Question: "What does it mean that "the Lord said to my Lord"?"
Answer: In Psalm 110:1, David says, “The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’” (ESV). In Matthew 22:44, Jesus quotes this verse in a discussion with the Pharisees in order to prove that the Messiah is more than David’s son; He is David’s Lord.
The clause the LORD says to my Lord contains two different Hebrew words for “lord” in the original. The first word is Yahweh, the Hebrew covenant name for God. The second is adoni, meaning “lord” or “master.” So, in Psalm 110:1, David writes this: “Yahweh says to my Adoni. . . .” To better understand Jesus’ use of Psalm 110:1, we’ll look at the identity of each “Lord” separately.
The first “Lord” in “the LORD says to my Lord” is the eternal God of the universe, the Great I AM who revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3. This self-existent, omnipotent God speaks in Psalm 110 to someone else who is also David’s “Lord.”
The second “Lord” in “the LORD says to my Lord” is the Messiah, or the Christ. Psalm 110 describes this second “Lord” as follows:
● He sits at God’s right hand (verse 1)
● He will triumph over all His enemies and rule over them (verses 1–2)
● He will lead a glorious procession of troops (verse 3)
● He will be “a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (verse 4)
● He will have divine power to crush kings, judge nations, and slay the wicked (verses 5–6)
● He will find refreshment and be exalted (verse 7)
In Matthew 22:44, Jesus unmistakably identifies the second “Lord” of Psalm 110:1 as the Messiah, and the Pharisees all agree that, yes, David was speaking of the Messiah. When David wrote, “The LORD says to my Lord,” he distinctly said that the Messiah (or the Christ) was his lord and master—his Adoni.
A common title for the Messiah in Jesus’ day was “Son of David,” based on the fact that the Messiah would be the descendant of David who would inherit the throne and fulfill the Davidic Covenant (see 2 Samuel 7). Jesus capitalizes on the Jewish use of the title “Son of David” to drive home His point in Matthew 22. “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, ‘What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ ‘The son of David,’ they replied. He said to them, ‘How is it then that 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?’” (Matthew 22:41–45).
Jesus’ reasoning is this: “Son of David” is your title for the Messiah, yet David himself calls Him “Lord.” The Messiah, then, must be much more than just a son—a physical descendant—of David. According to Psalm 110:1, this “Son of David” was alive during David’s time and was greater than David. All of this information is contained in the statement that “the LORD says to my Lord.” Jesus is David’s Lord; He is the Christ, the Jewish Messiah, and Psalm 110 is a promise of Jesus’ victory at His second coming.
Another important point that Jesus makes in Matthew 22 is that David wrote the psalm under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; David was “speaking by the Spirit,” Jesus says (verse 43). Clearly, Jesus taught the inspiration of Scripture. When David wrote, “The LORD says to my Lord,” he was recording exactly what God wanted him to write.