13 June 2022
Praying with the Psalms in Ordinary Time:
13 June 2022 (Psalm 110)
In the Calendar of the Church, we are now in Ordinary Time. Before today begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections from the seasons of Lent and Easter, including my morning reflections drawing on the Psalms.
In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary in these ways:
1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;
2, reading the psalm or psalms;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
Psalm 110 is sometimes known by the Latin name Dixit Dominus because of its opening words. In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this is Psalm 109.
Psalm 110 is considered both a royal psalm and a messianic psalm, associated by some commentators with the king’s coronation. The psalm is usually dated in its first part in the pre-exilic period of Israel, sometimes even completely in the oldest monarchy.
This psalm is the most frequently quoted or referenced psalm in the New Testament, and it is often seen as cornerstone in Christian theology, often interpreted as describing Christ as king, priest, and Messiah. Classical Jewish sources, in contrast, state that the subject of the psalm is either Abraham, David or the Jewish Messiah.
The Psalm opens with the words: ‘The Lord says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand’.’ (verse 1). The Hebrew word Adon and its plural Adonai (אֲדֹנָי) may be translated as ‘my master’ or ‘my lord.’ They are used in the Hebrew Bible as royal titles (see I Samuel 29: 8), and for distinguished persons. The plural is often used as a title of reverence for God, serving also as a substitute pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton.
So, it might be said, verse 1 could be translated as ‘The Lord spoke to my master.’ As David wrote this psalm in the third person to be sung by the Levites in the Temple in Jerusalem, from a Jewish perspective the Levites may be saying that ‘the Lord spoke to my master’ or to David.
However, many later Christian translations capitalise the second word ‘Lord,’ implying that it refers to Christ. Christ quotes this verse during his trial before the Sanhedrin (see Matthew 26: 64), referring to himself, and Acts 2: 34-36 states that this verse was fulfilled in the ascension and the exaltation of Christ.
Other references to this psalm in the New Testament include Mark 12: 36, 14: 62; Luke 20: 41-44; I Corinthians 15: 25; and Hebrews 5: 1-6, 6: 20, 7: 4-7, 7: 17-24. The psalm is cited in the Epistle to the Hebrews when the title ‘High Priest’ is ascribed to Christ.
Verse 2 says: ‘The Lord sends out from Zion your mighty sceptre. Rule in the midst of your foes.’ The Talmud (Nedarim 32a) and Midrash Tehillim say this psalm speaks about Abraham, who was victorious in battle to save his nephew Lot and merited priesthood.
According to the Avot of Rabbi Natan (34: 6), Psalm 110 is speaking of the Jewish Messiah in the context of the Four Craftsmen in Zechariah’s vision. Rashi, Gershonides, and Rabbi David Kimhi identify the subject of the psalm as David.
Jewish and Christian interpretations of this psalm also differ about the language in verse 4, which describes a person who combines the offices of kingship and priesthood, exemplified by the non-Jewish king Melchizedek.
Ostensibly, this could not apply to King David, who was not a kohen (priest). However, Rashi explains here that the term kohen occasionally refers to a ministerial role, as in, ‘and David’s sons were kohanim (ministers of state)’ (see II Samuel 8: 18).
Gershonides and Rabbi David Kimhi further state that the term kohen could be applied to a ‘chief ruler.’ In this way, the prophetic promise, ‘You are a priest for ever’ can be translated as ‘You will be a head and prince of Israel,’ referring to David.
The Latin text of this psalm has providing settings for vespers including Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610), and Mozart’s Vesperae solennes de confessore (1780). Handel composed his Dixit Dominus in 1707, and Vivaldi composed three settings for the psalm in Latin.
Psalm 110 (NRSVA)
Of David. A Psalm.
1 The Lord says to my lord,
‘Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies your footstool.’
2 The Lord sends out from Zion
your mighty sceptre.
Rule in the midst of your foes.
3 Your people will offer themselves willingly
on the day you lead your forces
on the holy mountains.
From the womb of the morning,
like dew, your youth will come to you.
4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.’
5 The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
6 He will execute judgement among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter heads
over the wide earth.
7 He will drink from the stream by the path;
therefore he will lift up his head.
The theme this week in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Focus 9/99,’ which was introduced yesterday by the Revd M Benjamin Inbaraj, Director of the Church of South India’s SEVA department.
Monday 12 June 2022:
The USPG Prayer invites us to pray today in these words:
Let us pray for the Church of South India and their work to promote and protect children’s rights.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org