Samuel 10:1, 6 and 16:13-14). This was typical in the Old Testament: God often distributed His Spirit to Israel’s leaders. From the seventy elders appointed by Moses to Joshua to Samson, God distributed His Spirit to impart wisdom, courage, resolve, and strength (see Numbers 11:17, 25, Deuteronomy 34:9, Judges 14:6). The distribution of the Holy Spirit was an anointing, a conclusion confirmed by Isaiah 61:1:
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”
Turning back to Isaiah 11, the prophet predicts the Spirit of the Lord would rest upon the descendent of Jesse. Given the precedent of God distributing His Spirit to the leaders of the people as well as the Spirit’s connection with anointing, one could say the son of David would be anointed with the Spirit of God. Therefore, the Son of David would be “Messiah,” the Anointed One.
Do these predictions point to Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah? Matthew and Luke both trace the lineage of Jesus back to David with Luke tracing it back to Adam (see Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). In all likelihood, Luke traces Jesus’ lineage through His mother Mary, an important consideration given His miraculous conception. So far as His lineage is concerned, Jesus fulfills the terms of Jeremiah’s prophecy. He was a descendant of David and a rightful heir to the throne of Israel. Should Jesus ascend to the throne of David as Jeremiah predicts, one could call Him “the Anointed One.”
Jesus also fulfills the prediction of Isaiah 11. Following His baptism by John, “the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:22). Afterward, when Jesus visited His hometown synagogue in Nazareth, He read from Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me” (Luke 4:18). Like the leaders of old, God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit, making Him the Messiah not only in terms of His heritage but also in terms of the Spirit. Those who spent time with Jesus regarded the gift of the Spirit as an anointing. Peter says to Cornelius, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power” (Acts 10:38). Along with His descent from David, the distribution of God’s Spirit made Jesus of Nazareth “the Anointed One.”
Jesus is a descendant of David and the rightful heir to His ancestor’s throne. God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. He is the fulfillment of Jeremiah and Isaiah. Based on the evidence of Jesus’ life coupled with these two Messianic prophecies, I conclude Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.