1 My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skilful writer.
2 You are the most excellent of men
and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you for ever.
3 Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one;
clothe yourself with splendour and majesty.
4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in the cause of truth, humility and justice;
let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.
5 Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies;
let the nations fall beneath your feet.
6 Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom.
7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.
8 All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
from palaces adorned with ivory
the music of the strings makes you glad.
9 Daughters of kings are among your honoured women;
at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir.
– Psalm 45 (read more)
I have to confess that I gave the royal wedding a miss. While Harry and Meghan were saying vows and exchanging rings I was enjoying hassle-free shopping in a local supermarket.
I did however read an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury in which he confessed how nervous he was, afraid of getting his words wrong or dropping the ring. A royal wedding is a big gig and I dare say the composer of this wedding song would have shared the Archbishop’s anxiety, even if in his day millions worldwide weren’t watching the whole event on television.
For the cynical, this Psalm can be read as the sycophantic jottings of a court musician. For the less cynical it can be seen as a joyous celebration of human love. At another level it is impossible for followers of Jesus to read these words and not think of Christ.
Israel had an ambiguous relationship with kingship – prophets warned against it but God’s people insisted on it and suffered the consequences. At best the king was God’s earthly representative, entrusted with looking after his people and leading by example. Sadly, the only example given by most of the kings of Israel and Judah was a negative one!
Out of the disappointment with human rulers however came a belief that God would send an ideal king, a Messiah, to establish his rule on earth.
It is easy to understand why early Christians would have seen in this Psalm a picture of Jesus. He is the everlasting king (v. 6), the most excellent of men (v. 2), who has defeated the forces of evil and in whom the kingly rule of God has drawn near.
King Jesus also has a bride. In Revelation John writes, ‘I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared and ready, like a bride dressed to meet her husband’ (Revelation 21:2). Paul uses similar language comparing the people of God to Christ’s bride (Ephesians 5:25–32), John the Baptist described his cousin as the bridegroom (John 3:29).
Marriage meant leaving behind an old set of loyalties in favour of the new relationship. Just as the bride was to ‘forget’ her father’s house (v. 10) so we are to ‘forget’ our former loyalties and make pleasing Christ our goal, as he is our Lord. Verses 10–15 are a reminder that one day we shall see him face to face and on that day, we shall be beautiful and glorious, radiant in splendour. I would be surprised if many of us feel that way too often but that is God’s intention and his Spirit is at work in us to change us ‘from glory unto glory’ (2 Corinthians 3:18), getting rid of the ugly sin side of our lives and making us more like him (1 John 3:2).
The final verses turn back to the King-groom. At one level the climax of this wedding song is simply wishing a happy and successful marriage, the sort of thing we would wish for any couple but, read with Christ in mind, these verses remind us of God’s desire to bring many sons (and daughters) to glory (Hebrews 2:10,13). It is also a reminder that we will reign on earth with our Lord (v. 16), not bossing anyone about but nurturing the earth and caring for one another as God intended from the start. That is ‘the Big Day’ we can all look forward, a marriage truly made in heaven and one that will be celebrated forever (v. 17)!