A Priest Forever

The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’” (Ps. 110:4).

- Psalm 110

While King David would later take the city of Jerusalem from the pagan Jebusites (2 Sam. 5:6–10), there was a time long before David’s day in which a righteous king sat on the throne. This just and holy ruler, the priest-king Melchizedek, was not forgotten after Abram. King David consciously understood the monarchy to possess an authority akin to the ancient king of Salem. This is revealed in Psalm 110, one of the central texts we have concerning the Davidic line. It is also the Old Testament passage most frequently cited in the New.

Psalm 110 was likely sung when a new king was placed on the throne in Zion, and it offers many promises to David’s son. The king gets the place of favor, for he sits at the Lord’s “right hand” (v. 1). This verse also gives assurance of victory ­— God Himself makes the king’s enemies his footstool, an ancient Near Eastern metaphor for total subjugation. Various biblical figures placed their feet on the necks of defeated foes (Josh. 10:1–28; 1 Kings 5:1–3).

David also believed in the priesthood of the king. He and his sons were priests “forever” after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4). “Forever” in Hebrew can refer to an indefinite length of time, showing us that Israel’s king had priestly authority his entire life. We customarily see the throne and priesthood as separate, and, indeed, they each had different tasks. Yet David, without condemnation, occasionally performed tasks that were otherwise assigned to the priests alone (1 Sam. 21:1–6; 2 Sam. 6:12–15). Furthermore, the king had ultimate jurisdiction over the priesthood (1 Kings 2:27, 35) and was required to ensure its (and all Israel’s) fidelity to the Law (Deut. 17:14–20; Judg. 21:25; 1 Kings 10:9; 2 Chron. 21; Hos. 10). As such, the king acted out his priestly function.

The Psalter is the king’s hymnal; thus, Israel and the Davidic king sang Psalm 110 at the monarch’s ascension. Therefore, according to God’s promise of a greater king to Jesse’s son (2 Sam. 7:12–13), it also looks to a future Lord who will embody this psalm to its fullest extent. This regent is Jesus, our great priest-king (Matt. 22:41–46), and we will see how He fulfills the role of Melchizedek next week.

Coram Deo

Perhaps the most thrilling promise of Psalm 110 is that God will set the Davidic king as ruler over all. Jesus was this king, and even now He fulfills this through His people (2 Tim. 2:12a). Are you facing difficult circumstances? Do you feel as if your enemies have defeated you? Do not fear, for God is working to bring all things under Christ’s feet, and His kingdom will one day be plain to all. Pray today for the defeat of Satan and his realm.

Passages for Further Study

Lam. 5:19
Luke 1:26–33
1 Cor. 15:20–28
Rev. 5:11–14

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343