John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

1 (Psalms 110:1)

Verse 1

1Jehovah said to my Lord (320) What is here stated might to some extent be applied to the person of David, inasmuch as he neither ascended the royal throne illegally, nor did he find his way to it by nefarious artifices, nor was he raised to it by the fickle suffrages of the people, but it was by the direct authority of God that he reigned over Israel. It may be justly affirmed of all the kings of the earth, that they have been placed upon their thrones by the hand of God, for the kingdoms of this world are appointed by the decree of heaven, and “there is no power but of God,” (Romans 13:1) Besides, as this kingdom was altogether peculiar, it was the design of David to make a distinction between it and all other kingdoms. God indeed invests kings with authority, but they are not consecrated as David was, that like him, in consequence of the holy anointing oil, they might be elevated to the rank of Christ’s vicegerents. In the eighty-second psalm they are called gods, because by the will of God they hold their position, and in some respects are his representatives, (all power being lodged in him;) but they are not clothed with that sacred majesty by which David was honored to be a type of God’s only begotten Son. Moreover, he justly observes that the kingdom was conferred upon him in a totally different manner from other earthly kings, who, while they acknowledge that it is by the grace of God they reign, yet, at the same time, do not consider that they are sustained by his power, but, on the contrary, imagine that they reign either by their own policy, by hereditary right, or by the kindness of fortune; and, therefore, in so far as it respects themselves, it must be affirmed, that they have no legitimate title to reign. And since they do not recognize the hand of God in what they derive from him, his command cannot be properly addressed to them. David, who was well aware that he was anointed by God to be king over Israel, and who maintained an obscure and retired position until summoned to assume the reins of government, shows good cause why he is not to be classed with the ordinary kings of the earth; meaning that he reigned by a Divine right. That the whole of what is stated in this verse cannot be entirely and exclusively applied to David, is very obvious from Christ’s reply to the Pharisees, (Matthew 22:44) They having said that Christ was to be the son of David, he saith unto them, “How then doth David himself call him Lord?”

The objection started by the Jews, that Christ’s reply was captious, is entirely frivolous, because David does not speak in his own name, but in that of the people. This objection is easily repelled. For even granting that this psalm was penned in name of the whole Church, yet as David himself constituted one of the number of the godly, and was a member of the body under the same head, he could not separate himself from that class, or be dissevered from this head; what is more, he could not compose this psalm for others without, at the same time, taking part with them in it. There is besides another thing deserving of notice, the assumption of the principle or maxim then generally admitted, that David spake by the spirit of prophecy, and consequently prophesied of the future reign of Christ. This principle of interpretation being admitted, it is plainly to be inferred that he had a reference to Christ’s future manifestation in the flesh, because he is the sole and supreme Head of the Church. From which it also follows, that there is something in Christ more excellent than his humanity, on account of which he is called the Lord of David his father. This view is strengthened by what is stated in the second clause of the verse. Earthly kings may indeed be said to sit at God’s right hand, inasmuch as they reign by his authority; here, however, something more lofty is expressed, in that one king is chosen in a peculiar manner, and elevated to the rank of power and dignity next to God, of which dignity the twilight only appeared in David, while in Christ it shone forth in meridian splendor. And as God’s right hand is elevated far above all angels, it follows that he who is seated there is exalted above all creatures. We will not maintain that angels were brought down from their high estate to be put in subjection to David. What, then, is the result, but that by the spirit of prophecy Christ’s throne is exalted far above all principalities in heavenly places? The simile is borrowed from what is customary among earthly kings, that the person who is seated at his right hand is said to be next to him, and hence the Son, by whom the Father governs the world, is by this session represented as metaphorically invested with supreme dominion.

Until I make thine enemies thy footstool (321) By these words the prophet affirms that Christ would subdue all the opposition which his enemies in their tumultuous rage might employ for the subversion of his kingdom. At the same time, he intimates that the kingdom of Christ would never enjoy tranquillity until he had conquered his numerous and formidable enemies. And even should the whole world direct their machinations to the overthrow of Christ’s royal throne, David here declares that it would remain unmoved and unmoveable, while all they who rise up against it shall be ruined. From this let us learn that, however numerous those enemies may be who conspire against the Son of God, and attempt the subversion of his kingdom, all will be unavailing, for they shall never prevail against God’s immutable purpose, but, on the contrary, they shall, by the greatness of his power, be laid prostrate at Christ’s feet. And as this prediction will not be accomplished before the last day, it must be that the kingdom of Christ will be assailed by many enemies from time to time until the end of the world; and thus by-and-bye it is said, rule thou in the midst of thine enemies The particle until does not refer to that which may happen after the complete carnage of the enemies of Christ. (322) Paul certainly declares that he will then deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, which he received from him, (1 Corinthians 15:24;) but we are not to take these words as denoting that he shall cease to reign, and become, as it were, a private individual; we are to regard them as describing the manner of his reign, that is, that his Divine majesty will be more conspicuous. Moreover, in this passage he is speaking solely of the reprobate who fall under Christ’s feet to their own ruin and destruction. All mankind are naturally opposed to Christ, and hence it is, that ere they be brought to yield a willing obedience to him, they must be subdued and humbled. This he does with regard to some of them whom he afterwards makes partakers with him in his glory; while he casts off others, so that they may remain for ever in their lost state.

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible